The evidence is in, and there can be no doubt. Treating employees well and making them happy affects the bottom line. Let’s explore the dynamics, and see just how to achieve a kinder workplace and happier employees.
This “happiness map” is a generic guide to happiness. Nevertheless, it is as relevant in a workplace setting as anywhere else.
Notice that the starting point is “Mindfulness.” Being mindful promotes compassion (kindness). Mindfulness also leads to “Appreciation” — it teaches us gratitude. Conclusion: To achieve happiness in the workplace, we would do well to:
- Apply mindfulness to the workplace.
- Foster gratitude across the organization.
“Mindfulness is a way to live your life as if it really mattered. And that involves being in the present moment with open-hearted presence and kindness toward yourself.” — Jon Kabat-Zinn
Evidence suggests practicing mindfulness can help organizations by diminishing stress-related health care costs and increasing productivity. Kelley McCabe Ruff runs eMindful, a Vero Beach company that puts on virtual workshops for businesses. She has been able to quantify the effectiveness of eMindful’s programs, showing that they support behavioral change that leads to physical changes, such as reduced cortisol levels and lower blood pressure. “We actually supply employers a return on investment calculation.”
Kelley McCabe Ruff, eMindful CEO and founder, relates eMindful’s focus on reducing employee health care costs and increasing productivity. Live programs are offered via the internet, allowing eMindful to provide the most experienced and expert teachers in Mindfulness as well as other Mind-Body Programs. Presented by eMindful – http://www.eMindful.com
Reflecting before reacting is the first step in practicing mindfulness, and learning it is quite simple. Think of the acronym STOP:
Stop — Stand or Sit
Take a breath
Present – be in the present moment
Rhonda Magee explains the technique in this video.
Rhonda Magee, JD, is Professor of Law and Co-Director of the Center for Teaching Excellence at the University of San Francisco. In this talk from the “Practicing Mindfulness & Compassion” conference on March 8, 2013, Magee explores how to apply contemplative practices to our professional lives–and in doing so create more compassionate workplaces.
Sharon Salzberg, author of the book Real Happiness at Work: Meditations for Accomplishment, Achievement and Peace, believes mindfulness can be applied in any career. “It’s a great tool for coming back to the moment and remembering your intention,” she says. For example, practicing mindfulness at work could be pausing and planning before picking up a phone, or taking a deep breath and focusing on the desired outcome during a contentious meeting.
“Teaching and encouraging mindfulness in the workplace has become a part of corporate efforts to reduce the stresses that can lead to burnout. Increasingly, the practice has gone mainstream, buoyed by the recent endorsements of CEOs, educators, actors, and politicians who link mindfulness to improved psychological and even physical health.” ― Cindy Krischer Goodman, Working with ‘mindfulness’ reduces stress in the workplace
“To practice gratitude, we must practice mindfulness. When we are truly present in the moment, we see the beauty all around us. And the more joy we cultivate, the more we can practice our purposeful awareness and acceptance of the present moment. Mindfulness begets gratitude, gratitude begets mindfulness.” — Sarah Rudell Beach, Mindfulness and Gratitude: A Celebration of Thankfulness
Foster an environment of gratitude across your organization. Gratitude in organizations is important—it can boost morale and increase productivity. To learn more about this dynamic, the Greater Good Science Center developed a quiz that measures the level of gratitude in an organization. An analysis of the results concludes: “In order to foster gratitude across an organization, it may help to maximize opportunities for people in low-level positions to make meaningful contributions, and ensure that their contributions are recognized—especially for employees who have been in a low-level position for many years. It may also be wise for organizations with high levels of stress to bring more awareness to how often—and to whom—expressions of gratitude are granted.”
A wonderfully effective way to recognize employee contributions is with an “office gratitude journal.” The Administration and Finance office of the University of California, Berkeley, created an appreciation platform that allows employees to recognize each other’s contributions, which feeds into a “Kudos” webpage that publicly highlights these contributions. A simpler and equally effect implementation of this same idea is a bulletin board known as a “wall of gratitude.” For details on these and other suggestions, see five ways to boost gratitude at work.
“This is what I find most magnetic about successful givers: they get to the top without cutting others down, finding ways of expanding the pie that benefit themselves and the people around them. Whereas success is zero-sum in a group of takers, in groups of givers, it may be true that the whole is greater than the sum of the parts.” ― Adam Grant, Give and Take: A Revolutionary Approach to Success
There are so many ways to bring kindness into work. Here are a few suggestions:
- Never, ever play the “blame game.” Rachel Woods, in her article on Tiny Buddha, explains how to stop playing this destructive game.
- Develop the skill of giving and receiving criticism. I highly recommend Zen and the Art of Constructive Criticism by Erin Dorney.
- Help one another. Mentor. Collaborate.
- Be friendly! Smile, give a compliment, speak a few kind words. Bring in a treat to share.
- We all understand the importance of work-life balance. A booklet from Acas Publications offers expert advice on work-life balance and flexible working. It includes some real-world problem scenarios, and provides real-world solutions.
“To win in the marketplace…you must first win in the workplace. I’m obsessed with keeping employee engagement front and center.” — Doug Conant
Employee engagement is crucial to the success of any organization, and it is management’s responsibility to make it happen! Managers, consider these tips:
- Give your employees autonomy. Let them know what’s going on, and elicit their ideas for improvement.
- Transparency is important to employees. Share long-term visions. Explain how their work fits into the big picture.
- Give employees opportunities for growth. Offer them new responsibilities. Give them time to train and learn.
- Employees love feedback, so give it often. If you have recommendations for improvement, offer to help them implement them.
- Be nice! Let them know that you care about them as people, not just as employees.
Books to Instruct and Inspire
- Give and Take: A Revolutionary Approach to Success by Adam M. Grant Ph.D. (April 9 2013)
- Real Happiness at Work: Meditations for Accomplishment, Achievement, and Peace by Sharon Salzberg
- Closing the Engagement Gap: How Great Companies Unlock Employee Potential for Superior Results, by Julie Gebauer and Don Lowman
Join the Kindness Revolution
It’s inspiring to think about individual pay it forward chains. It’s even more amazing to picture pay it forward webs. Each person in a chain has opportunities to fire off new chains. Most people are in multiple chains. Perhaps a web might look like a Tinker Toy project!
“The best part of life is not just surviving, but thriving with passion and compassion and humor and style and generosity and kindness.” — Maya Angelou
The time is right. These ideas are becoming mainstream, and for good reasons. It’s an exciting time for all of humanity. Be mindful, be grateful, be kind. Watch kindness spread from heart to heart and share the joy, especially in the workplace.
This is part two of a two-part series, Kindness in the Workplace, by Carol Preibis of Ahh The Simple Life. If you missed part one last week, please click here. For more on Carol, keep reading. Thanks, Carol!
Carol Preibis and her sister Michele value the Simple Life and want to help you shed the complicated nature of today’s world. They share insights on food, decorating, stress relief and living more simply, while actually enjoying day-in, day-out living. [UPDATE: Their blog, Ahh the Simple Life, is no longer active.]