The 17th February celebrates Random Acts of Kindness Day, a day that aims to spread a little light and to make kindness an everyday part of our life. It highlights that even the smallest, simplest acts of kindness can help to brighten someone’s day.

So, we thought we’d take a look at the question – is there a place for random acts of kindness in the workplace?

Random Acts of Kindness in the Workplace

The Importance of Positive Interactions

The power of positive interactions on reducing stress and boosting resilience is something we talk about regularly on our workshops. These positive interactions include any action (or interaction!) that creates connection between people leading to a positive outcome (i.e. growth or survival).

If we travel back to the days of our early ancestors and take a look at this from an evolutionary perspective, the benefits of being positively connected to other people make a lot of sense. Back then we can see how human beings weren’t particularly fast or strong, compared to other species, and so they needed the support of other human beings in order to survive. 

We also lived in social groups so that there were more people to help with hunting and gathering food, raising children and defending against predators. This improved our chances of survival and maked life a little bit easier.

In the same way we have basic needs for food, water and shelter, we also have a basic need for connectedness – for positive interactions. It’s interesting to note that anthropologists have determined that the strongest indicator of a species’ brain size is the size of its social group – in other words, us humans have big brains to socialise with each other.

Maintaining positive relationships and having adequate opportunities for positive interaction benefits our mental resilience and wellbeing because it makes us feel safe, supported and cared for. This in turn increases our sense of purpose, our self-esteem and our confidence, helping us to better cope with life’s challenges when they arise.   

When we don’t have positive relationships or enough positive interactions in our day-to-day life, feelings of loneliness can start to kick in, and loneliness has been shown to have negative effects on both our mental (and physical) health. Some research suggested that loneliness is associated with an increased risk of certain mental health issues, including depression and anxiety, as well as with low self-esteem, sleep problems and increased stress levels.

So, how can we interact more positively and build positive relationships?


Random Acts of Kindness are a Positive Interaction

Kindness is a type of behaviour, or positive interaction, that is defined by acts of generosity, consideration, offers of help or a demonstration of concern for others.

Whilst it might feel counter-intuitive to focus our energy on helping or being kind to others, when we ourselves are feeling busy or overwhelmed, researchers have found that acts of kindness have a positive effect on our mental wellbeing, and even our physical health too.


The Neuroscience of Kindness

When we are kind to others, positive physiological changes start to happy in the brain and these changes are associated with an increase in happiness.

Random Acts of Kindness (and positive interactions in general) are a great way of boosting our key happy hormones – Dopamine, Oxytocin, Serotonin and Endorphins. It is these neurotransmitters that help our brain cells to communicate effectively and boost our overall sense of physical and mental wellbeing.

In this blog, I’m going to focus on how kindness impacts two of these key happy hormones – Oxytocin and Dopamine.


Oxytocin and Kindness

Oxytocin is often referred to a our love or hug hormone and it can be associated with that warm fuzzy feeling we get inside when we’re feeling connected to others, whether that’s our family, friends, work colleagues or pets.

When we are kind to others oxytocin is produced in our brain, making us feel good, but it’s also produced in the brain of our kindness recipient too, making them feel good as well.

Oxytocin has been shown to help us with feeling empathy, intimacy and trust and it also enables us to instigate, build and maintain satisfying relationships. Low levels of oxytocin have been shown to enhance feelings of fear, distrust and loneliness. Even a small act of kindness is enough to boost our oxytocin levels.


Dopamine and Kindness

When we perform an act of kindness our brain gives us a chemical reward in the form of oxytocin, making you feel good. And there’s another happy hormone that comes into play when it comes to reward and that’s dopamine.

Dopamine literally drives our brain’s reward system, motivating us to seek out pleasurable and rewarding experiences. So, once we experience how rewarding it feels to offer a small act of kindness to another our brain will want to create the same experience again.

Equally, once our kindness recipient has experienced the reward of a random act of kindness their brain is more likely to motivate them to do the same for someone else too.

When we are low in dopamine it can result in feeling a lack of enthusiasm and motivation and in feelings of self-doubt and procrastination. So, again, when we’re procrastinating at work a simple act of kindness might be all we need to remotivate us!


10 Ideas for Random Acts of Kindness in the Workplace

Research shows us that even the smallest and simplest acts of kindness are enough to create these positive changes in our brain that help us to boost our happiness and motivation and reduce stress and procrastination.

Here are 10 simple acts of kindness you can try in the workplace:

• Make a cuppa for your colleagues
• Smiling at or saying hello to colleagues you don’t normally speak to
• Baking a cake for your colleagues
• Giving praise to your colleague for something they’ve done well
• Holding the door open for the person behind you
• Writing a thank you card (or post it note) and leaving it on your colleagues desk
• Offering to help with a task that would be easier with two
• Asking a colleague to go out for lunch
• Offering to pick up some lunch or a hot drink for your team
• Offering a friendly ear if a colleague is having a bad day


Is there a place for random acts of kindness in the workplace?

Yes! Being kind to others, to your work friends and colleagues really does improve your emotional and physical wellbeing. And it’s often the case that the more you do for other people, the more they’ll do for you, creating a never ending cycle of positive interaction, helping everyone to feel happier.

Whether it’s a small act of kindness, that doesn’t cost much in the way of time or money, or a lengthier act of altruism, it can be helpful to think about how you can use the concept of kindness and helping others to reduce your own symptoms of stress and improve your mental and physical wellbeing.


Visit the HSE website for current news about mental health.

To Promote Positive Mental Health At Work?

Find out by taking our quick Mental Health At Work Quiz This short quiz will take you through the six areas of ‘work design’ that highlight the primary sources of stress at work that, when not managed well, are associated with poor mental health and can lead to increased absenteeism and presenteeism, resulting in reduced creativity, productivity and results.

Take The Mental Health At Work Quiz NOW!