As an HR professional, you want the very best for your employees. You want them to be happy with their jobs, excited to come to work every day, and to feel safe and comfortable whenever they sit at their desk or go to the breakroom. This is the essence of a positive work environment.
But how can you make these goals a reality? By developing a healthy workplace culture.
Here’s a preview of what’s discussed in this article:
• What Is a Positive Workplace Culture?
• What Elements Are Most Important in a Work Environment?
• Why Is a Positive Work Environment Important?
• How Does Your Work Environment Relate to Workplace Culture?
• What Is a Toxic Work Environment?
How Do You Create a Positive Work Environment?
• Establish a Strong Code of Ethics
• Institute Inclusive Hiring Processes
• Optimize Onboarding Strategies
• Establish Clear Lines of Communication
• Encourage Active Listening
• Check-In Regularly with Your Staff
• Create Comfortable Working Situations
• Promote Workshops and Continuing Education Opportunities
• Compensate Your Employees Fairly
• Encourage Time-Off
A positive workplace culture creates happy and satisfied employees. While every positive workplace culture is unique, most of them have a few qualities in common like open communication channels, opportunities for growth, creative work, positive relationships, a clear shared purpose & rewards that . Explore these 6 traits of positive working environments below:
Employees are encouraged to share their ideas and opinions openly during company-wide meetings and personal interviews with their managers. And while their ideas may not always be implemented, employees still have a voice.
Positive work cultures also take out any vague or unclear communication practices. Every employee understands their tasks, knows who to go to for questions, and receives answers promptly.
Offering growth opportunities, whether it’s a promotion or continuing education courses, shows the employer is investing in their employees’ future. This creates a career path, which can improve productivity and work engagement.
In a survey, 84 percent of employers agreed that innovation in the workplace is important. When employees think outside the box, they can find creative solutions to challenging and simple tasks alike. Managers should also celebrate these innovations to encourage other employees to take similar risks in the future.
Work relationships are supportive and energizing. Employees know their peers and managers are there to help them at work and are people they can genuinely trust.
Companies should have a clear purpose and core values that resonate with their employees. These core values inform decisions your company makes and give your employees a clear purpose and motivation to complete their tasks.
Employees like being recognized for their hard work, and positive work cultures have a formal way of rewarding those efforts. Whether it’s a pay bonus, public recognition, or even a special thanks, these rewards can motivate employees to work hard.
A positive work environment makes employees feel comfortable and driven to put their best foot forward.
Here are some examples of what a positive work environment might look like.
Whether they’re at a standing desk or in a desk chair, employees should feel comfortable while they work. This involves having all the equipment they need to complete their tasks.
Employees need breaks. Positive work environments allow people to conveniently go to the bathroom or offer rooms that can help them relax and recharge before tackling another task.
Your office layout should be designed to help your employees complete their tasks. If their tasks require a lot of collaboration, an open workspace is incredibly beneficial.
Positive work environments are meant to make your employees happier and more comfortable while they work.
When employees are happier, they are:
• More productive
Companies with the best work environments use their workplace culture as the building blocks for their environment. Think of the values your culture promotes—how can your environment complement those values?
For example, let’s say one of your company’s values is collaboration. The physical workplace environment should reflect this with an open-concept office that allows employees to easily find each other and ask questions.
It’s not feasible to maintain a perfectly positive work environment at your company—you can’t control when employees have a stressful day. But if stressful days are the default, you may have a toxic work environment on your hands.
Toxic workplaces can be characterized by any of the following traits:
• High employee turnover. If most new employees leave the company after only a few months on the job, they’re probably dissatisfied with their roles or the company at large. Additionally, if employees are always being let go or fired, there is likely a problem with management.
• Little-to-no work-life balance. Toxic work environments usually skew employee’s lives toward “all work and no play.” These employees feel guilty when they turn off email notifications over the weekend or use a vacation day just to get out of the office.
• Gossip and exclusive behavior. No one wants their office to feel like high school. Unfortunately, some companies allow cliques to form, or groups that are often overly exclusive and gossip with one another. These habits are counter-productive for offices that want to emphasize open communication.
• Ineffective leadership. There are plenty of poor leaders, whether it’s the micromanager or the overly hands-off boss. Unfortunately, this problem may not solve itself when you hire a new manager—a bad boss may have an even more toxic boss, who also might have a bad boss, and so on up to the upper management level.
