By Jaclyn Lindsey
If you’ve spent even just 10 minutes scanning the headlines in the last month, the workplace can seem like it’s suddenly become a minefield. Sexual harassment. Bullying. Racism. Sexism. Homophobia. This isn’t news–in fact, it’s been happening since the beginning of time—but in this cultural moment, we are finally talking about these micro- and macro-aggressions openly.
But what are we supposed to do about it?
We all have a choice about how to handle how we feel on the inside. It’s what we do with those feelings that actually makes an impact. When I co-founded kindness.org in 2016, I wanted to educate and inspire people to choose kindness.
The impact of kindness is provable
To motivate people to be kind to each other and respect our shared humanity, we had to show that kindness deserves to be taken seriously. So how can we take something written off as warm and fuzzy and prove that it matters? Leveraging science, data and technology is the answer.
Ahead of my organization’s official launch, we collaborated with Oxford University researchers to review the existing scientific work on kindness. The most consistent question asked was, “what is the impact of being kind on human well-being?” We learned that there is a substantial and measurable effect on well-being across many areas. By helping others, your own happiness, life-satisfaction, relationships, social connections and positivity are increased—and life becomes more enjoyable.
Data and technology make it possible for kindness to flourish
One big thing missing in the existing research was a widely accepted index for measuring kindness within workplaces and communities. So we started a kindlab headed by research psychologist Dr. Lee Rowland, and began launching studies, exploring ongoing research, and using social media analytics to better understand our own community and what kindness looks like across the globe.
As we build the first kindness index, we are focusing on two issues: workplace culture and digital acts of kindness. Currently, we have “citizen scientists” (no lab coat or PhD required) investigating what kindness means in the workplace across different situations and relationships, such as between colleagues or from management to employees.
Measuring small acts in the workplace, like greeting people when you pass them in the hallways, smiling, or offering coffee to colleagues will help us understand their impact and develop programs that create real behavioral change.
Kindness brings sustainability to workplaces
For too many of us, workplace innovation and startup culture has meant the eroding of boundaries between our work lives and personal lives. Creating a kinder workplace can include working more efficiently within your set hours instead of working long hours. This means treating apps like Slack as an awesome communication tool—that doesn’t have to be pushing notifications 24/7.
When we apply the kind act of listening to others outside our circle, we can increase diversity in hiring and combat sexism, racism and homophobia. When we treat all vendors with respect, even if we have to cut ties, we make sure we have both operational integrity and efficiency. Perhaps most importantly, a kinder workplace means treating the well-being of employees—mental as well as physical—as a key part of productivity and sustainability. There is no place for sexual harassment and bullying in a workplace grounded in kind words and kind acts.
Our big vision is a kinder world and we are focusing on one pillar at a time to begin turning our ripples of kindness into a positive wave of global change. Together, let’s turn our feelings about the cultural moment we’re experiencing into the action of kindness, and create an innovative and sustainable workplace culture that will make the world a better place for everyone.