The Rise of Empathy in the Workplace
The corporate world can get a bad rap; if you’ve seen Mad Men, you’ve witnessed a glimpse into the hierarchical, sexist and racist corporate culture that was prevalent in the 60’s. Since that time, thankfully, in society and the corporate culture, we have seen a significant shift toward equality. Although there is, of course, still more to be done. Let’s take a look at the increased popularisation of applying empathy in the workplace and just how far we have come culturally from toxic environments of common workplace bullying. To now focusing on company-wide initiatives ensuring the well-being of employees and appreciating that mental and emotional health play a significant role in job performance.
It would be hard to say that there was one specific factor that led to the changing culture. Fairness should be the answer but, of course, it is much more complex. Racial and gender equality were being pushed hard in the 60’s and 70’s, and we can thank the fight of these people for the changes we see today. While we’re still on the journey to evenly balanced workplaces, we are most certainly making positive shifts in the mentality of many organisations, communities and societies as a whole, both here in Australia and across the globe. As we are becoming more aware of the benefits of empathy in the workplace, we are able to implement initiatives to tackle common workplace challenges.
Well-Being on Trend
Research conducted by Converge International in 2017 found that more than two in five Australian workers (44%) see a ‘sense of meaning’ as being important in the workplace, with a ‘fulfilling job’ (34%) coming in lower on the priority list.
As an employer, couple this with the knowledge that Australian workers who are stressed about their work are 2.5 times more likely to look for a new job in the next 12 months than workers who aren’t as stressed about work. It is this sort of research that has given rise to empathy in the workplace. As HR departments become more aware of the psychology of employees, it has been essential to implement initiatives that make employees work on something meaningful, rather than just giving them a fun job.
Let’s look at some of the stats from the research:
The elements most contributing to wellbeing in the workplace are:
- A pleasant work environment 44%
- Realistic work expectations 36%
The elements Australians believe contribute most to well-being in the workplace are:
- Pleasant work environment 44%
- Realistic work expectations 36%
- Flexible working hours 36%
- A higher salary package 27%
- Creating healthy boundaries between work and personal life 24%
- Greater team rapport and morale 22%
- Culture of trust and empowerment of employees 21%
The elements Australian workers believe have the most negative impact on well-being in the workplace are:
- Unrealistic workload expectations 48%
- Job insecurity 41%
- Low team morale 38%
Well-being is so prioritised to staff that one in four Australian workers (25%) would sacrifice company perks for better wellbeing in their workplace. One in five would sacrifice a promotion (21%) or a pay rise (19%). These are solutions that employers can implement with minimum financial investment and maximum transformation in the workplace, which makes staff feel valued, and purposeful; thus more productive.
Realistic work expectations are seen as most important to Australian workers (92%) for promoting wellbeing in the workplace. Followed by flexible working hours (83%) and ‘encouraging work/life integration’ (82%).
With all the evidence mounting and company benefits including higher team morale, employee loyalty, low staff turnover, and higher productivity, it is not surprising that businesses are paying attention to the well-being of staff. With a particular focus on equality and shifting the culture to be more conducive to that of a family, rather than just a place of work.