Posted: 20 May 2020 10 min. read

The side-effects of kindness

An opportunity to re-engage, re-connect and reinforce personal and business outcomes

As we find ourselves in the midst of a global pandemic forcing us to all adapt our ways of living, often isolated from our families and friends and potentially re-evaluating our priorities in the longer term, it’s hard to think of a better time to engage in Mental Health Awareness Week, running this year from 18-24 May with a focus on kindness.

At this time more than ever, as we get used to the new normal of working remotely, engaging with clients on video conferences and trying to motivate dispersed teams who are tackling enormous change in both their personal and work lives, we must now, more than ever, seek to build kindness into our approach.

The kindness hormone oxytocin is released when we bond socially with others and Dr David Hamilton summarises the five ‘side-effects’ of kindness observed by science:

  • Makes you happier and reduces stress
  • Good for the heart
  • Slows aging
  • Improves relationships
  • Contagious (people feel better having received kindness, and are more likely to then be kinder to others)

I think we could all have guessed the bits around happiness and stress but studies have demonstrated empathy to have incredible impacts on our physical health too. Patients who scored their doctors 10/10 on empathy shown during a visit displayed a 50% higher immune response to the same treatment1. How we treat each other can have an enormous impact upon the wellbeing of others in very tangible and measurable ways.

Importantly, kindness is also smart for business. Our industry is evolving in response to the availability of data and complex analytics tools, automation of routine tasks through Robotic Process Automation right through to the opportunities offered by Machine Learning and Artificial Intelligence and panning over all of this, a focus on how such technology can support us in serving our clients. As a result, the skills we draw upon to best understand and connect with our clients and colleagues are becoming ever more in demand. We all recognise the need for collaboration, listening and working to get the best from teams. However, how much time do we spend reflecting on the underpinning attributes of each of these; compassion, understanding and thoughtfulness?

I was pleasantly surprised when on my last training course 360° feedback was accompanied by a self-assessment of emotional intelligence. This chimed well with my own various efforts over the years in what is often referred to as Mindfulness, becoming more conscious of my own patterns of thought and how to proactively manage my response. This training took it to the next level: thinking about the impact that our emotions might also have on those around us. I have a quiet leadership style and my natural response to stress is to go into ‘head-down mode’, making sure I deliver what’s needed on time. However, to lead my team and clients through these times I need to continue to actively engage, sharing more of myself rather than less and asking for support when needed. Connecting with clients and colleagues on a personal level without agenda during uncertainty and difficulty can not only flip the switch on turning stress into high performance but also turning a negative feeling into a social and enjoyable experience.

So how can we apply this approach to our industry and our clients?

1. Impact on talent:

If you could make small changes in your organisation that would get you access to better and more loyal talent at zero cost, would you do it?

When leaders are seen by their team members as more compassionate and kind, employees feel safe, trust levels are elevated and in the longer term employees are more willing to share ideas and commit to staying at the organisation2. As organisations vie for talent by the best workplace environments, training, technology and competitive salaries, what about the role, or even responsibility, of an organisation to be KIND? Research by Deloitte3 shows that new generations are increasingly focussed on building personal purpose into their careers and working for organisations that reflect their own values.

2. Impact on our clients:

If the feeling of another person empathising with us makes us feel listened to and creates a connection between individuals, why would we not be prioritising kindness when interacting with our clients?

Organisations in all parts of the world are currently dealing with enormous pressure whether in the public sector trying to continue to deliver important services to citizens and keep the country running or in the private sector protecting jobs and maintaining sustainable businesses. Putting ourselves in our client’s shoes is something that should of course come as second nature to advisors but during this time, taking the time to connect with clients as people to simply check how they are managing and offering a listening ear can have a long-lasting impact, deepening conversations and unlocking better ways of working together in the future.

3. Impact on our industry:

With kindness and empathy organisations can better collaborate and drive positive change, something the real estate industry must model as it faces monumental challenges in years to come.

A recent survey commissioned by the RICS as part of its Value the Planet campaign, revealed that 34% of real estate and construction workers feel their employer is not doing enough to help reduce its environmental impact. A worrying 62% said they do not feel that environmental sustainability is at the centre of their employer’s decision-making. A colossal task lies ahead of us all in applying our collective expertise to this critical issue, joining forces to not only counter climate change but work across all 17 Sustainable Development Goals. We have plenty to learn in terms of more sustainable construction methods, greener operation of buildings and smarter use of land and we are on that journey now, but what about the other skills required to drive this forward? Partnership, the open sharing of ideas and building vision, strategy and followership around an ethic of compassion – we already have access to these skillsets and bringing kindness in new ways to our working lives can unlock such behaviours to powerful effect.

I for one am making it my goal this year to bring kind leadership practices into my everyday life and promote ‘boomerang kindness’4 – cycles of behaviour where those treated with kindness go on to treat others in the same way. I am a strong believer in bringing further diversity of experience and thought into our industry, making our work accessible to all future talent and the sector coming out stronger as a result. I hope reading this has given you a brief moment to consider the role of kindness in your own approaches. I’m sure those of you with children, grandchildren, nieces and nephews are quick to tell them they can do and be anything when they grow up (and I agree with you!). But in a world where you can be anything, let’s start by being KIND.


1 The Five Side Effects of Kindness‘ (Hay House, 2017)

2 Emma Seppälä, PhD, is Science Director of Stanford University’s Center for Compassion and Altruism Research and Education

3 The Deloitte Global Millennial Survey 2019

4 Kindness in Leadership (Routledge, 2018) - Gay Haskins, Lalit Johri & Mike Thomas

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Georgina Botterill

Georgina Botterill

Assistant Director

As a member of the Real Estate Consulting team, Georgina has experience of providing strategic and technical advice to clients facing real estate related business challenges. A Chartered Surveyor by background, Georgina has worked in the Real Estate industry for 9 years and has significant experience advising a range of public and private sector clients through transformational real estate programmes and strategy and policy development. Georgina combines strategic and consulting experience with technical expertise to support organisations in navigating periods of change and considering the impact of real estate decisions. Georgina also has experience delivering Public Sector business cases, leading programme management teams and evidence-based policy development.