Article: Embracing empathy in the workplace landscape

Culture

Embracing empathy in the workplace landscape

Corporate culture needs a transformation towards a nurturing environment that fosters individual growth, encourages innovation, and values humanity alongside financial goals.
Embracing empathy in the workplace landscape

“Psychological safety is the key to creating a workplace where people can be confident enough to act without undue fear of being ridiculed, punished, or fired – and be humble enough to openly doubt what is believed and done.” - Robert I. Sutton

Mental well-being and empathy are the two pillars of successfully running a workplace. In today’s corporate landscape, it has become paramount to give employees an empathetic and supportive environment, where there is a free flow of communication. While India is becoming a progressive society and has started to realise the importance of mental health, there has been a constant push for corporations to make the necessary changes. As per a survey organised by Deloitte in 2022, Indian employers are losing productivity worth US $14 Billion every year due to poor mental health. According to another Deloitte survey conducted in June 2023, many employees often experience negative emotions and fatigue. For instance, half of the respondents stated that they "always" or "often" feel fatigued (52%) or stressed (49%), while others expressed sensations of being overwhelmed (43%), irritable (34%), lonely (33%), depressed (32%), and even angry (27%) and these issues were faced by across the company and not just a particular set of people. 

On the one hand, companies are in a frantic race for top talent and on the other hand they are still failing to match the standards of an ideal workplace with healthy competition and less sycophancy. Indian corporates are still unable to eradicate the root causes of the detrimental state of the same. The paradox emerges from the fact that there is no balance when it comes to long work hours due to heavy workloads, stressful jobs, and politics within an organisation. Corporate is famously called the world of VUCA where Volatility, Uncertainty, Complexity and Ambiguity rule, leading to absenteeism, low motivation for work and constant distress. Even though there is a consistent effort by companies to promote mental and physical health initiatives, they are still failing to get the best output from the same due to poor management analysis and ephemeral measures. As much as it is easy to introduce such programs it is equally difficult to sustain an environment that speaks values of wellbeing. 

The conventional approach of prioritising financial incentives and career advancement is no longer sufficient to retain and motivate employees. Companies need to move beyond their traditional approach which only focuses on profit maximisation and leads to unrealistic expectations from employees. As the value of employee well-being gains recognition, true integration remains elusive, the so called "family" ethos can inadvertently breed burnout. A bilateral approach addressing the company's motives and an employee's psychological satisfaction can benefit and prosper eventually, avoiding waves of disengagement and resignations. 

Employee wellbeing is the elephant in the room that needs to be addressed. Now the question arises of how the current situation can be improved and the notion around the “corporate world” can be changed. While many lives were upended by COVID-19, the silver lining is that it showed how employers need to be more considerate of their employees and how empathy can fuel productivity and loyalty. 

The nexus between mental wellbeing and financial success underscores its profound impact on organisational prosperity. Notably, heightened employee engagement takes root, where individuals become deeply invested in their roles and the company's success, and this is only achievable if there is a free flow of communication, a sense of emotional and financial security, and an empathy and humaneness towards everyone involved, regardless of their position. The freedom to share ideas propels innovation, highlighting the essential nature of open and transparent communication in building trust.

Here are a few recommendations to champion a socially secure workplace:

Facilitating mentorship connections: In today’s corporate Landscape, it is imperative to foster continuous growth for both employees and organisations. One such way of ensuring growth would be providing a platform to employees where they can connect with their career gurus and experienced professionals in their field continuously. This not only nurtures personal and professional development but also contributes significantly to the company’s advancements. Mentorship initiatives bolster employee engagement and retention. When employees receive guidance and support, they are more likely to invest in their roles and contribute meaningfully. 

Mindful leadership and emotional intelligence training: Equip leaders with tools to respond to employee’s emotional needs effectively. As elementary as it may sound, leaders need to wake up and act wise now. 

Mental health support groups: While many organisations offer employee assistance programs (EAPs) to support employees, there is still a stigma around seeking help. To navigate through this stigma organisations can provide more visible and accessible mental health support, such as on-site counselling services or mental health days. 

Deploying a third party for sharing anonymous feedback: Engage third-party facilitators or external consultants to collect and aggregate feedback. Employees often feel more comfortable sharing sensitive information with an external entity, ensuring complete anonymity and unbiased analysis of the feedback.

Regular evaluation of the work environment is crucial to ensure the implementation of suggested improvements. Involving employees in decision-making processes fosters a sense of ownership, contributing significantly to a more cohesive workplace culture. This marks a pivotal moment to recalibrate the 'corporate world,' shifting its focus towards cultivating a nurturing ecosystem. Here, individuals can thrive, ideas can flourish, and the pursuit of profits does not overshadow the importance of human values and wellbeing.

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Topics: Culture, Life @ Work, #Wellbeing, #Work Culture

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