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This is a guest post by Chantal Sheehan, Founder & CEO of Blue Fox. Blue Fox utilizes Hive to provide customized financial and back office services for social impact organizations. Services range from standard bookkeeping, tax preparation and payroll services, to coaching and consulting, to comprehensive virtual CFO services. The Blue Fox mission is to disrupt the traditional accounting model through technology, innovation, and a radically client-focused approach that truly empowers nonprofits and social enterprises.

Kindness gets a bad rap. Sure, everyone tells you when you’re a kid to be kind. But when you start adulting and enter the workforce, kindness is often equated to weakness.

Corporate environments encourage employees to be self-starters, disciplined, or maybe even aggressive, depending on the nature of your job or company. But kind? Rarely. Most company cultures assign little to no value to kindness. (I can hear my old boss now, “Kindness? What are you talking about? Free hugs? Where’s the ROI on that??”)

Turns out, a growing body of research indicates that companies with kindness baked into their culture are more productive and more profitable. A kindness revolution is quietly under way at some of the world’s largest companies.

Amazon founder Jeff Bezos recently described Amazon’s culture as “friendly and intense.” Striking a balance between a determined atmosphere and a friendly one has made Amazon one of the most profitable companies in the world. Its revenue in 2018 was just shy of $233 billion, and its website is the 7th most visited in the world. Now that’s some serious ROI.

Behavioral studies from Harvard and thought leaders around the globe now have proof that kindness boosts the bottom line. How so?

Here are 5 key ways kindness impacts and improves company culture:

Makes Space for Creativity

People who are kind show genuine interest in others and have authentic, open conversations with their co-workers. These interactions breed trust and create space for more creative thinking. Kindness also creates happiness and positivity – a feeling which releases dopamine in our system. Researchers now know that happy people are actually more creative.

Increases Employee Satisfaction & Retention

A recent Gallup poll reported that a shocking 85% of the global workforce is disengaged at work, resulting in an estimated $7 trillion economic loss. What can you do to increase employee engagement? You guessed it: be kind. Engagement at work is associated with feeling valued, supported, and respected. Kind leaders and kind teams breed exactly those feelings. Just think about it: don’t you want to work with a team like that? So be kind, increase engagement, and reduce voluntary staff turnover by up to 50%.

Related: How Does Employment Affect Happiness?

Boosts Your Team’s Productivity

Kindness and civility are directly linked to productivity. Some researchers suggest that there is an evolutionary explanation: our ancient ancestors realized that stronger bonds among them increased their chances of survival. A recent study on workplace civility in Canada cites the following statistics about workplaces with high levels of civility and kindness:

  • Employees have 26% more energy at work
  • They are 30% more likely to feel motivated and enthusiastic about acquiring new skills and being exposed to new ideas
  • Employees are 36% more satisfied with their jobs and 44% more committed to their companies
  • They exhibit 20% performance improvement over employees working in less civil/kind environments

Lowers Your Healthcare Costs

Healthcare expenditures are a huge line item in most company and family budgets. What if you could boost your bottom line by saving on health care, while creating a kinder, less stressful work environment? Research shows that high-stress companies spend an astounding 50% more on health care! The American Psychological Association estimates 550 million workdays are lost due to stress each year, and that roughly 80% of medical expenses in the US are due to stress-related illness. Kind environments created by kind people are lower stress de facto. If you think your fast-paced, pressure-filled culture is increasing your bottom line, think again.

Creates Influential Leaders

The search for influence is constant in leadership. Does power create influence? Sometimes, but the authors of one research article in the Harvard Business Review say that kindness and warmth are the key. “A growing body of research suggests that the way to influence – and to lead – is to begin with warmth. Warmth is the conduit of influence: It facilitates trust and the communication and absorption of ideas. Even a few small nonverbal signals–a nod, a smile, an open gesture–can show people that you’re pleased to be in their company and attentive to their concerns.”

Now, more than ever, we can make the business case for kindness. So find some small ways to start shifting your culture towards kindness and watch the benefits emerge. And if you’re really stuck, there are even training programs and consultants who can help you transform your organizational culture into a kinder way of being. (Just Google “kindness training” — you’ll be amazed.)

Being kind isn’t hard, and it doesn’t cost a dime. It’s simply a choice we make as leaders and humans. So use words of appreciation and encouragement with your team, greet new employees warmly, and be generous with your time and in your conversations with others. You’ll be happier, you’ll start a ripple effect, and you’ll boost your bottom line simultaneously. It doesn’t get much better than that.