Alumna Helen Rimmer on kindness at work and having her small business recognised by Theo Paphitis
Posted on behalf of: Internal Communications
Last updated: Thursday, 8 February 2024
Alumna Helen Rimmer was recently awarded in the first Small Business Sunday (#SBS) of 2024, in recognition of her efforts to promote kindness and wellbeing in the workplace. #SBS is a UK network for small businesses, where each week entrepreneur Theo Paphitis welcomes a few businesses to highlight their work to the community on X (formerly Twitter) and Instagram.
Helen, whose business runs under the name The Kind Brave Leader, was an early graduate of the online postgraduate certificate (PG Cert) in the Psychology of Kindness and Wellbeing at Work. This is one of the first courses of its kind in the world, which launched in 2022. She also completed a Masters in Film Studies at Sussex in 2010.
Professor Robin Banerjee, Pro-Vice-Chancellor (Global and Civic Engagement), who taught Helen during her PG Cert and founded the Sussex Centre for Research on Kindness, said: “It is really inspiring to see what Helen has achieved and how she is using the learnings from her course to make a positive difference in workplace communities. Congratulations, Helen!”
Below, Helen shares how her studies at Sussex, together with her professional experience in libraries and higher education leadership, continue to shape her practice today. You can hear more PG Cert students’ perspectives on the course in this short video.
What made you choose to study at Sussex, both for your Masters and your online PG Cert?
Sussex has always appealed for its different ways of thinking and working. When I decided I wanted to do an MA in Film Studies it was because of my life-long love of film from all eras and the Sussex Masters appealed because it was mix of topics and gave me the opportunity to study areas I was interested in. I was able to use the Mass Observation Archive for my dissertation too.
The PG Cert is unique. There is nothing like it anywhere else, so when I saw the advert I knew I had to do it. I had always had an interest in making workplaces better and being able to dive into the topic felt too good an opportunity to miss.
What impact has your PG Cert had on your work to date?
It has completely changed my life, profoundly influencing both my personal and professional development. The knowledge and insights gained from the PG Cert in the Psychology of Kindness and Wellbeing at Work have been instrumental in shaping my decision to go freelance and my approach as a kindness and wellbeing coach and facilitator.
It has deepened my understanding of how kindness and wellbeing can be integrated into the workplace, enhancing not only individual performance but also fostering a more supportive and collaborative work environment. This deeper comprehension has allowed me to offer more effective and empathetic coaching, helping others to unlock their potential and create more positive work environments.
Additionally, it has enriched my own life, allowing me to embody the principles of kindness and wellbeing more fully in every aspect of my life. For example, Gillian Sandstrom’s work on weak ties has inspired me to talk to strangers more and I have had some amazing interactions because of this.
What role do you think kindness can play in professional settings?
Kindness in professional settings can play a significant and transformative role. It can enhance team collaboration by fostering a sense of trust and psychological safety among team members. It contributes to a positive culture where employees feel valued and respected, which translates into increased motivation and engagement with work. Such a culture is also a key factor in attracting and retaining talent.
Kindness in the workplace goes beyond mere pleasantries. It includes genuine care for employees' mental and emotional wellbeing. This could be through supportive policies, acknowledging personal milestones, or simply by leaders being attentive to their team's needs.
Leaders who practise kindness are often perceived as more approachable and trustworthy, which creates stronger relationships in which employees are more likely to feel comfortable sharing ideas, concerns and feedback, leading to better problem-solving and decision-making processes.
Kindness also promotes understanding and empathy, making it easier for employees to see things from different perspectives. When kindness is a core value, conflicts are more likely to be resolved in a constructive and amicable manner. This is because a kind environment encourages open communication, active listening and a genuine interest in finding mutually beneficial solutions.
By focusing on these aspects, a workplace can transform into an environment where kindness not only flourishes but also drives success, innovation and a strong sense of community.
Could you share some actions people could consider taking to foster kindness and wellbeing in their workplace?
Absolutely. Fostering kindness and wellbeing is an ongoing process. It's about small, consistent actions that make the workplace a more positive and supportive space for everyone. Here are some ideas.
Start with a smile and greeting
This simple act can break down barriers, ease tensions and make everyone feel more connected and valued.
Regularly expressing gratitude and acknowledging the efforts of colleagues can have a profound impact on morale. This can be done through simple thank you notes, public acknowledgments in meetings, or even small tokens of appreciation. Celebrating successes big and small reinforces a sense of accomplishment and unity among team members.
Active listening involves fully concentrating on what is being said rather than just passively 'hearing' the message of the speaker. It includes giving undivided attention, acknowledging, reflecting back what is said, and withholding judgement. This approach demonstrates respect for colleagues' ideas and feelings and fosters a deeper level of understanding and connection.
Offering assistance to colleagues, whether in their tasks or just being there to listen, can significantly reduce stress and foster a collaborative spirit. It demonstrates empathy and a willingness to support others, contributing to a stronger, more cohesive team.
Organise team activities
Planning team activities, such as lunches or outings, helps to build camaraderie and strengthen relationships. Activities focused on understanding each other's strengths and working styles further enhance team dynamics and collaboration.
Valuing and respecting the diverse backgrounds, experiences and opinions of colleagues encourages a broader perspective, fosters creativity and helps in building a workplace where everyone feels they belong.
Lead by example
Leadership plays a critical role in setting the tone for the workplace. Leaders who demonstrate kindness, respect and empathy in their actions and decisions inspire similar behaviours in their team members.
Effective coaching and mentoring can also encourage individuals to explore how their personal strengths can meet job demands creatively and efficiently. This kind of one-to-one support can help in creating a work environment where employees feel valued for their unique contributions and are equipped with the resources and support they need to thrive.