Most of us spend many of our waking hours at work, and as we may know from experience, the work we do and the workplace itself can have an impact on our well-being and mental health. In fact, compassion in the workplace can greatly affect your happiness at work.
And, according to many surveys and research, unhappy workplaces are commonplace. Employees regularly feel under appreciated, disengaged, and believe that employers don't care about their personal struggles. Indeed, around half of all workers in the UK and US claim to be unhappy.
So, imagine a working environment where staff are always understood and supported, appreciated and included, and their professional relationships are built on a base of mutual trust and respect. Sounds great, right? These are all elements that make up a compassionate workplace, which can help to create a happier workplace.
Compassion is a process involving the ability to be aware of, feel, or perceive another human's pain and to be with them or take action to relieve their suffering. Someone who knows a lot about compassion at work is Meysam Poorkavoos. We spoke with him at the second International Mindfulness & Compassion at Work Summit in Madrid in 2018.
Poorkavoos believes there are three main problems that organisations have when showing compassion in the workplace. Firstly, that they have a non-open culture at work where employees aren't comfortable to share their issues and problems. Secondly, that managers are not really interested in people: they are mainly focused on outcomes without caring how it's achieved. And thirdly that policies and procedures tend to get in the way, meaning people can't see when staff need support.
The benefits for organisations to become more compassionate are many, argues Poorkavoos. “It’s not just people that receive compassion that benefit from it; the people that observe compassion also benefit because they see it’s the kind of organization that if they have problems, they will receive help and support. And when people feel compassion in their work environment they are better able to deliver a high level of service to their customers.”
If this has inspired you to build more compassion in your own workplace, here are seven easy ways you can start to build it in.
Being part of a team makes people feel like they have a connection with others. Make the time to introduce yourself to others in the workplace – perhaps someone you normally don’t work directly with – and ask them about their life. Try to remember their name and use it again when you next greet them to make them feel valued and included.
If you spot that a colleague is struggling with something that you excel in, step in to offer your knowledge and skills. Likewise, if you see a co-worker has a lot on their plate, and you have some free time, offer to take a load off for them. They will be grateful, and showing them that you want to help others will inspire them and make them feel happier.
“People that observe compassion also benefit because they see it's the kind of organization that if they have problems, they will receive help and support.”
If you notice a change in mood or working ability in a colleague or staff member, consider approaching them to discuss it. Perhaps there is something difficult going on in their personal life. Trying to show that you care is a compassionate act. And if an employee has recently experienced a loss, such as family death or divorce, someone from the company should contact them within 48 hours and offer assistance.
Find opportunities to praise colleagues for their hard work and efforts in front of other staff members – you don’t have to be a manager. Showing your appreciation for a co-worker is a great morale booster.
Show compassion at work by helping a colleague shutterstock/fizkes
Great managers lead and inspire their colleagues through kindness, flexibility, empowerment and support. When staff are treated with compassion they remember it, and are more likely to want to continue working with you because you care. Moreover, having leaders show their own vulnerability can also help to create an atmosphere of safety and trust.
Try to develop an atmosphere of conscious communication in your workplace. Encourage colleagues to engage openly with one another and give feedback through constructive criticism. Workers who openly discuss their feelings and thoughts truthfully may be more likely to work through challenges together.
As Poorkavoos explains in our video with him, in order to really show compassion for others, first we must have compassion for ourselves. Learn how to cultivate self-compassion.
Finally, you might be interested in our video interviews with Bodhin Philip Woodward on the impact of mindfulness and compassion in your daily life and our interview with the organizers of co-founders of the summit: Liz Hall and Luis San Martin. ●
Arlo is a filmmaker, artist, lecturer, and intermittent practitioner of metta meditation and morning yoga. When not dreaming about impossible projects and making them happen in the most impractical ways possible, he journals, listens to jazz, or cuddles with his better half.
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