Kindness at Work Pays for Itself and More

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It's a dog-eat-dog world in business, right? Everybody should always keep their eye out for No. 1. Emotions, including happiness, have absolutely no place on the job.

Maybe in 1980s Wall Street, but thankfully, most of the rest of us don't turn our humanity on and off with the clock. That doesn't mean work isn't stressful and hard, even if you love what you do. There's a cost-free way for everyone to make the 9-to-5 (or whatever your hours) easier — and maybe even more productive.

Researchers in the United States and China have just released a study on the knock-on effects of kindness at work. "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 coauthor Bu Zhong in a press release. When management gave bus drivers a piece of fruit with their provided lunch, the bus drivers found they were both less depressed on the job and felt more confident in their problem-solving abilities.

"This research suggests that employees can be sensitive to any improvement at the workplace," Zhong said. That lines up with other published research: Happy employees tend to be about 10 percent more productive, while prosocial behavior like kindness and cooperation is most likely to help you up the career ladder. If you're feeling swamped or uncertain about where to start, it's possible to work your way into that kind of altruism. Small steps may not seem worth your time, but the ROI can be fantastic.