• Unenthusiastic employees. If employees seem to only do their jobs so they can get paid, the company probably has a motivation problem. They can’t find a way to encourage employees, either because the work they do is demoralizing or the compensation they receive isn’t enough.
• Poor communication. Employees may feel out of the loop regarding important information, or expectations from managers aren’t explicitly stated. Additionally, the feedback they receive about their work (if they get any at all) may be overly harsh and unconstructive.
• Few growth opportunities. If it doesn’t seem like employees have a chance to progress in their roles or enroll in continuing education programs, that’s a sign of managers not investing in their employees.
While you may just need to improve your current workplace culture, some companies need to make more radical changes. Here are 10 steps you can take to establish a positive work environment from the ground up.
The comfort and safety of your employees should be a top priority, and your employees will feel better about working for your company if you have an ethical workplace culture. One survey found only 11 percent of employees who witness unethical behavior at work felt unaffected by it.
Establish a zero-tolerance policy regarding all unethical, illegal, or discriminatory behavior experienced in the workplace.
Staff with diverse backgrounds allows different ideologies, experiences, and points of view to flourish in your decision-making. A recent study found diverse teams make better decisions than non-diverse teams 87 percent of the time. So, your hiring pool should consist of candidates from a diverse range of backgrounds and experiences. These include:
• Sexual orientation
• Educational background
Start investing in your employees the second they are hired on. This reduces employee turnover—one study from Glassdoor found that a quality onboarding program can improve employee retention by 82 percent.
Fill your new hire’s schedule for their first two weeks with applicable meetings, on-the-job training, and relevant paperwork. Have your HR department check-in with new hires regularly to ensure they are content in their roles and their needs are met.
Every employee needs to know who they report to and who reports to them. This creates a clear line of communication your team can follow when they have questions.
Employees should also know the appropriate way to communicate with their managers and peers. For example, if they need a deliverable from a coworker, they should send an email instead of an instant message. And if managers need to communicate important information, they should schedule a meeting so they can go over all the details.
Active listening ensures your newly defined lines of communication work, as it can reduce misunderstandings and build a more respectful workplace.
Teach employees to follow these steps to practice active listening:
• Turn away from distractions and give the speaker your undivided attention.
• Use your body language to show you’re listening, from pointing your shoulders at the speaker to the occasional nod.
• Paraphrase what they’ve told you and ask clarifying questions to ensure you understand their points.
• Wait to ask questions until a speaker has finished their sentence or thought.
• Respond honestly, voicing any concerns or conflicting opinions you may have.
Managers should meet or speak with their employees often. This offers an opportunity to gauge an employee’s engagement level and find out what keeps them motivated. Employees should be encouraged to voice their candid opinions and concerns so their managers can address them.
Make sure employees have everything they need to complete their tasks in a timely and comfortable fashion. This may include:
• Computer monitors
• Mouse and keyboard
• Keyboard wrist rests
• Comfortable desk chair
You don’t have to do a lot to give employees a comfortable working experience. A recent study found the majority of workers see environmental factors, like air quality and comfortable lighting, to be more important than fitness facilities or healthy food options.
Attending workshops and continuing education programs lets employees continue to learn within their field of expertise. This helps employees feel less stagnant in their careers while also improving their marketability if they choose to apply for another job. Meanwhile, employers benefit from these courses as they can develop a highly-skilled workforce.
Pay your employees what they deserve. Giving them fair wages can incentivize them to work harder because they feel valued at your company.
Also, consider offering bonuses and prizes when employees do a job well—this shows your appreciation for their commitment and that you value their contributions.
Even if you offer competitive time-off benefits, your employees could still be too afraid to use them. Make it clear that time-off is meant to be used and that they should try and use as much as they can in a given time period.
Read more about the latest trends in workplace culture in our 2021 Global Culture Report
Ready to create a positive company culture? Check out Culture Cloud.
More Employee Recognition Resources
There are so many different ways to recognize, appreciate, and celebrate your employees. Here are more resources for guidance:
• Guide to Employee Recognition Programs
• 11 Employee Recognition Ideas
• 22 Awesome Employee Recognition Gift Ideas
• 9 Tips for How to Choose Employee Recognition Software
• Heartfelt Employee Appreciation Quotes to Say "Thank You"
• Benefits of Peer to Peer Recognition
• Best Practices for Virtual Employee Recognition
• Guide to Years of Service Awards
• Tips to Celebrate Work Anniversaries
• Employee Recognition in the Modern Workplace
• Victories: Modern Recognition Software
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