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How to Encourage a Positive Work Environment

Consider these popular company descriptors: cut-throat high-pressure, take-no-prisoners, powerhouse. Do these phrases help you feel motivated? Committed? Encouraged? Probably not. 

Too many companies are betting on white-knuckling their way to the top and driving their financial success with grit and sweat. But what if there was another option? What if you could actually build a company on joy? Fun? And even happiness at work (gasp!) 

Sometimes it’s truly the simple things can foster a positive work environment and pave the way to success that is sustainable rather than killing yourself to get there. 

The Cost of Stress

A large (and growing) body of research shows us how a cut-throat environment is extremely harmful to productivity. The assumption that stress and pressure push employees to perform more, better, and faster, is missing the insurmountable hidden costs of stress. 

Health care costs at high-pressure companies are nearly 50% greater than at other organizations. In high-stress workplaces, there are 60-80% more accidents, causing more injuries and illness. In addition, it’s estimated that more than 80% of doctor visits are due to stress. 

While a cut-throat environment and a culture of fear can ensure engagement in the short term, research shows that over time, it actually leads to more disengagement, absenteeism, accidents, and errors. This inevitably leads to lower productivity, profitability, job growth, and share price. 

A high-stress company lacks loyalty that comes from happy employees. Instead, they have an extremely high rate of turnover (which leads to higher costs in recruiting, training, etc.) The Center for American Progress estimates that replacing a single employee costs approximately 20% of that employee’s salary.

Why Positivity Matters 

On the other hand, more research is showing that a positive environment can lead to dramatic benefits. How does happiness really make a difference? Most of us are more energetic when we are happy. We are motivated when we are having fun, and we are more creative problem solvers when we are relaxed. 

Employees today prefer workplace wellbeing to material benefits. This means they’d rather be happy than be wealthy. They are more concerned with how their job makes them feel than how much money they make. If you want to motivate a team to work hard, the emotional, intellectual, and physical ways that you support them matter.

Creating a positive and emotionally healthy culture for your team rests on a few major do’s and don’ts. We have combined the best research to bring you the qualities you do and do not want in your workplace and how to create a positive work environment for your team. 

Do Listen with Empathy

As a boss, you have a huge impact on how your employees feel. Sure, you’re building a company – but you’re also supporting people. You’re supporting their lives, their families, and their growth. Remember that. When employees feel safe and know that they can trust their leaders, it improves performance.  

They should feel comfortable talking to you, not fearful.  Be inclusive, humble, and encourage your staff to speak up or ask for help on both a professional and personal level. Feeling safe in the workplace helps encourage the spirit of experimentation, which is critical for innovation and empowerment. As a leader, don’t forget to be a human being first. Listen to your employees, value their trust, and give empathy freely. 

Do Serve One Another

Your employees are not here to build your company. They aren’t here to do what you tell them to do and then go home. If you’ve ever had a manager or mentor who took the time to truly help you when you needed it, chances are you have remained loyal to that person to this day. 

Service is a self-reinforcing cycle. First, you help your employees even when you don’t have to. Then, they are moved and inspired to serve other employees or the customers. As you serve your customers, the company grows and the cycle continues. 

Do Prioritize Onboarding and Training

The old sink-or-swim mentality doesn’t work.  When you hire someone new, make their training and onboarding a priority. At least the first two weeks of a new employee should be planned out in full. Consider shadowing coworkers, sitting in on meetings, social gathers, and education on workplace safety, conduct, etc. This time can be a huge help in creating a positive culture and helping each employee to know the role they play and how the organization works as a whole.

Do Create an Employee Recognition Program

Utilizing Beny’s flexible benefits is a great way to recognize and reward employees for achieving outstanding results. Rewards encourage employees to continue performing at impressive levels. Giving them something they actually want or need and making it customizable to each employee creates an increased motivation. 

Do Keep the Office Comfortable

Nobody wants to work at a card table and a folding chair all day long. This doesn’t mean you  need a 10K chandelier in the lobby, but create a workplace that empowers your people. Employees can’t do their best work in an office they find disruptive or uncomfortable. It also give a positive vibe, that these employees are worth it!

Don’t Reschedule One-on-One’s

Make time to meet with each employee individually and honor that meeting. Especially if (and when) something else comes up. Show that you value and respect the individual’s time, and care about what they have to say. According to a recent survey by Ernst & Young, 39% of American workers say regular check-ins are the number-one thing that makes them feel happy at the office. Make sure these meeting happen regardless of employee location. Checking in with remote employees may require more effort, but is critically important. 

Don’t Forget your Values

Values and priorities will differ from one company to the next. What your values are is less important than how you actually implement them on a daily basis. Your employees should know your values and see them in action. 

Don’t Be So Serious 

Work is stressful. Look for ways to incorporate a sense of humor. To make a difficult situation more lighthearted is an invaluable skill. Sure, the ultimate goal should be to resolve the problem, but a fresh perspective and looking on the bright side is much more helpful. As Dale Carnegie said, “People rarely succeed unless they are having fun in what they are doing.” 

Don’t focus on timecards

Life happens and things will get in the way. Don’t worry too much about when someone punched in and how long their lunch hour was. Instead, allow your employees the room to be human and address things that come up in life unexpectedly. Embracing flexible working hours will earn the respect of your employees and can help you attract elite candidates.

Don’t encourage employees to work through lunch

While lunch breaks are not legally required, your team is not comprised of robots. Expecting them to continuously churn out quality work without breaks is unrealistic and unhealthy. Instead, make sure your employees get regular breaks that are flexible and work with their own personal preferences.

Don’t Keep Toxic Employees Around 

Disengaged, unhappy, or negative employees can be a source of toxicity at work. If you notice individuals who fit that description, don’t let it linger. Pull them aside to discuss their behavior. Make an effort to positively address the situation first. Perhaps, they are stuck in a rut. Maybe they need a little support or a different position. If all else fails, know when it’s time to let them go their separate ways. This becomes even more important for toxic managers. It is vital to make sure your managers are leading their team in accordance with your core values.

Don’t Limit Learning Opportunities 

Most managers wouldn’t consciously limit learning opportunities, but sometimes they also forget about them completely. If learning and growth is one of your core values, look for opportunities to provide your employees with education and training. Encourage your employees to pursue their passions, both in and outside of the office and support their efforts. 

Creating a positive work environment is vital. It’s more important than any budget, spreadsheet, or business plan. Create a place where your employees are happy to spend their day. Provide a team where everyone feels valued, welcomed and respected is vital to an organization’s success. If you can do this, your business will continue to serve you and those around you for generations to come.

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