Employer kindness can improve worker productivity and mental health, study reveals.

Ever heard the phrase ‘A little bit of kindness goes a long way’ and been a little sceptical about just how far a little bit of something can go… Well it turns out it really can ‘go those extra miles’.

A recent study conducted by international researchers at Penn State University has revealed that employer kindness, even to a minor degree, can contribute to an increase in employee productivity and mental health.

The researcher’s findings were published in the International Journal of Occupational Safety and Ergonomics.

“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” remarks Bu Zhong, PH.d, associate professor of journalism at Penn State University, who contributed to the research.

The experiment involved 84 bus drivers from Shenzen, China.  As bus drivers within China work long, demanding hours and live a relatively sedentary lifestyle, both their mental and physical health are commonly compromised.

Over the course of 3 weeks, on duty drivers were each given either an apple or banana in addition to their regular lunch – with each fruit costing 73% per meal. The researchers handed out surveys at 3 different times during the experiment. One was given a week before, a week in the middle, and a week after the experiment concluded.

Depression was assessed with a personal health questionnaire recommended by U.S centre for Disease Control and Prevention. The bus drivers were asked to rate how they felt, both mentally and physically, over the past two weeks. They were also evaluated self-efficacy using a 10-iterm General efficiency scale.

Workers reported lower levels of depression in the week following the experiment, and higher levels of self-efficacy during the experiment.

Effectively, the study revealed that even the smallest gesture of kindness from employers, in the form of fresh fruit, boosted worker morale and improved overall mental health. Workers also reported higher levels of self-confidence throughout the experiment.

The demanding nature of work can often result in work-related stress, which effects the health and wellbeing of employees. Stress can cause various issues including: depression, anxiety, difficultly sleeping, skin rashes and altered appetite.    

Message to all employers: Be kind to your workers, reward them for their hard work and aim to enhance their mental and physical wellbeing.  

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