Creating a positive work environment at the workplace

December 14, 2021  •  Reading Time: 12 min.

How to encourage employees and build a positive environment

Workplace stress is costing the U.S. economy more than $500 billion and increasing voluntary employee turnover by nearly 50 %.

A positive workplace culture is thus worth investing in, with both short- and long-term effects on employee engagement and workplace culture.

employees laugh in a positive work environment

To have happy and satisfied employees who are productive and effective, it’s not enough to tell them to stay positive. Creating a happy and inspiring work environment involves several aspects. As a manager, you need to do more to motivate your employees to perform better and help them be healthier and happier.

By being intentional about your core values and culture initiatives, you can create a positive work culture that inspires your team, helps your organization thrive and propels the company forward.

In our article, we’ll go over exactly what a positive work environment is, the benefits of a positive workplace culture, and how you can make it happen in 8 distinct ways.

What is a positive work environment?

A positive work environment ensures that employees enjoy coming to work and stay motivated throughout the day.

Research from the American Psychological Association (APA) shows that people strive for satisfaction, encouragement and feelings of happiness in their workplace.

Positive work cultures and environments typically embody these qualities:

  • Enhanced employee well-being and safety.
  • Visible, responsive, and trustworthy leadership.
  • Employees interact comfortably and effectively with their colleagues.
  • Positive social relationships are promoted inside and outside of work.
  • Emphasis is placed on positive reinforcement, and sincere appreciation and gratitude are expressed.

Advantages of creating a positive workplace culture for team members

A positive work culture helps create a work environment in which employees feel valued and perform outstanding work:

  • Productivity

A high level of interaction between employees has a positive long-term impact on productivity. A positive work environment thus has a major impact on employee engagement.

  • Engagement

Employee commitment increases with every satisfied employee in your organization. Employee motivation suffers when employees feel stressed, disrespected, unsupported, or unsure of their role. When every team member feels that their contribution is valued, there is a high likelihood that this will result in an overall positive workplace culture.

an old woman with vegetable stall
  • Health

Healthier employees not only do a better job, they also save a lot of money in healthcare costs. Health care costs in companies with high performance pressure are 50 % higher than in positive work environments.

  • Work attendance

550 million working days are lost each year due to stress in the workplace. In many companies with low employee engagement, the absenteeism rate is 37 % higher.

  • Safety

A staggering 60-80 % of workplace accidents are attributed to stress. Companies with low motivation have 49 % more accidents and cause 60 % more errors.

The Do’s and Don’ts for a positive work atmosphere

Creating a positive work environment also means paying attention to some important Do’ s and Don’ts:

Do’s:

1. Promote the company’s goals

Make sure each employee is aware of the organization’s long-term objectives. This will help individuals develop a sense of their professional goals. A source of motivation beyond quarterly quotas illustrates the value each job has in achieving the company’s mission.

2. Establish clear team goals

Set goals for each team, so employees have tangible results to work toward. Not only will this help manage individual performance, but it will also encourage collaboration between team members.

3. Have fun

People rarely succeed if they don’t enjoy what they are doing. There are always stressful moments at work, and the ability to lighten up a difficult situation is an invaluable skill. Of course, the ultimate goal should be to solve the problem, but a fresh perspective and a positive outlook are more productive than the alternative of constantly worrying about the problem.

4. Promote diversity and inclusivity

Establish a positive, inclusive workplace culture by creating a welcoming environment for people from diverse backgrounds and honoring their differences. Encourage employees to share their pronouns with the rest of the team to promote inclusive language, and consider establishing a committee to contribute to diversity initiatives. Also, work with HR to make diversity a part of your hiring strategy. An important aspect of creating a diverse community in the office is hiring people for culture adds, not culture fits.

5. Adopt a zero-tolerance policy

Just as important as creating a positive environment is making sure employees know that their rights and individuality are protected in the workplace. A critical aspect of a positive work culture is allowing employees to talk openly about their problems and have access to the support and resources they need by not allowing negative behaviors to occur. Ensure that HR representatives are available for personal conversations when needed, and consider establishing an anonymous sexual harassment hotline as a secure and private way for employees to report workplace incidents.

6. Be transparent

Engaged employees invest their full selves in the success of the business, and they deserve the leadership team’s trust. Encourage transparency and open communication between department heads, management and team members. This creates a positive work culture where employees feel heard and valued. Consider launching a regular internal newsletter and host a monthly town hall meeting to make company-wide announcements.

7. Establish an employee recognition program

Recognize and reward employees who achieve outstanding results. This encourages employees to continue to perform impressively and makes them feel valued within the company.

8. Leverage your employee’s feedback

Try to change the way you look at feedback. Rather than seeing it as an indication that you’re doing something wrong, think of it as the opposite: Your employees care so much about the company and its success that they are trying to make it better.

9. Plan social outings

Humans are social creatures who crave interaction – albeit some more than others. However, providing opportunities to get to know each other outside work helps foster meaningful relationships between employees. Consider what types of events your team would most enjoy as you develop ideas for a new company culture. Why don’t you go out for after-work drinks more often?

10. Encourage employees’ ideas

Whether your employees are giving you ideas for projects or just telling you how they think workflows could be improved, it’s helpful to listen to everyone’s ideas. Yes, even if they’re not great ideas! Listen to your employees and really think about what they are saying before you hastily react negatively. Maybe they’ll come up with something really special and can greatly contribute to your team’s success.

colleagues making a selfie while lunch

Don’ts:

1. Don’t reschedule one-on-one meetings

If you are taking the time to talk to an employee individually, do your best to keep that appointment, especially if something else comes up. This shows that you value and respect the employee’s time and that you care about what they have to say.

