Your work environment impacts your mood, drive, mental health and performance. If employees work in a dreary office setting with unfriendly workers, they likely won’t have enough confidence or job satisfaction to speak up. That’s why creating a positive work environment is critical to your company’s success. We’ll explore ways to cultivate a better work environment that keeps employees happy and engaged.
Creating a better workspace often involves common sense, tact and empathy. Seeing your employees as humans instead of business tools is key.
Here are six ways to improve your work environment, and employee engagement in turn.
Successful businesses know that a positive work environment starts with hiring employees who fit your culture. Ensure your employees are professional and team players. This also goes for people already on your team. Employees who work with toxic people are more likely to become toxic themselves, tumbling your company into an unhealthy work environment.
“It’s amazing to watch one bad attitude affect everyone’s daily performance,” said Claire Marshall Crowell, founder and CEO of Hattie Jane’s Creamery. “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].”
When firing an employee who’s been dragging down your team, ensure you’ve given them ample feedback and time to improve. If termination is inevitable, focus on the facts and make sure you have proper documentation.
Lighting plays a vital role in workers’ performance and attitude. A 2021 report by researchers at Imperial College London reaffirmed longtime knowledge that exposure to natural light can improve mood, energy and mental health.
If it’s not possible to incorporate natural lighting through windows, there are other options:
A clean, attractive office can have tremendous effects on the relationships between co-workers and managers, said Mike Canarelli, co-founder of WTM Digital.
“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 said.
For example, give your employees the flexibility to work where they’re comfortable. You could fill the office with comfortable chairs and give them a choice of whether to sit or stand at their desks.
“Make it easy for [workers] 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 employees choose a space that makes them comfortable, give them the freedom to customize their area, as everyone works differently, said John Turner, founder of QuietKit. He suggests getting rid of the “same-issued everything” and giving everyone a budget to customize their own setup.
Be mindful of how you interact with employees. Team members and upper management should focus on their communication methods – including inclusive communication initiatives – and their effects on creating a positive work 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 C. Jones, chief people officer at BusPatrol. This means developing employee performance plans and offering them specific feedback on how their work contributes to the organization’s broader reach.
But employees shouldn’t be the only ones being evaluated. Managers should be open to feedback as well, said Samantha Lambert, a human resources business partner at Pactera EDGE.
“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.”
Hosting company-wide events can foster employee engagement. The more employees socialize, the more they build relationships with each other and their managers. Attending company events can help employees feel like they’re a part of a work culture that values more than completing assignments on time. It can give them a sense of belonging along with opportunities to express their personalities.
The morale boost that often follows these engaging events can give employees more positivity to carry with them each day at work. You could plan a workplace lunch, a scavenger hunt, a day at the fair or an hour at an escape room.
While you’re working on communication, don’t forget to show gratitude for your team’s hard work. According to David Sturt, executive vice president of marketing and business development at the O.C. Tanner Company, 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.”
Creating a positive work environment motivates and engages your employees, leading to higher job satisfaction and employee retention within your organization. Your employees will experience less workplace stress and be more inclined to share ideas for your company’s success to help your organization grow and thrive.
A toxic work environment has several telltale signs:
Company culture is perhaps the most obvious toxic office environment indicator. When a company prioritizes business outcomes at the expense of employee retention, job satisfaction, and mental health, the office environment will be toxic.
A positive work environment prioritizes business success and employee happiness equally. If you focus on creating a positive work environment, ensure your company’s culture fosters a positive work-life balance. Some ways to do this include:
When creating a positive work environment, consider your physical office space. Ask the following questions:
You also must think beyond your office space and consider other elements. Ask the following questions:
Avoid the following common mistakes while you’re creating a positive work environment.
A positive work environment can keep employees present, motivated and happy about their jobs. As you work to improve your workplace environment, stay consistent with the practices you’re implementing. Your employees will likely notice the difference and appreciate the changes – and so will you.
Shayna Waltower, Sammi Caramela, Shannon Gausepohl and Brittney Morgan contributed to the reporting and writing in this article. Some source interviews were conducted for a previous version of this article.