Empathy And Compassion At Workplace In The Post-pandemic World

Empathy and compassion have emerged as the most important qualities for businesses and leaders to believe in and demonstrate.


The onset of COVID-19 two years back shook the whole world not just because it was unprecedented, but also because we were all affected by it at the same time. For employers and the workforce, the pandemic has exacerbated issues like mental and physical well-being, work-life balance, workforce burnout, financial pressures, and fears around job security. On one hand, a lot of businesses had to opt for layoffs due to financial instability and uncertainty caused by COVID-19. On the other hand, the fears and burnout in the workforce led to “The Great Resignation” trend. While the effects of the pandemic and The Great Resignation trend seem to be slowing down, they have created a permanent change in the way employers and workplaces operate.

What is being realized worldwide is that employers must care for people. Period. Honest care with very genuine intent. This will take care of creating safety for the employees. It embraces and celebrates vulnerability and humanizes organizations. Empathy and compassion have emerged as the most important qualities for businesses and leaders to believe in and demonstrate. This worldwide scale crisis has stripped leadership back to its most fundamental element: making a positive difference in people’s lives. But practicing and demonstrating empathy and compassion at the workplace has been made even more challenging by the new and permanent reality of flexible, hybrid, and remote work models. Therefore, it is imperative for us to understand why empathy and compassion must be practiced in the workplace and how.

Improving employee engagement and well-being

COVID-19 has pushed us all to our limits. Emotional and physical exhaustion has set in, at times leading to burnout. As per Microsoft’s global 2021 Work Trend Index, 54% of employees feel overworked, 39% of employees feel exhausted and 20% say their employer doesn’t care about their work-life balance. It is now accepted that burnout resides in workplaces and cultures, not in individuals. Similarly, in a study conducted by Qualtrics, 41.6% of respondents said that their mental health has declined since the COVID-19 outbreak. With employees spending 45-55 hours every week at work, employers have a far greater responsibility to support their employees through these challenges. Empathy and compassion in the workplace as a process can play a vital role in addressing these issues and increasing employee engagement. Studies have shown that practicing empathy and compassion at the workplace helps in reducing work stress and improving employee health.

Organizations should understand the levels of context (personal, relational, and organizational) that affect the overall process of organizational empathy and compassion. The process begins with making employees believe that their perspectives matter, their situations are understood and their voices are heard. There should be an organizational focus on promoting work-life balance and employee wellness. In fact, the work-life balance is more like work-life harmony where there is the freedom to integrate the two as per the individual’s needs and environment. The word balance itself is wrong as we will never be able to be happy if we hold ourselves to a perfectly equal distribution of time and focus on the two areas. At InMobi Group, employee engagement and well-being have become the focus of our organizational culture and goals. We strongly rely on our employee feedback system that checks in with employees frequently about their feelings and needs. Our policies like no-questions-asked leaves, wellness leaves, and No Meeting Fridays, support employees in fighting fatigue at work. There is also a deep focus on mindfulness, mental health, and emotional and physical well-being. InMobi Cares program conducts e-learning, virtual wellness sessions, and coaching (individual and group) sessions to ensure that our employees are focusing on holistic wellness.

Practicing empathy and compassion in everything we do

The new normal introduced by the onset of COVID-19 is here to stay. Flexibility at work is no more a policy but a norm. Employers have understood that the one-size-fits-all approach can no longer work. The lessons of empathy and compassion that we have learned during the pandemic have benefits that can help organizations succeed in this new era. Practicing empathy and compassion at the leadership level is also critical in driving employee engagement and innovation, which leads to higher employee retention rates, better job satisfaction, and deeper ownership.

Sahil Mathur, CHRO, InMobi Group

To make empathy and compassion a part of the culture fiber, organizations should first identify and strengthen the enablers – organizational culture, individual situations, and policies and procedures. Organizational culture needs to focus on employee well-being and empower the leaders to make empathetic and compassionate decisions. The individual situation needs to be observed to remove any barriers to the process of employee care. All these need to be supported with policies and procedures that put empathy and compassion into action. At InMobi, we have structured coaching programs, mentoring mechanisms, a network of psychotherapists and counselors, assistance programs, confidants in the system, managers being trained on addressing well-being situations, and leadership coaching, to strengthen the enablers of empathy and compassion.

The world has changed and organizations must adapt. The failure to practice empathy and compassion can lead to lower employee engagement, less innovation, and reduced loyalty. Organizations can fix this by showing their commitment to the cause, measuring the progress, and implementing a series of actions that will stimulate an empathy and compassion revolution.


(The views expressed in the authored have been penned down by Sahil Mathur, CHRO, InMobi Group solely for BW People publication)

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