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Random Acts of Kindness Day: ‘Kindness should be standard in the workplace’

When you think of random acts of kindness you may think of an unexpected gift of flowers, helping an old person across the road or paying somebody a compliment. What doesn’t spring to mind for most people is work. With random acts of kindness day happening on 17th February one company is calling for more employers to make kindness standard and reap the rewards of a happier, more productive workforce.

Anthony Sutton, Director of Cream HR, believes that workplaces should adopt more kindness. He is not alone in his beliefs. In a study by the University of California researching workers in Coca Cola’s Madrid headquarters, results found that kindness had a ‘positive ripple effect’ across the workplace culture. Random acts of kindness undertaken by a sub-set of the participants – however small or seemingly insignificant, acted as a buffer during stressful and difficult working conditions. Employees in the study reported higher levels of life and job satisfaction and fewer depressive symptoms. The participants reported higher levels of autonomy and felt more competent in the workplace. Finally, the kindness displayed led to an increase in ‘prosocial’ behaviour – employees felt part of a unit, cared for, and looked after by their workplace.

Sutton said: “I think it is really important not to disregard so called ‘soft skills” and to consider how an act of kindness can improve staff morale, engagement and general feelings of well-being. Employers can show kindness through extravagant gestures – an awards ceremony, a day off or providing afternoon tea in the office.  But it can also be demonstrated in small ways that are no less impactful or critical to the general well-being of your teams.  Holding a door open when a colleague is struggling, noticing one of your employees has been assigned a huge amount of work and asking how you can help them, or suggesting an early finish for an employee to attend a midweek football match or see their child’s sports day.”

It’s not just Cream HR that feels kindness is key at work, when they asked people to share things their employers had done that made them feel appreciated the answers ranged from small thoughtful things to grand gestures, but the result was always the same – improved morale and loyalty to the company.

Caroline Begley, who used to work at the head office of a national retailer, said: “They were big on staff happiness and at one point (sadly before I joined) they paid for a staff ski trip every year. We had a lady who did massages once a week, and each department had a turn on a rota. There were yoga classes once a week after work. There was a bar in reception which opened on Friday nights and for big parties. Each year of service earned you another day’s holiday. Great staff discount, the usual bike and train ticket salary sacrifice schemes as well, pension contributions, dental healthcare option and so on and there was always a lot of cake.”

Others talked of the small acts that made a difference to them. Coach, trainer and consultant Isabelle Fielding recalled a random act of kindness made by a client on her first day: “I was about to start a contract with a company and had a scary medical emergency. I was gutted to miss my first day, but the owner sent me a beautiful bunch of flowers, a recording of the induction and was generally so kind and supportive”.

These gestures will be remembered for a long time and their power is huge. Cream HR suggests that people don’t wait for colleagues to tell them they are struggling, but offer  to help first. It’s also important to recognise that we all  have personal lives and that, no matter how hard we try, it is almost impossible to leave these at the door. And nor should we.

Sutton concluded: “The easiest and most important thing an employer can do is – say thank you.  For a job well done, or a challenge overcome. For fantastic teamwork or an act of kindness shown.”