2. Don’t limit learning opportunities to job descriptions

Skill building is an important part of a positive work experience. Allow employees to pursue their passions, both inside and outside the office, and encourage information sharing between colleagues. This knowledge sharing will lead to improved employee relationships and collaboration.

3. Don’t make your employees work during their lunch break

Lunch breaks aren’t required by law, but allowing your employees to turn off their computers for 30 minutes to an hour each day will help create a positive work culture. Your team isn’t made up of robots. Therefore, it’s unrealistic – and unhealthy – expecting employees to do quality work for eight hours without a break. Regular breaks have been shown to improve productivity greatly.

4. Don’t let the HR department do everything on their own

As hard as HR may try, work culture isn’t created by a handful of people. It’s a team effort, and HR can’t be tasked with doing it alone. A positive culture is created when everyone works together.

5. Don’t force a positive work culture

Positive and fulfilling work cultures don’t just happen overnight. Stick to your values, listen to your employees, have fun, always motivate employees – and the culture will develop on its own. Work cultures that make people happy and businesses thrive take time, but they are worth the effort.

6. Don’t throw people in at the deep end

When you hire new employees, it can be tempting to throw them right into the deep end and give them a “baptism by fire.” However, this is not an appropriate way to introduce new employees. Instead, implement an onboarding program designed to familiarize new employees with the culture, processes and people of the office. This can include lessons on software, conversations about the company culture and job shadowing with co-workers.

7. Don’t tolerate bad managers

Managers have a direct impact on employee commitment and performance. 94 % of employees with great managers report that they are more passionate about their jobs. On the other end of the spectrum, 77 % of employees with bad managers hope to leave their current jobs. Managers interact a lot with their direct subordinates. Therefore, it is important that those who lead a team do so with conviction and in accordance with your core values.

The CEO congratulates his employee for the good work

8 ways to establish a positive work environment

First, establish your core values. These should be the foundation for everything that happens in your company and guide the development of your organization.

Take as much time as necessary to make sure everyone is pulling in the same direction, and include all significant parties in your company. In the end, you should have a concise list of values that accurately reflect your current company culture and long-term goals.

Next, give some thought to the type of work culture you want to create.

Consider everything from the physical layout of the office to how frequently employees interact with their peers, managers and members of the executive suite. From there, the real work begins. Learn how to create a positive work environment that aligns with your core values and and sustainably build an engaged workforce:

1. Show gratitude

Help your employees feel seen and appreciated by recognizing good work. Incentives and even small gestures of gratitude can go a long way toward keeping employees happy and promoting long-term productivity.

2. Promote a healthy work-life balance

Most employees want a flexible life: Make sure employees have access to health and wellness resources both inside and outside the company. Work-from-home Fridays, childcare, and wellness offerings all help achieve balance and lead to happy and healthy employees. Incentives that promote your employees’ well-being and help them have a good personal life or family life make a big difference. By the way, you can most likely attract elite candidates if you offer them flexible hours!

3. Ask for feedback

Past employee reviews on company job boards can help you identify where you can improve as a leader. Ask both former and current employees what you can do to help them do a good job and feel valued at your company. Also ask disengaged employees about the reasons for their dissatisfaction and do not ignore them. Sometimes disengaged employees are stuck in a dead-end job and just need a little support to get back on their feet.

4. Embrace the positive

When you have positive conversations and let each employee know you care, you create a positive work culture and long-term employee commitment. Celebrate successes with every team member, whether it’s exceptional customer service or a great work experience.

5. Invest in employee-friendly amenities

The workplace shouldn’t just be offices and waiting rooms. Your employees will appreciate it if you set up a space for yoga classes or gymnastics exercises, or simply serve healthy food and drinks for your employees to meet and interact. You don’t have to break the bank with expensive fitness equipment. There are alternatives – for example, one of your employees can lead meditation or yoga classes during breaks, or you can hire a professional to do it.

6. Ensure smooth communication

Poor communication can negatively impact all aspects of your business, including customer service, employee retention, productivity, your team’s ability to meet deadlines – and even affect your profits. A positive company culture and work environment thus really depends on good communication. Encourage feedback from every team member and focus on team-building activities. Consider setting up social events such as lunches, meetings outside the office, or even a quarterly book club.

7. Avoid micromanagement

No one likes to work when the boss is constantly buzzing around. People are more inclined to make mistakes when they know someone is watching them and monitoring their progress. Remember, you hired these people. So give them the same trust you showed them when you selected them for your team. When they realize you trust them to do their jobs right, they have more confidence and feel more relaxed. As a result, they are also more productive.

8. Create an individual development plan for each employee

An individual development plan helps your employees leverage their strengths, become aware of their weaknesses and work on them. Each employee has their own ambitions and desires, as well as a desire to grow in a particular area. By creating a plan for each of them, they can continue to learn and develop the way they want to. It can be incredibly motivating and inspiring for them when you show them that they can develop in numerous areas of their choosing.

happy employees makes air jumps

Conclusion

A positive work environment is a path that you and all of your employees must embark on together.

Positive cultures are only created when everyone works together. However, you have to be the one to set things in motion and inspire others to do the same. It’s definitely worth the effort, because creating a positive work culture contributes to a much more productive workplace for everyone involved. When a company becomes a true learning organization that places a high value on professional development, employees flourish and performance increases. That can actively contribute to the whole organization’s success and make businesses thriving.