Building a Positive Workplace Culture: 5 Tips
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“Positive workplace culture” has become a buzzword in recent years. However, the hoopla makes sense. After all, you spend at least a third of your life at work, sometimes more if you’re one of the many pulling double duty in a struggle to keep up financially.
Anywhere you spend that much time will have a profound effect on your psyche — and those of your staff. How can you create an atmosphere that makes people happy to clock in each day?
There are multiple advantages creating a mentally healthy office or retail space, including improved employee retention and higher profits. Here are five tips for building a positive workplace culture.
1. Talk — Really Talk — to Your Staff
Part of workplace culture is having everyone on the same page and dedicated to a mutual mission. Many business leaders mistakenly assume that what matters the most to them is what motivates their team as well. However, have you stopped to consider that many members of your staff might not know where your company is heading or why you make the decisions you do?
It’s one thing to post a corporate mission statement on your website. It’s quite another to keep your staff up-to-date on current business standings, campaigns and overall direction, especially if it’s been a while since their hire date. How can you expect them to put their full efforts into building your collective dream if they don’t even know what it is and how you plan to reach it?
Communication is paramount in business, and it flows from the top down. If leaders create an aura of mystery and secrecy, they can expect their staff to similarly play their cards close to their chests. The result? Sudden, unexpected departures that leave your team bare and behaviors like unexplained absences and missed deadlines as employees feel disconnected from their work.
Instead, talk to your staff. If you are remote, have a message board where employees can ask questions. Utilize collaboration tools like Google Suite and hold routine one-on-ones and small team meetings where you communicate about current priorities and brainstorm ways to meet your goals. Value their input, using anonymous surveys to inquire about proposed policy changes, giving your workers a sense of agency over their working environment instead of feeling like mere cogs in a dispassionate machine.
Furthermore, be approachable. Don’t hide in your corner office, surrounded by nothing but fellow C-suiters who flatter your ego. Roll up your sleeves and work alongside your staff from time to time or at least be present in the office, chatting about their lives and making yourself seem less like an omniscient figure who only exists to dole out demands.
2. Forget One-Size-Fits-All Solutions
Part of talking to your staff is finding out what matters to them, too, not just communicating your values. People join working teams for various reasons — money is only the most obvious. However, it’s far from the only motivating factor that makes your team stay.
For example, everyone has a right to a safe and healthy working environment. What does that look like besides obeying OSHA guidelines?
The issue is most vivid when you look at benefits. What motivates one employee may not drive another. Some people love coming into the office and appreciate amenities like an onsite gym, nap pods or foosball tables for break time. Others need the flexibility of telecommuting for better managing their time and health and maintaining high levels of productivity free from distraction.
If possible, be flexible with your benefits packages instead of making them one-size-fits-all. For example:
- Provide the option to work from home or receive a travel stipend to compensate for the wear and tear of a commute.
- Offer various health plans, including those with FSAs, to meet a wider range of employee needs.
- Consider co-working spaces instead of a traditional office. You’ll save money on overhead while still providing space for those who want to commute while allowing flextime and telecommuting options.
- Try out “choose your own incentive” bonus programs. Some people might want cash and others a paid day off; some might want discounted child care while others care more about gym memberships.
3. Inspire Through Team-Building Activities and Solo Study
It’s a sad fact of life that not everyone has the skills they need to successfully relate to others in the workplace. Unfortunately, one bad apple can spoil the bunch — a single staff member with a negative attitude can bring others down around them.
Maybe it isn’t your job to train them in soft skills you think they should have acquired elsewhere, but you’re the one who has to deal with the fallout. Therefore, step up to the plate and be proactive. Encourage positive relationships between your team members by including meaningful team-building activities several times a year.
Furthermore, encourage self-development. Employee assistance programs are valuable, but only help those who are already struggling — and some who need it the most may refuse to participate. Instead, offer bonuses to those who continue their education off-the-clock, having them complete resource materials that build their soft skills. They’ll appreciate the incentive, and you’ll see the difference in improved workplace behaviors.
4. Provide Support for Employees in Need
Be honest — would you know it if one of your employees were in crisis? Unfortunately, today’s competitive business environment means that many workers hide everything from severe health diagnoses to personal matters like divorce and even homelessness from their employers. While you need to respect their right to privacy as a matter of law, you could unwittingly make them feel isolated and alone. The strain will affect productivity.
Broadcast available employee assistance programs in routine company newsletters, not only hiring documents. Let staff members know if:
- They have free or discounted access to counselors and therapists.
- They can take a leave of absence to deal with substance use or mental health issues without losing their position.
- The list of resources you have available, such as support groups, where they can turn for help — including financial assistance for those struggling to afford housing or food.
5. Remember the Golden Rule
People tend to forget the most important rule: treat others as you would like to be treated. However, following the golden rule is best for building a positive workplace culture.
What message does it send to your staff if you forbid them from seeking work elsewhere yet serve as multiple CEOs? “Do as I say, not as I do” is a bad look. They’ll either think your job is so easy that it doesn’t merit your pay, or you’re a control freak. Neither scenario motivates your employees to do their best for you.
Likewise, expecting your employees to commute every day when you enjoy the freedom to work from anywhere will foster hard feelings. As any relationship counselor will tell you, resentment can be a death knell if left to fester. It can drive your employees to behaviors like “quiet quitting,” which results in a lower bottom line for you.
Walk a Mile in Their Shoes
Put yourself in your employee’s shoes. How would you feel if you were on the receiving end of a major policy shift — especially one that occurs with little explanation? How valued would you feel if you were performing their tasks for their pay scale? If it’s been a while since you experienced the struggle, ask. Send out an anonymous survey, chat with your team members one-on-one and pay attention to reviews on Glassdoor and other platforms.
Most of all, be willing to admit that you also make mistakes. Part of treating people as you would like to be treated is recognizing that everyone is human. Be a leader — show your team how to handle difficult situations with grace, empathy and compassion for others, and they will follow your example.
After all, who would you respect more: an employee who admits, “Hey, I messed up and here’s what I’m doing to fix it,” or one who tries to backtrack, hide the truth and avoid blame? You hired your team members because they are intelligent and emotionally aware — they also value these qualities in their employer.
Building a Positive Workplace Culture
You spend a great deal of time at work. A positive workplace culture preserves your team’s mental health and makes your life easier.
Fortunately, it’s not difficult to build a positive workplace culture. Follow the tips above and you can create a team that works together toward a mutual goal.