5 easy ways to apply empathy in the workplace

Celeste Ortega, Head of Operations

5 easy ways to apply empathy in the workplace

Empathy - this is the one word I have seen mentioned most often over the past few months. As our home and work life becomes increasingly more digital and full of technological innovations, empathy is more important than ever before.

First of all, let’s clarify that empathy is not sympathy. Empathy is about understanding each other and putting yourself in someone else’s shoes, to really feel what it is like to be in their skin.

I believe the world is coming back to the original idea of human connection. In a world full of social media, texts, bots and infinite content we feel the need to come back to more basic ways of connecting with each other.

It is in this complex world where empathy has taken a new meaning. And it is this new reality that is forcing companies to evolve and adapt to new forms of empathy, to keep up with the pace of society and, at the end of the day, with their clients.

With that in mind and knowing that empathy will not solve every problem that you are facing in your business or with your customers, it will however, drive you to more meaningful relationships and better results. Let’s investigate 5 easy ways that your company can start applying empathy today:

  1. Be aware - does your company really know what an empathic workplace looks like? What is it? The benefits of using it? Start an educational and an awareness empathy revolution. Start referring to empathy in your meetings, in your internal and external company communications and in daily life.

    Flexible working is an example of empathy within a workplace, as is having a neuro diversity policy, celebrating pride month with your staff and religious/cultural events such as Eid or Kwanzaa. It would also mean being responsive and reactive to changes in staff/locations and bringing in new policies and initiatives in response to new employee needs.

  2. Be an active listener - listen more and more actively. If you want to transform your business into a more empathic one you will need to listen harder. You will need to talk less and listen more.

    This doesn’t mean that you are necessarily just listening to your own staff, listen to the marketplace, listen to society. If society is screaming out for equal pay and/or shared parental leave, make steps to show your staff that you are aware of social issues and expectations and act upon them. Be User Focused.

  3. Be curious - if you are going to be more aware of other people's ideas and listen to them more, you will need to accept what you discover. If you want to apply empathy you will need to deep dive into both employee and client’s emotions, fears or ideas and let yourself be surprised by what you discover and be willing to make changes or implement what you hear.

    Attend events, listen to talks and webinars from companies in your clients industries, or those organised by your clients. Following the same idea, read news about different cultural groups and movements, make it your responsibility to understand what is happening in the world today and how your workplace needs to adapt. This is an interesting study into empathetic design which includes some exercises that could be tried out internally.

  4. Be humble - With knowledge comes great responsibility and it will be your responsibility to use the information you have gathered wisely. 

  5. Be consistent - Once you have started the empathy path there will be no way back and consistency in your message will be key to keep both your employees' and client's trust. 

    Make sure you execute. Keep in mind all the insights you have gathered and make sure your work and workplace reflect each other. Authenticity and integrity can put you in a far better light than a shiny showreel.

Finally there are some behaviours to look out for that could block empathy in your business.
Stress, “being busy” and anger or frustration can all contribute to a less positive and therefore less empathetic work environment.

To conclude, businesses are built by humans and human connection. So in order for your business to be efficient and run effectively you need to be conscious of making sure empathy is front of mind within all departments and between all your business stakeholders.

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