The overall vibe of a workplace, from the office layout and break-room setup to co-worker dynamics and company culture, has a huge impact on your team's performance and happiness.
"Positive workplaces tend to exhibit a common set of traits that foster excellence, productivity and camaraderie," Linnda Durré, wrote for Monster.com.
The reverse is also true: If people are physically, mentally or emotionally uncomfortable in the office, they're unlikely to be successful or satisfied with their jobs. Here are four ways you can improve your work environment and, in turn, employee engagement.
Identify good and bad staff
Smart businesses know that a good work environment starts with hiring the right people.
"Make sure you're hiring people who are professional, can work in a team and can contribute to a positive work environment," said Jazmin Truesdale, a serial entrepreneur and CEO of Mino Enterprises. "One bad apple can spoil the bunch."
The same idea translates to those who are already in the office. When employees are working alongside a high density of toxic workers, there is a 47 percent chance that they, too, will become toxic, Dylan Minor, an assistant professor of managerial economics and decision sciences at Northwestern University's Kellogg School of Management, told Business News Daily in 2015. Minor called the situation "ethical spillover," reinforcing that toxicity is, in fact, contagious.
"It's amazing to watch one bad attitude affect everyone's daily performance," added Claire Marshall Crowell, chief operating officer of A. Marshall Family Foods/Puckett's Grocery & Restaurant. "I can't tell you how many times I have been thanked after letting poisonous employees go. Though it's a hard thing to do, it ultimately impacts the working environment, which can be felt by not only our employees, but also by our [customers]."
Be cognizant of how you're interacting with employees. Team members and upper management should consider the flow of communication and whether it's affecting the office environment.
"Employees are motivated and feel valued when they're given positive reinforcement and shown how their work contributes to the success of the business," said Dominique Jones, chief people officer at Halogen Software.
This means going beyond a 'Hey, good job' and making the time to regularly offer employees specific feedback on how their work is feeding into the broader business objectives, she noted.
Giving feedback makes a difference for employees, especially millennials, according to a survey from ManpowerGroup. Managers should be open to feedback as well, said Samantha Lambert, director of human resources at Blue Fountain Media.
"When you involve your staff in decision making in an effort to create a better work environment, they feel valued," Lambert said. "Don't be afraid to ask employees for their opinion on a new benefit offered or what they think of a new client project."
While you're working on communication, don't forget to show gratitude for hard work. According to David Sturt, executive vice president at the O.C. Tanner Institute, an employee recognition and corporate gifting firm, effective employee recognition can transform and elevate an organization.
"It ignites enthusiasm, increases innovation, builds trust and drives bottom-line results," he said. "Even a simple 'thank you' after an employee goes above and beyond on a project, or puts in a series of late nights, goes a long way."
Make the office comfortable
Beyond cultural changes, there are other, simpler solutions that can improve how the office operates. Working in a clean, attractive office can have tremendous effects on co-worker and manager relationships, said Mike Canarelli, CEO and co-founder of Web Talent Marketing.
"Even if the sun can't shine into your workplace, make an effort to provide a relaxing atmosphere with comfy furniture, working equipment and a few 'extra-mile' amenities," he noted.
For example, give your employees the flexibility to choose to work where they're comfortable, including comfy chairs or a choice of whether to sit or stand at their desks.
"Make it easy for them to purchase things like exercise balls and plants on the company dime," said AJ Shankar, CEO and founder of litigation software company Everlaw. "We also trust our employees to manage their own time. They're free to take breaks to play games or just recharge as necessary."
When they choose a space that makes them comfortable, give them the freedom to customize their area, as everyone works differently, said Josh Turner, CEO of UsersThink, a tool for companies to receive feedback. He suggested getting rid of "the same issued everything" and giving everyone a budget to customize their his or her own setup.
Being an understanding leader can encourage better production and a more positive workplace. Ashley Judge, president of The Funtrepreneur gift-selling sites, encourages employees to schedule their personal lives the way a CEO does.
"Unless it conflicted with a meeting, I wouldn't think twice about scheduling a midday doctor's appointment or more trivial personal appointment, such as a haircut, and I encourage [my team] to do the same," Judge said. "A trusted, hardworking employee should be able to schedule their day like a CEO."
Additional reporting by Brittney Morgan. Some source interviews were conducted for a previous version of this article.
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