The Power of Empathy in the Workplace

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by Krista Streff

The Gist:

  • In today’s fast-paced personal and professional lives, slowing down to embrace empathy has taken a backseat.

  • By slowing down, we can actually speed up by better understanding others’ needs.

  • Transformational and sustainable solutions delivered by innovative companies begin with empathy and a human-centric approach.

 Pause for a moment and ask yourself three simple questions:

1.     When’s the last time you’ve really listened to someone?

2.     Do you ask more questions or are you eager to respond and share your own thoughts?

3.     Do you always have your phone or other devices nearby when you’re engaging with those around you?

We all mean well so of course we all like to think we have empathy, but how good are we really practicing it in our daily lives? One could easily make the case for why in today’s world, we need empathy more than ever. Having empathy helps us step away from who we are and step into someone else’s shoes. It means slowing down despite the fast-paced nature of our culture to pause, ask questions and seek to understand those around you. It’s shifting from simply knowing to truly appreciating that the experiences and perspectives of others are different than your own.

Empathy reality check:

If you aren’t feeling stellar about how you answered the questions above, then you deserve kudos for being honest and comfort for knowing you’re like most people out there. It’s not easy to understand other’s perspectives, to separate the facts from the emotions we put behind people’s words.

The irony our culture is faced with is we have easy, fast, multiple ways to connect with the world around us, unlike ever before – so we think we’re effectively engaging with others. But meaningful connection, empathy and shared understanding isn’t easy, fast or done across multiple forums. In fact, it’s quite the opposite. It’s slowing down, taking the time to understand what’s behind people’s words – or what their unmet needs are that they aren’t voicing and it is one-to-one connection, looking the other person in the eye and giving them your undivided attention.

In our personal lives, we see people posting and responding rapidly on social media, communicating through more emojis than words and not really pausing to listen and ask questions. In our workplaces, the focus can often be placed more on chasing profits, efficiencies and speed to market rather than looking beyond big data to push forward towards something that is sustainable and matters to people.

How businesses – and we can do better:

The concept that by slowing down, we can actually speed up, may seem contradictory, but it’s not. Companies can get productivity and new ideas from fostering empathy in the workplace, while creating a better culture along the way.

Need proof? Consumers didn’t say they needed a smart phone and now we can’t imagine living without one. It was created by a company using an empathetic approach to understand how to make consumers’ lives easier and meet needs they weren’t even voicing. You probably thought your remote control worked just fine too until the ability to speak into it made it easier for you to find what you were looking for. These examples demonstrate how companies can design solutions to meet a need that folds right into consumers lives. But these types of transformational solutions don’t occur without paying attention to how people think, what they’re doing, asking a lot of questions and paying attention to what’s not being said. Or put simply, having empathy.

Companies like Magid, use a human-centric design and approach to understand human behavior and truly ‘live between the 6 inches of people’s ears’. They don’t just use big data to help from a marketing perspective, they seek to understand the deeper meaning behind what compelled people to take that action in the first place. And by doing so, they help other businesses not just look backward, but look forward to benefit both the businesses they work with, their employees and end consumers.

How can companies get started on their own towards incorporating more empathy into their workplace? Talk to people, be aware of what’s going on, where the pain points are and recognize where the opportunities are. Empower leaders to bring different voices to the table, recognizing everyone has different perspectives that can shape rich insights. Have an honest conversation with your employees to understand what they want to get out of their own experiences. Maintain authenticity and create a space to allow your culture to organically grow. Allow employees to do more job shadowing so they understand each other’s roles and the challenges and value each provides.

Empathy challenge

Small steps can create big change. You answered three questions earlier on, so now challenge yourself to try three things:

1.     Try asking five questions the next time you’re listening to someone before you say something about yourself.

2.     Give yourself time to recharge, away from technology to read, have conversations with those around you and disconnect.

3.     Challenge yourself to pause and look around you to see the joy of what you could be missing out on instead of being so plugged in and focused on the fear of what you may be missing out on.

Whether you’re doing it for yourself personally or professionally, having more empathy better equips us all to deal with everyday life.

Learn more:

  • Listen to Beth Miller, Chief Marketing & Strategy Officer at Magid share her insights on infusing empathy into the workplace.

  • Visit magid.com to learn more about The Magid Way of delivering business-minded, deeply human, plans of action.

 

The critical need for employee sleep health

Lack of employee sleep cost corporations an estimated $63 billion

Lack of employee sleep cost corporations an estimated $63 billion

by Krista Streff

The Gist:

  • Lack of sleep has cost corporations an estimated $63 billion.

