Compassion’s impact on workplace productivity
There are two schools of thought when it comes to workplace and employee management. Many leadership teams will focus on applying constant pressure, often following formulaic methods of praise and criticism, treating everyone identically regardless of individual productivity and value to the company. This approach often demands that rigid rules and hierarchy of communications be followed.
However, a more compassionate form of leadership is beginning to take hold, thanks to multiple studies that show the atmosphere of pressure and continual monitoring can create stress, leading to health and productivity issues. According to a 2017 Roffey Park study, leadership that shows an awareness of the suffering of others and is non-judgmental, tolerant of personal distress, empathic and able to determine and activate appropriate action provides a better workplace than leaders who fail to create a compassionate workplace culture.
The benefits of compassion
Compassion in the workplace provides many benefits, improving workplace culture and creating an environment that is welcoming and supportive of employees. According to a 2018 Glassdoor roundup of 20 companies where employees are happiest, a top priority for workers is a company that provides support for work/life balance and personal as well as professional growth.
For employees, when it comes to holding down a job, being able to communicate honestly with an employer about personal challenges affecting the job is important, A worker who knows if they call in sick they’ll be met with compassion over punishment is more likely to stay with the company and not quit without notice.
Workers who show up when they don’t feel well, still attempt to do their job and are recognized are also more likely to view their workplace as compassionate and friendly. It only takes a small gesture, such as a verbal recognition or a small token of appreciation, including an extended lunch hour or a shortened workday, to make the employee feel that pushing through to complete their tasks was well worth it.
Even more noticeable is employee reaction to a workplace that takes stress seriously and strives to limit employee stress and burnout. According to the Wellness Council of America, symptoms of stress at work manifest in missed work days, lower productivity, higher medical costs and a higher incidence of employee turnover. A compassionate workplace can provide support for stress management and improve employee health, both physically, mentally and emotionally.
A simple way to foster stress management is to permit employee socialization – a few minutes at the water cooler chatting can send employees back to work with renewed focus and lower stress levels, after connecting with colleagues who have the same challenges and stressors they do. Decreased stress means employees are less likely to burn out and more likely to be productive.
The financial benefits
Creating a compassionate workplace has the potential to lead to higher employee retention and satisfaction, increasing the company’s ROI and reducing churn. According to a 2015 survey of 1,000 employees by Virgin Pulse, nearly 60 percent of respondents said their relationship with their employer positively impacted their focus or productivity at work, and 44 percent said it positively impacted their stress levels. Overall, the survey indicated that having a supportive manager could be critical in driving employees’ workplace happiness and increasing productivity.
Creating a compassionate, caring workplace may mean being willing to create flexible workplace policies, making it slightly more complicated to manage diverse employee needs. However, recognizing these needs and empowering employees to stay healthier and remain less stressed benefits the company bottom line in ways far beyond mere finances.