Study finds benefits of small gestures of kindness

A team of university researchers has found that fresh fruit in the workplace really does alleviate workplace stress and boost morale

Study finds benefits of small gestures of kindness

Small gestures of kindness in the workplace can alleviate everyday stress, according to a study from Pennsylvania State University.

Researchers discovered what many HR teams have known for years, that adding fresh fruit to staff lunches really can boost employee performance and morale.

The international team examined the impact of employers adding fruit to the daily diet of bus drivers in China who are known to have one of the most mentally and physically demanding jobs in the country. These workers are likely to experience stress over long periods and are susceptible to depression

READ MORE: This employee's act of kindness holds a powerful HR lesson

While employers regularly provided meals to their drivers, their lunch set typically lacked fresh fruit. Adding an apple or banana daily, however, only cost the employers 73 cents per meal but produced positive effects.

Over the three-week period – which included surveys during the pre-testing, testing and post-testing phase – the Penn State team found improvements to the self-efficacy and morale of the workers. This indicated workers experiencing higher levels of confidence as they accomplished their tasks.

The researchers also noted a marked improvement in the feelings of depression among drivers at the end of the study.

‘Small offerings can make a big difference’
While a subtle change to their diet might not seem much, the addition of the fruit – seen as a gesture of kindness from the employer – proved effective in reversing some of the negative impact of workplace stress, the study noted.

“This research suggests that employees can be sensitive to any improvement in the workplace,” said Bu Zhong, Ph.D, first author of the study published in the ‘International Journal of Occupational Safety and Ergonomics.’

Pay increases and reduced work hours are known to enhance employee productivity and health in the long run. When these aren’t feasible, however, “small offerings can make a big difference,” the lead researcher suggested.

“Before an ultimate solution is possible, some small steps can make a difference – one apple at a time,” Bu said.

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