Creating a positive work environment

In any employment situation, there are two elements. On one side, you have your employees. They have agreed to undertake a certain role, and to use their skills to do that role to the best of their ability. On the other, the employer has agreed a way to reward them for their work.

If only it were that simple!

Here’s something that might not surprise you. The work environment significantly impacts on everything from team morale to individual motivation. Whilst that seems to be common sense, stress is reportedly rising in the workplace, with over half of workers saying they feel ‘overwhelmed’ every day (source Robert Half). It’s a situation that surely cannot be conducive to a positive working environment.

What is the ‘work environment”?

An environment is usually thought of as a physical place, but we are not talking here just about the layout of the desks – although that is a factor. The work environment covers everything from the culture, the flexibility, the way people are recognised, daily interactions and the opportunities for growth and job satisfaction, to highlight just a few aspects.

So should I employ a director of ‘wellbeing’?

Well, many companies – apparently over 50% of UK organisations – are introducing wellbeing schemes. These might typically include access to counsellors, subsidised gym memberships, cycle to work schemes or discounted Fitbits. And of course, anything that encourages a healthy mental and physical approach to work must have a benefit. 

But here’s an interesting little snippet. A couple of years ago, business psychologists OPP conducted a survey. It looked at how cities in the UK were rated for work happiness. Guess which city was number one. 

It was Norwich, with 77% of people interviewed there saying they loved their jobs. Why? Well, a local journalist surmised that Norwich’s strong sense of identity and community translated across to the workplace.

The little things matter

There was some research done by Warwick University in 2015 that seems to support that journalist’s assumptions (it’s a rather long and academic read, but if so inclined you can read it here). The conclusion was that an accumulation of small positive ‘nudges’ can have a dramatic effect on people’s happiness at work. It also demonstrates that happy workers are more productive because they put in more effort. In other words, happy employees are more than just a nice-to-have; they are crucial to a company’s success.

Creating a positive environment

I’d suggest that rather than building a company gym, there are some things that you could look at that really don’t need massive investment, but are more about attitude and approach.

Improved communications between management and employees – that’s not just about the company telling employees what is expected of them. It’s about open channels of communication where employees can raise concerns or issues and feel they are being listened to.

Access to training and development programmes – people want to grow their skills and to feel they are progressing. Some companies worry that they will pay for a training course only to have that person leave for a job elsewhere.  The opposite is true – as long as other elements of a positive workplace are evident.

An attitude of trust in your employees to do the right thing and work hard – your employees are grown-ups. Trust them to make good choices. And when, being human, sometimes they make the wrongs ones, support and mentor rather than punish.

Family-friendly policies that allow flexible working – the technology available to organisations today means very few workers have to sit in an office from nine to five. In all studies, this is a massive factor in employee satisfaction.

The Scandinavian countries lead the way in employee satisfaction, and these are the types of initiatives that they employ. The result – employees in these countries have a higher tendency to stay with the same employer, rather than moving to new companies.

What are your experiences of a positive work environment? Have I missed anything from my list that you have found really helps your happiness at work?  Let me know by commenting below.

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