Researchers from Penn State recently conducted a study that explored the positive effects felt by employees when their employers go out of their way to show them kindness.
The study revealed that the effects of kindness are felt far beyond just the workplace, as the researchers found that employees experienced a boost in health, in addition to better job performance.
“An ultimate solution to improve worker performance and health could be big pay raises or reduced workloads, but when those solutions aren’t feasible, we found that even small offerings can make a big difference,” said researcher Bu Zhong.
The little things count
Zhong and his team conducted their experiment on nearly 90 bus drivers in Shenzhen, China. The team showed kindness to participants by adding a piece of fresh fruit to their lunch boxes each day.
Though a seemingly small gesture, the researchers explained that bus drivers are frequently changing schedules, sitting for long periods of time, and missing meals, all factors that can increase stress and affect their overall health.
The researchers kept the experiment going for three weeks, having the bus drivers fill out questionnaires about their depressive symptoms and self-confidence one week before the study began, again one week into the study, and one last time the week following the conclusion of the experiment.
Ultimately, the small act of kindness -- having a fresh piece of fruit at lunchtime -- boosted the bus drivers’ moods and self-confidence tremendously.
“Bus drivers reported significantly decreased depression levels one week after the experiments ended compared to one week before it began...We found that self-efficacy was significantly higher in the middle of the experiment week than in the week after the experiment ended,” said Zhong.
The findings from this study suggest that acts of kindness can go a long way, but the team says employers shouldn’t feel pressured to do anything extravagant to make employees feel appreciated for their work. Sometimes, less is more.
“This research suggests that employees can be sensitive to any improvement in the workplace,” Zhong said. “Before an ultimate solution is possible, some small steps can make a difference -- one apple at a time.”