Building a Positive Work Environment through Acts of Kindness

According to researchers (Sonnentag & Grant, 2012), a positive mood that comes from helping someone is so powerful that it can last all day. First of all, when you believe that you have helped someone at work, it makes you feel good. Then, as the day goes on, you think about it further, reflecting on the positive features of the event. This reflection spills over into the rest of your day, leaving you feeling good all day long. Due to our tendency to be more engaged with positive emotions and to detach from negative ones, we improve the positive parts of these memories in our minds, giving them greater power to make us happy.


Helping someone at work also creates a sense of progress and achievement (especially in helping professions), because it signals that one is capable of successfully contributing to someone else’s well-being. This perception can carry over to other subsequent tasks. This knowledge alleviates anxiety and enables employees to feel calm and relaxed.

Quite interestingly, the researchers found that there is an additional positive effect that occurs at the end of the work day, at bedtime, suggesting the importance of using after-work leisure hours to contemplate on one’s day.


There are some clear cut implications of this study. The researchers say that, while supervisors can certainly improve their employees’ good feelings by acknowledging their contributions, coworkers also play an important role in workplace happiness. Coworkers appreciate daily acts of kindness, especially on stressful days. These behaviors can be brought to light via weekly meetings where heart-warming stories of such acts of kindness are shared among staff members. Another suggestion the authors provide is creating training programs that focus on helping employees build into their daily schedule a time for reminiscing about good experiences that have happened in the workday. This time would potentially lead employees to cultivate good feelings within themselves that may well last until their head hits the pillow that night.

Sonnentag, S. & Grant, A. (2012). Doing Good at Work Feels Good at Home, but Not Right Away: When and Why Perceived Prosocial Impact Predicts Positive Affect. Personnel Psychology, 65, 495-530.