Compassion training yields an early return-on-investment.

Move over, exercise. Compassion is the new panacea. Mounting research shows that compassion can improve the health and well-being of individuals and corporations.

A culture of compassion—in which managers and employees are friendly and empathetic—makes employees happier and more productive, reports the Greater Good Science Center at the University of California, Berkeley. In fact, positive social interactions in the workplace are linked to lower heart rates and blood pressure, resulting in decreased stress and stronger immune systems.

"Research on compassion is setting a new tone for the workplace and management culture," writes Emma Seppala of the Greater Good Science Center. "Scientists are exploring the most effective ways to foster compassion in the workplace, and to help these best practices spread across organizations."

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The most exciting results of this research so far prove that we can systematically increase our capacity for goodness. The Center for Compassion and Altruism Research at Stanford University has developed "compassion training"—an eight-week course that involves daily meditation, visualization, breathing exercises, lectures and discussions, and "real-world homework" that helps participants practice compassionate thought and actions.

But what if your organization doesn't have the time or budget to take part in compassion training? The research group CompassionLab offers these simple tips for cultivating compassion while on the job:

  • Implement a system for identifying and rewarding employees who demonstrate empathy and help others in a skilled fashion.
  • Create an inclusive environment by ensuring that employees (especially new hires) can connect easily with one another.
  • Suggest ways employees can help co-workers who are suffering or in need.