How To Build An Empathetic Work Culture

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Credit it to growing awareness, psychological studies, the pandemic and companies realizing the need to be more flexible in general: however you define it, bringing empathy into the workplace may be a new-era reality-and it has always been a necessity. If we want to create better products, more revenue, better teams, and happier employees, we have to prioritize an empathetic work culture.

Empathy is defined as understanding, being sensitive to, and vicariously experiencing the feelings, thoughts, and experience of others, without having the feelings, thoughts, and experience fully communicated. Sympathy is sharing a feeling with someone else, while empathy is truly appreciating what the feeling must be like. In other words, empathy is putting yourself in someone else's shoes and taking action from that place.

Putting empathy at the forefront of your company's values will help open the door to honest conversations, and research has shown that building a culture of empathy creates more confidence among employees, boosts productivity and employee retention, and most importantly, improves mental and emotional well-being all around.

Companies are taking note: 20 percent of US employers offered empathy training for managers, and in a recent survey of 150 CEOs, more than 80 percent recognized empathy as a key to success. In addition, every year since 2017, 90 percent of employees, HR professionals, and CEOs have said that empathy is important.

Girl Power Talk has always had a culture built on empathy and kindness. We believe if our team members connect with each other on a personal level, it will lead to higher productivity and more importantly satisfaction leading to a happier team. We have leveraged empathetic leadership to create a family culture so our young leaders enjoy coming to work.

So, what does empathy in the workplace look like? According to the survey, employees see well-being and empathy as more than just emotional-it's also related to physical, mental, and financial health. A stunning 94 percent of employees say mental health is just as important as physical health.

What empathy looks like on a mental, emotional, physical, and financial level:

● An open-door policy that allows face-to-face communication with management.
● Coverage options for mental health services through employee benefits.
● Flexible work hours.
● An assessment of job demands/workload for those who consistently work past normal hours.
● Core medical benefits with on-site medical care.
● Fitness/weight-loss programs.
● Flexible hours and location of work (remote work).
● Family care benefits.
● Employer 401(k) contributions .
● Tuition and student-loan reimbursement.
● Help with short-term savings goals.

What empathy looks like in the day-to-day:

Whether you're working together in person or virtually, incorporating empathy in how you operate on an everyday basis is extremely important. Here are some ways you can slow down and truly understand your employees.

1. Practice active listening and be open and honest in your response.

Active listening is a practice where you listen to another person fully, without interrupting or thinking about how you will respond. You listen and assess without judgment, allowing the speaker to feel seen, heard, and respected, and you wait to respond until the speaker is fully finished sharing. When we truly listen without an agenda of our own, we learn new things about people and get to see their struggles, whether it's something going on at home or they're feeling incompetent with a task at work. Often, problems linger on longer than necessary when we don't address them head-on-so having an honest conversation can oftentimes clear things up instantly.

When you respond, be vulnerable and invite vulnerability. Share your struggles as well and connect on a human level. Inviting vulnerability into the workplace is one of the single best ways to encourage more empathy-when we demonstrate honesty and transparency as leaders, we encourage others to do the same.

2. Be more available and visible

With everything being digital nowadays, it's harder to create that organic connection with staff. Make it clear that you are available to talk at any time, and perhaps go an extra step and create check-ins with your team so everyone can address their struggles, their triumphs, and everything in between. If you're constantly just sending emails about tasks and don't show your face much, your team and employees may not feel welcome to connect with you, and the doors of communication will remain shut, also shutting down opportunities for collaboration, feedback, and creative ideas.

At Girl Power Talk, we have actively built a leadership style that has mentors rather than managers. Our leadership is always available to answer questions about work or life. In fact, they make it a priority to connect with team members on an individual basis and check-in regularly. Our biweekly team meeting also play a crucial role in making everyone feel part of a whole rather than an isolated face behind a screen

3. Encourage team members to find their own work-life balance and passions.
This can be reflected through benefit programs that encourage mental and physical health, and this can also look like team wellness outings, encouraging travel and time off and celebrating employees' interests outside of work. This creates appreciation, trust, and motivation to do great work.
Other great ways to demonstrate empathy include encouraging frequent breaks and setting work schedules that are convenient for employees-for example, accommodating children and school hours is a great way to demonstrate empathy.

Our team members work around their schedule, and we organize frequent meetups in our offices and in their respective states with fun activities to form a real bond and encourage friendship between our young leaders even in today's virtual era.

4. Celebrate success

Showing gratitude and admiration for your team and the hard work they do will encourage them to do even more great work. A survey from the firm Eagle Hill Consulting found that 74 percent of employees agree that workplace culture has a direct impact on how they serve customers (from a 2019 study). A culture of DEI (diversity, equity, and inclusion) lets teams pursue a purpose and be truly passionate about it. This kind of work environment translates into excellent customer service experiences. This means communicating with not only team members but also customers, opening up a stream of regular feedback and communication and resulting in lasting partnerships. Collaboration is the future.

5. Encourage creativity and learning new things

Whether it's designated time in the workday (like a creative brainstorming session) or paying for outside courses or education, keep employees engaged, excited, and curious about life. This will greatly benefit their work, creating more room for innovation, collaboration, and greater success. It unwinds the“grind” and gives staff a reset to find new inspiration in their work.

Sit down and think about things you wish a company you worked for in the past did to be more empathetic toward YOU. What was their missed opportunity that could have kept you at the company or could have kept you more engaged, seen, respected, and ultimately happier? Think about the things that a company did RIGHT as well, and take note. Spend some time brainstorming about things you can do RIGHT NOW and policies you can institute in the future to create a more inclusive and empathetic work environment. And remember that different sexes, races, and socioeconomic statuses of employees mean their reality looks different than yours, so listen. Get to know their life and how they work best, by being curious, listening to their experiences and understanding what it is that helps them thrive. We can all create a more-empathetic work culture, and the first step is with opening up your ears and your mind.

Girl Power Talk: Leading with Empathy

Whether it be having Art Day in our offices, surprising a coworker with care packages or a visit to their home after a long-isolated covid recovery, covering tuition or internet fees as needed, or consciously keeping track and having conversations surrounding mental health and workload of our leaders, we have always led with empathy at Girl Power Talk. This has reaped bountiful results in building a productive, loyal, and happy team and has helped us make more impact. Cultivating empathy is not a one-time action, however, it is a chain that has ripple effects beyond the tangible.


Colombo Gazette

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