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The correlation between empathy and managing people effectively is extremely clear.

Boosting productivity through empathy

Reading Time: 3 minutes

Any business that aims to succeed knows the importance of productivity. But here’s the thing: The productivity in the office highly depends on the one leading the herd. As with all teams, a team leader should have the necessary set of values and qualities to motivate, encourage, and guide their staff. While all leadership values affect the team in their own ways, there’s one value that rises above the rest — empathy.

The importance of empathy is not lost on employees themselves. A 2019 survey by Businesssolver reveals that while 92% of CEOs believe that they show empathy towards their team, only 72% of the employees agree. Furthermore, managers have a bigger challenge of putting their empathy into practice now, given that mostly everyone has transitioned to a remote working setup. In this post, we’ll give you the rundown on what empathy means for your team and how you, as a team leader, could use it to direct your business towards success.

Defining empathy

Simply put, having empathy means that you’re able to put yourself in somebody else’s shoes to fully understand what they’re going through. When we have empathy, this allows us to be more compassionate and understanding of what another person feels. And to reiterate, empathy is a crucial value that everyone should have, not just at work, but life in general. If everyone is sensitive to how their peers feel, and vice versa, each person would grow and accomplish more with ease.

This is how empathy improves productivity

One way that empathy boosts productivity is by keeping your employees in check. Most employees look to their superiors and managers for validation and appreciation, and if they’re not given their dues, this leads to office unhappiness and morale rates going downhill. Moreover, our post ‘Well-being in Remote Teams: A Manager’s Duty of Care’ points out that team leaders need to have empathy in order to properly check on their employees’ mental health. This is especially important today, given that different workers may be struggling with heightened levels of anxiety or dealing with health problems in the family that you may not immediately notice. To add, Forbes reports that at least 66% of employees would quit their jobs if they felt underappreciated. This means it’s immensely important that team leaders address their team’s needs by understanding and listening to their struggles.

Empathy and managing people in a work setting go hand-in-hand. Understanding the additional stressors, commitments and concerns of your staff is key to being a great manager.

The problem is, most companies respond to this statistic by using corporate wellness programs that are designed to tackle their teams’ needs without having to hear them out. Case in point: Corporate wellness programs have not been as successful as companies hope them to be. This is because they often follow a one-size-fits-all mould without taking the specific needs of the employees into consideration. Pain Free Working notes that you’ll find a bigger impact on productivity by focusing on the basic needs of your employees rather than introducing fancy — and often unnecessary — office perks like gym memberships. Simple things like a more personalised workspace, natural light, and better air quality can go a long way in terms of improved mood and overall well-being. And when you have employees who are happy, they’re more likely to be productive and excited about work.

Another way of using empathy to enhance employee productivity is by giving your team members enough time to process their feelings in highly emotional situations. Through this, you allow your employee to fully work their way out of their emotional cages only to come out as a stronger and more complete person.

In a remote working set-up, you could show what it means to be an empathetic leader by checking in on your team through a weekly video meeting. You could start by asking how they’re doing during this difficult time, and then move forward on how you can assist as their boss. Despite being physically separated and working in places not necessarily designed for work, you can amp up your team’s productivity rate and morale by doing small gestures like this.

At the end of that day, a team leader will only be able to instil the value of empathy by being empathetic themselves. So, make sure you pay more attention to your employees’ needs through empathy — and we guarantee that the promise of high productivity rates, and better workplace dynamics overall, will be worth your effort.

Would you like to see how a weekly check-in can empower managers to become more empathetic?

Workplace Culture Consultant and Writer