How to create a positive work environment

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A positive work environment is crucial to a business’s success at both a personal and professional level. If you’re a supervisor, human resources professional, or manage a team in any capacity, you’re sometimes better off focusing on fostering a healthy culture than digging into the details of problematic projects. Satisfied, engaged employees tend to manage themselves well.

However, creating a healthy work environment can be challenging. Let’s break down the makings of a healthy work environment, the benefits of fostering one, and what you can do to help get your work environment where it needs to be.

What makes a positive work environment?

At the top of the list of healthy workplace traits comes trust in all directions. At a healthy company, not only does management trust their employees, but that trust is reciprocated. Trust encourages communication, engagement, and healthy boundaries. It also paves the way for all other healthy behaviors.

In positive work environments, employees feel encouraged to speak their mind freely, get rewarded and recognized for their efforts, and feel cared for professionally and personally by the company. It isn’t always easy to categorize a workplace as healthy or unhealthy, but if you find yourself questioning the positivity of your company culture, there is probably room for improvement.

What are the benefits of a positive work environment?

It isn’t hard to see why having a company full of engaged, satisfied employees makes going to work more pleasant for everyone, but the benefits don’t stop there. Choosing to prioritize workplace positivity is a smart financial decision too.

Retention

If you’ve followed trends in human resources over the past few years, you’ve likely heard some variation of this phrase: employees don’t quit jobs, they quit their bosses. Some people quit positions due to dissatisfaction with their job duties, but far more quit due to problems with their leadership and work culture. 

A survey from Pew Research Center found that the top reasons for quitting a position included lack of advancement opportunities, feeling disrespected by management, poor benefits, and a lack of flexibility. All of these boil down an unhealthy work environment. Another study in the Journal of Nursing Management found that the ongoing nursing shortage in the United States was being heavily driven by unhealthy work environments.

Productivity

When employees work for a company with a healthy work environment, they thrive. Proper communication means more effective collaboration, encouraging teams to seek more creative solutions to problems. Engaged employees are more likely to participate more frequently in brainstorming sessions and bring their whole selves to work each day. Workers also are more likely to work hard when they know they’ll be recognized for their efforts. This all means greater productivity for the company.

Reduced spending

Retaining employees and boosting productivity are already money-saving hacks on their own, but there are other ways that healthy work environments save companies money. Companies which operate under consistently high levels of stress spend nearly 50% more on healthcare than other companies. Additionally, 60-80% of accidents in the workplaces are attributed to stressful working conditions. Avoiding these problems can save you a ton of money.

When a poor work environment causes disengagement, this can make things worse. A study by Queens School of Business found that disengaged employees had 37% higher rates of absenteeism and 60% more errors. Dealing with these problems at their root can save you tons of money.

How to create a healthy work environment

Once you’re committed to improving the health of your workplace, it can be difficult to know where to start. While there are plenty of ways to encourage positivity for current team members, it’s usually best to start at the beginning of the hiring process.

Ensure a proper onboarding and training process

Starting a new job is a stressful process for most people no matter the circumstances. You can help new employees by making the process as thorough and empathetic as possible. Make sure you outline job duties as best you can and leave plenty of room for questions throughout the process. 

First impressions are very impactful during onboarding. Give new hires the margin they need over the first few days and weeks to digest significant amounts of information. It’s important that they understand their positions on a deep level or you risk them feeling frustrated and confused about how to spend their time. This can create negativity.

Be sure to use the onboarding process to introduce not just a worker’s role, but a company culture of positivity. Make sure new hires know where to go with questions, how to use their benefits, and what to do when they’re feeling overwhelmed or frustrated. Establish empathy early and you will put your team members on a positive path.

Encourage communication

Poor communication is at the heart of nearly all relationship problems, regardless of whether those relationships are personal or professional. Always encourage your employees to communicate both successes and problems, but realize that you’ll often have to be the one to ask.

If you notice something isn’t getting done, ask the responsible employees how they are doing without making any assumptions. Even when things are going smoothly, check in with people periodically. Show compassion and build trust along the way. An employee who is consistently willing to share how they’re doing is one of the most important signs of a healthy work environment.

Demonstrate empathy

To those toward the bottom of a corporate hierarchy, it can sometimes feel like those at the top don’t care. As stated above, proper communication can help prevent this perceived divide, but there are other ways to offer empathy to employees. 

For instance, if a team member gets sick during a busy season, it’s natural to worry about how their absence might affect productivity. However, when you talk to that employee, make sure to emphasize that feeling well is the most important development. Any lost productivity will likely be made up for by that employee feeling cared for and not so stressed about missing work that they don’t take the time to heal properly. 

Recognize and reward team members

Recognition is a huge part of employee satisfaction, and it can make all the difference in fostering a healthy work environment. When an employee works hard and goes above and beyond on a project, they deserve to be recognized and rewarded for their efforts. If they aren’t, resentment can build, which contributes to a negative work environment. It also disincentives them to work hard in the future.

Recognition is a key part of proper communication on an ongoing level. When an employee consistently shows how valuable they are, it’s important to make sure those constant efforts are leading somewhere.

Offer room for growth

Recognition is important, but a truly healthy work environment doesn’t stop there. A lack of room for growth is another major reason employees quit jobs. After all, what’s the point of going above and beyond if doing so only results in a pat on the back? If your company is growing, make sure employees know that they have a chance to climb the ladder. A promotion is often the best reward for hard work. If workers know they have a shot at growth, it will enrich your entire workplace environment.

Offer benefits that show you prioritize a healthy environment

Paying employees well is obviously important, but benefits are equally as important as pay. A robust benefits package is one of the best ways to show your employees you care about their wellbeing, which will in turn make your workplace a more positive place. Thorough health care benefits show you prioritize their physical and mental health, while generous PTO and vacation time show you care about their time outside work. Childcare benefits show you care about their families.

When putting together your benefits package, think outside the box. Unique and generous benefits not only improve workplace positivity, they also draw in a larger pool of applicants for open positions.

One often-overlooked benefit is chaplaincy.  As an extension of leadership, having someone available to help employees navigate life’s struggles not only helps the employee, but also creates an amazing asset to your company’s culture.

Let Corporate Chaplains of America care for your team

When life is difficult and stressful, a caring ear can make a huge difference in someone’s ability to cope and thrive. Offering access to third party emotional support is a great way to encourage a positive work environment without overstepping personal and professional boundaries. A chaplain can offer this support.

Corporate Chaplains of America offers in-person as well as 24/7 virtual chaplain services to you and your team members, so your people can get the care they need when they need it most. Contact Corporate Chaplains of America today to learn more about what we can do for you.

The Company Culture Advantage for Business Owners

Is your company culture holding your business back?

Download our informational PDF guide “The Company Culture Advantage” to find out how your team’s culture could benefit from a dedicated Corporate Chaplain.