Photo by Adam Nemeroff on Unsplash - Sign that says be kind with a heart

We honor Random Acts of Kindness Week every February (Feb. 13-19 this year) to celebrate small acts of goodwill. We all know that every day is a good day to build workplace gratitude through kindness. But how often do you think about random acts of kindness? How often do you actually do it? It’s a great reminder that little gestures go a long way.

Where Did Random Acts of Kindness Begin?

The phrase “random acts of kindness,” is believed to have been coined by the writer Anne Herbert in the early 1980s. Apparently, she scribbled on a restaurant placemat, “Practice random kindness and senseless acts of beauty.” The phrase uses language of war (“senseless acts of violence”) in a call for the opposite.

Random Acts of Kindness Foundation

The Random Acts of Kindness Foundation was started in 1995 with the mission of spreading kindness and compassion with education and publicity campaigns. This nonprofit organization is a fantastic resource of research literature on kindness, ideas for spreading kindness and ways to celebrate the people who practice kindness.

The Random Acts of Kindness Foundation has a wealth of ideas at for building goodwill at work and in the community. You can even nominate an employee or coworker as a “RAKtivist” and earn public recognition for their good deeds.

5 Ways Kindness Builds Workplace Gratitude

Here are five reasons to practice random acts of kindness any time of the year, and why it’s so meaningful to practice this philosophy when fostering workplace gratitude.

1. It breaks up routine.
So much of our daily life is a list of obligations; we have fully scheduled workdays, yard work, soccer practice, feeding the family — yet we often forget to make kindness an “obligation.” Even the smallest act of kindness has the power to make someone’s day. Random acts of kindness can also draw us away from technology for a brief moment. Researchers found that technology can be a real empathy-killer. For example, we are more likely to offer a seat if we look up from our smartphones long enough to notice a person in need.

2. It has awesome ROI.
Think about the example of smiling at someone unexpectedly. All this “costs” is a twitch of your facial muscles, yet has the power to spark a conversation. Over time, acts of kindness build a culture of workplace gratitude that leads to high levels of performance.

“A commitment to be kind can bring many important benefits. First, and perhaps most obviously, practicing kindness will be immensely helpful to our colleagues. Being recognized at work helps reduce employee burnout and absenteeism, and improves employee well-being, Gallup finds year after year in its surveys of U.S. workers. Receiving a compliment, words of recognition, and praise can help individuals feel more fulfilled, boost their self-esteem, improve their self-evaluations, and trigger positive emotions, decades of research have shown. These positive downstream consequences of compliments make intuitive sense: Praise aligns with our naturally positive view of ourselves, confirming our self-worth.” – Harvard Business Review, May 2021

3. It’s healthy.

A beaming smile is actually a positive indicator of longevity, as Ron Gutman discusses in his still-relevant TED talk “The Hidden Power of Smiling.” An article, Top 10 Reasons to Smile Every Day, states, “Research does suggest that happiness could increase lifespan by years—suggesting maintaining a happy, positive mood may be an important part of living a healthy lifestyle.”

4. It’s contagious.
Practicing random kindness has a domino effect, according to research from Harvard and University of California at San Diego. “One person’s generosity spreads first to three people and then to the nine people that those three people interact with in the future, and then to still other individuals in subsequent waves of the experiment.” Best of all, the good effect persists and feeds itself. One researcher involved in the study said, “You don’t go back to being your ‘old selfish self.'” Even witnessing acts of kindness can set off waves of goodwill.

5. It’s teachable.
Compassion can be learned. Our willingness to help strangers is shaped by small changes in perception.  Transformative work can be achieved by modeling and teaching kind behavior at home and at work. “How to Train the Compassionate Brain” shares research that states, “People who received…compassion training showed increased activity in neural networks involved in understanding the suffering of others, regulating emotions, and positive feelings in response to a reward or goal.”

Learn More About Workplace Gratitude

Download gThankYou’s FREE eBook below for more research and tips on building a culture of workplace gratitude. Learn the science behind why gratitude is so important; as well as how random acts of kindness and gratitude in the workplace build a happier, healthier, more productive workplace.

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