  • Sleep is considered the third pillar to health, behind diet and exercise and should be a part of the broader employee wellness programs businesses have established over the past 10 years.

  • Today’s culture has a large presence of negative influencers affecting American’s sleep.

Sleep

We all do it and we all need it. Yet we don’t often talk about it – or the impact it has on our professional and personal lives. In a world where more is often perceived as better, being tired has become yet another badge of honor to mark a busy and productive life.

Reality is while we may not be able to always change our external environment, we can become more aware of what negative influencers are affecting our sleep (que long commutes, increased blue light exposure, busy schedules, caffeine….)

So what are the impacts that fatigue is having on our lives?

Fatigue causes suffering and with 115 classified sleep disorders ranging from insomnia (difficulty initiating and maintaining sleep) and sleep apnea (interruptions in breathing at night), there no shortage of people suffering. An estimated 30% of the country suffers from sleep apnea alone, which is scary considering the condition causes damage to your heart as it works overtime to circulate the existing oxygen in your system that you should be getting from breathing.

Even if you don’t have a sleep disorder, you can still be impacted by one considering they typically affect the bed partner the most. Thankfully, we have the technology today with things such as the CPAP (continuous positive airway pressure) that can help people get the good nights’ rest they so desperately need – and much more. The challenge lies in expanding the education so people are more aware and informed.

Both quantity and quality are vital a restful night. Good consolidated sleep without frequent arousals, allowing you to cycle into the four different stages of sleep will give your body the rest and healing it needs. Unfortunately, just like we all have sleep in common, most of us also have the same poor habits around sleep:

  • Drinking too much caffeine – we think it’s giving us energy, but what it’s really doing is blocking the hormone that makes us feel fatigued, so we don’t feel the physical effects of fatigue. Plus, thanks to its half-life, its effects can be found in our system long after we’ve taken our last sip.

  • Spending too much time on a screen – blue light exposure is the #1 negative influencer on our sleep. Device light has a different frequency than sun light and similar to caffeine, stays in our system after we’ve finally unplugged from all things we plug in.

  • Hitting the snooze button – we may think we’re giving yourself the gift of five more minutes but we’re really robbing ourselves of the precious REM stage of sleep that helps us heal. We’d all be better off to stop the morning alarm dance instead of stopping the alarm.

If you’re doing all the right things when it comes to sleep and are still tired, a sleep study could be an important step for you to take. Fatigue is an indicator that something is wrong. And there’s no need to lose any (more) sleep worrying about what a sleep study is. Simply put, sleep centers work to mirror your home environment, providing the comforts of home so you can sleep while they monitor you to find the what’s causing you to feel so fatigued.

So what’s businesses role in all of this?

Businesses have done a great job over the past 10 years building employee wellness programs and caring for their teams. While sleep as a part of these programs has been easy to ignore, what’s not easy for businesses to ignore is the productivity issues and money it’s costing them. Lack of sleep has cost corporations an estimated $63 billion. Absenteeism, health care needs and lack of productivity are just a few of the reasons behind that staggering figure.

It’s important to realize sleep is a part of the overall employee wellness that needs to be addressed. Pause for a moment and consider…we go to the doctor for our awake hours but we don’t check up on the health for our sleeping hours. Which, by the way, make up a third of our lives. Put in that context, it’s less surprising to learn that sleep is considered the 3rd pillar for health behind diet and exercise.

Companies that have a culture of care for their employees attract and retain top talent. With leading companies like Nike and Google doing more, increased media behind the science of sleep is trending. Which shouldn’t be a surprise when you realize that by addressing key parts of employees’ lives, they are able to be more present and productive. Everybody wins. Bottom line – we all want to show up as our best selves at work and employers can play an important role in helping to make this happen. Even a small step such as bringing in educators or offering classes can make a big stride towards making a difference in your employees’ sleeping – and waking hours.

Learn more:

 

Season 1: The Business Gist Podcast

Season 1: The Business Gist Podcast

Check out what you can expect from season one of the Business Gist. From food justice to sleep health we cover the topics business leaders should be thinking about when it comes to the human side of the bottom line.

Meet Our Host Megan Effertz

Meet Our Host Megan Effertz

Megan Effertz is an entrepreneur, marketer, and Executive Editor of Minnesota Business magazine. She’s also the host of the Business Gist, and is passionate about building good businesses. During the podcast, she explores various social topics with Minnesota business leaders, learning their perspectives, why they think the way they do and their ideas for other business owners.