West indian culture

Post-pandemic workplace needs a culture of kindness

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By Anjali Raghuvanshi
New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern’s strong assertion is an insightful boost to organizations today as they recognize and try to manage the mental well-being of their employees in a completely redesigned future of work. A recent McKinsey report speaks of mixed emotions among employees as they prepare to revert to varying degrees of offsite work models onsite. While 19% of those surveyed believe that a return to power will have a positive impact on their mental health, 49% believe that it could have a significant negative impact.
As devastating as it has been, the pandemic has also had a silver lining. Emotional well-being at work has finally found its rightful place, and organizations and individuals have mobilized to seek the sweet spot of connections that motivate work. And that brings us to the one aspect that weaves the threads of purpose, belonging, collaboration, excitement, and emotional stability into the fabric of happiness at work: kindness. The question is, how can we embed kindness into an organizational culture to connect and merge business performance with people’s happiness?
A significant antidote to uncertainty
In the Indian context, it is estimated that the second pandemic wave caused the loss of at least 7.4 million jobs. Besides the gloom for those who are unemployed, it also creates stress and uncertainty for the rest of the workforce, who have occupied the fort with additional tasks and responsibilities – not knowing when the situation is. will improve and whether they will keep their jobs.
This is where kindness as an organizational culture becomes critical. A research study conducted by the Association of Professional Executives of the Public Service of Canada (APEX) showed specific links between a respectful and caring environment and strong business results. Employees were found to be 26% more energetic, 30% more motivated to develop and develop themselves, and more open to new possibilities. Indeed, they expressed 36% more satisfaction and 44% more commitment. These are exactly the emotions that will effectively neutralize the trail of uncertainty left by the pandemic, as businesses struggle to cope with disrupted normalcy.
Broken down into action points and deeds, kindness can foster strong social bonds and create tremendous positivity throughout the organization. In an unfolding remote work scenario, kindness can increase camaraderie among employees and make them feel like they are in control of what they do. In short, it creates a positive mindset and an environment where people are highly engaged in achieving results of productivity, creativity and collaborative problem solving.
Create an organizational culture of caring
The spirit of kindness begins with leaders – in fact, it is a leadership skill that spills over to the workforce to define organizational culture. As Simon Sinek so beautifully puts it: “Leadership is not about being in charge. Leadership is about caring for those in your charge.
Leaders need to refine their emotional intelligence and self-awareness to create positive compassion in their interactions. Unless you have direct connections, the moments of leadership with the rest of the employees are short and it takes authenticity to make them meaningful. It could be a “How are you?” Simple but genuine, or to take the time and effort to give an employee valuable feedback and advice. It can also be about complimenting people on the quality of their recent work or remembering to inquire about a family member. The impact of such kindness is incredibly huge.
Likewise, meetings and team gatherings – whether in person or virtual – are great platforms and spread kindness. They occur regularly and provide relevant opportunities to connect with empathy and positive affirmation.
Randstad India‘s report “The Future of Work” revealed that virtual work is the preferred mode of consulting firms, technical service providers and digital media. Even for businesses with static work demands (such as banking, hospitality, healthcare, infrastructure, and manufacturing), while 100% virtual work cannot be a reality, it will oscillate between 30 and 50%.
In such redefined normality of hybrid work structures, HR and management teams must take action to:
* Intentionally embed caring into the workplace culture
* Create a safe workplace that allows employees to be themselves at work with confidence and without fear of criticism
* Allow the organization to share information and create a constructive dialogue with respect
* Create opportunities for kindness through effective engagement policies and dedicated kindness calendars
* Provide managers with the resources and tools to support and celebrate a “culture of kindness”
Creating a culture of caring is an investment that can bring enormous meaning to our professional lives. Its cascading effect is immense, as it encourages the return of kindness to create results of productivity, efficiency, collaboration and innovation – which are just the right ingredients for happiness at work.
Writer is Human Resources Manager, Randstad India

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