The Dalai Lama once said that individual acts of kindness and compassion have the power to create harmony across the entire world — imagine what it could do inside of an office setting.
What is compassion, and why is it an important component of healthy workplaces? How can business leaders express compassion in their workplace?
According to the U.C. Berkeley’s Greater Good Magazine, compassion is “the feeling that arises when you are confronted with another’s suffering and feel motivated to relieve that suffering.”
Often used interchangeably, compassion is different from empathy, which is the ability to relate and understand the perspective and emotions of another person. Compassion includes empathy, but it has the added layer of the desire to help.
Expressing compassion has been scientifically proven to slow down the heart rate and cause the body to secrete oxytocin, the bonding hormone. It also lights up the caregiving, empathy and pleasure centers of the brain which often results in our wanting to approach and care for other people.
The Benefits of a Compassionate Workplace
There are many scientific studies on the benefits of compassion. Individually and company-wide, expressing and receiving compassion can have a range of positive benefits. On an individual level, expressing and receiving compassion can improve physical and emotional health, improve resilience and decrease feelings of loneliness.
Organizations that employ compassion have:
Less stressed employees
Greater job satisfaction across the board
Higher employee engagement
Increased team loyalty
Higher rates of cooperation
Peer-to-peer compassion is important, of course, but what businesses need more of is compassion from leadership, as leaders set the tone for the entire workplace.
If compassion comes from the top, it’s much more likely to trickle down throughout the organization. A recent study showed that people view compassionate leaders as more competent and stronger than uncompassionate leaders.
5 Ways Leaders Can Show Compassion in the Workplace
1. Listen and Communicate Mindfully
Leaders should adopt an open-door policy and ensure their people feel comfortable talking about issues. They should practice and promote transparency in their own words and allow employees to be completely honest without fear of repercussions.
Listening and communicating go beyond expressing issues, though. Truly compassionate leaders invite regular conversation and input from their people. They give their employees a chance to express their ideas and contribute in a meaningful way. Most importantly, they listen when their employees talk and they truly try to absorb and take action when appropriate.
2. Diversify Benefits
Being compassionate requires an awareness of diversity. People aren’t all the same, and as such, their benefits shouldn’t be either. Rather than offering standardized benefits, compassionate leaders should consider diversifying their company’s benefits packages to ensure their people get the actual benefits they need in order to be healthy and whole.
This could mean including a provision for childcare, a transportation stipend, a monthly grocery budget or covering monthly streaming services. The employees’ needs should dictate which benefits are the best options.
To really show compassion for every individual employee, leaders should consider acustomized benefits platform, like Fringe, so employees can choose the benefits that best fit their lives.
3. Express Gratitude
Everyone likes feeling appreciated for the work they do. Leaders that take the time to thank their employees for their hard work communicate a couple of things to their employees. It signals that the leader values the employee and shows that the leader is paying attention to the employee’s contribution.
Gratitude, like compassion, has benefits for both the giver and the receiver. Instilling appreciation and gratitude lead to higher rates of happiness, improved health, stronger relationships and a higher ability to tackle adversity.
Expressing gratitude is another form of compassion that further illustrates that the leader recognizes and appreciates a person’s sacrifices, hard work and dedication.
4. See the Person Beneath the Employee
For leaders to understand their employee’s needs, they have to get to know each employee as a person. So often, leaders forget that their employees are people with lives outside of the office.
Leaders should take the time to ask about their employees’ lives outside of work. They should find ways to encourage their after-work hobbies and get a greater understanding of the employee’s personal life. It’s not unusual for employees to be under a mountain of stress at home with no outlet or support.
Providing a safe space for expression is one of the most compassionate things a company can do. Plus, when a company encourages people to express themselves honestly at work, it allows people to develop lasting relationships and true camaraderie and support within their team.
5. Prioritize Well-Being
Whether it’s promoting a good work-life balance, offering comprehensive wellness benefits, providing on-site counseling or more – organizations and leaders who prioritize their employees’ well-being continue to attract and retain top talent.
As the workforce continues to evolve in response to the pandemic, employees are burnt out while simultaneously under severe pressure to continue to perform. Compassionate leaders find ways to ensure that their employees get the rest, relaxation and support they need to stay healthy, happy and whole.
Leaders can prioritize well-being by practicing what they preach with clear boundaries and apparent self-care. They can also be proactive and promote mandatory off-hours and breaks, prohibit after-hour emails and offer comprehensive and customized wellness benefits.
Providing physical and mental wellness support is one of the most compassionate things a leader can do since, in reality, compassion is all about recognizing and empathizing with suffering and offering a solution.
Fostering Compassion in the Workplace
Companies who want to reduce turnover and foster compassion in the workplace should consider a lifestyle benefits platform like Fringe.
Fringe allows employees to customize benefits to fit their unique needs and offers innovative ways for employers to show gratitude and promote employee wellness in their organization. Talk to our team today and start inhibiting a compassionate work environment for your employees.