How to create a positive work environment
Last updated on: February 24, 2022
Giant lounge areas with ping pong tables and fully stocked pantries don’t seem to cut it anymore when it comes to creating a positive work environment. This is especially evident in the times of the “Great Resignation” movement we’re witnessing that causes many organizations to rethink their workplace culture and environment.
What exactly constitutes a positive work environment?
How does it translate into the remote and hybrid work models?
How to create a positive culture in the workplace?
These are all the questions we’re tackling in this blog post.
So, let’s dive in.
What is a positive work environment?
Although a toxic work environment may mean different things to different people, most people would agree on what defines a positive work environment.
A positive work environment in a traditional setting refers to a workplace where employees feel excited, happy, and empowered to do their best work. It’s a place where people feel professionally, emotionally, and physically safe and supported.
While the same rules apply in a remote work environment, the specific circumstances of the remote model require even more initiative from the management to understand and facilitate these conditions.
What are some examples of positive work environments?
When we think about a positive work environment, probably the first thing that comes to mind is the general atmosphere at the workplace. People, general culture, and great work relationships are some of the key elements that contribute to the general atmosphere.
While the relationships and culture play a huge part, there’s so much more that goes into a truly positive work environment.
Let’s take a look at some examples of positive work environments and how they affect the overall well-being and productivity of the workforce.
Positive work environment example #1
Company A operates within the hybrid work model. It allows flexibility for employees that can organize their work schedule and environment according to their individual preferences.
Employees enjoy coming to the office as it provides plenty of well-lit space equipped with comfortable chairs that provide ample back support, adequate work equipment, and dedicated spaces for relaxation.
They can do their most productive work as the space and atmosphere support better focus, and allow enough room for breaks between challenging tasks.
On the days they prefer to work from home, employees can recreate the same positive environment, with the entire equipment and expenses provided and reimbursed by the company.
Positive work environment example #2
Company B organizes regular check-in meetings to better understand the needs and challenges of their employees.
During these short meetings, HR and department managers ask thoughtful questions and show interest in their team members’ mental and physical well-being.
Company B uses this feedback to create programs, workshops, and resources that ensure better employee health.
Employees feel seen, supported, and empowered to take better care of their individual needs.
As a result, they are able to perform their best at work in a positive environment that acknowledges their needs.
Why is a positive work environment important?
A healthy and supportive work environment not only boosts employee engagement, but it creates a complete set of advantages that benefit employee experience as well as overall organizational effectiveness.
Let’s get an in-depth look at all the reasons a positive work environment is paramount to achieving a healthy and productive workplace culture.
Positive work environment improves employee retention and company profit
It’s not necessarily a groundbreaking discovery to connect employee retention and company profit to a positive work environment. When people feel respected, supported, and cared for, they are naturally more likely to commit to an organization and align with the values it promotes.
Conversely, when organizations fail to create a great employee experience through a positive work environment, it breeds toxic workplace behaviors. Left unattended, negative behaviors and toxic workplace culture ultimately lead to an increase in employee turnover and cost companies substantial resources.
The numbers seem to support this claim perfectly.
Namely, a 2019 SHRM culture report titled The High Cost of a Toxic Workplace Culture: How Culture Impacts the Workforce—and the Bottom Line shows a correlation between work culture and employee turnover.
More specifically, it revealed that a failure to establish a positive workplace culture cost companies $223 billion in turnover over five years.
Positive work environment drives productivity
Workers who experience higher levels of job satisfaction are more likely to show higher engagement and feel more committed to achieving company goals. A workplace culture that nurtures positive attitudes and behaviors naturally causes employees to perform their best by fostering strong connections towards the company’s mission and vision.
There is ample research in business and management literature suggesting a link between a positive work environment and increased employee productivity.
According to one study published in the European Journal of Business and Management “the factors like supervisor support, relation with co-workers, training, and development, attractive and fast incentives and recognition plans, adequate workload at workplace are helpful in developing a working environment that has a positive impact on employee’s level of productivity in the organizations.”
At the same time, a stressful and toxic work environment slows down employee productivity in addition to creating other negative effects on people’s physical and mental well-being, research shows.
Positive work environment creates a resilient workforce
A strong organizational culture is more likely to keep the workforce connected and committed to shared values even during challenges. This organically created workforce resiliency allows the teams to not only survive but to thrive and better adapt during changes.
In fact, an SHRM 2021 survey found out that a whopping 94% of managers believe a positive workplace culture fosters employee resilience.
The survey reveals how the recent pandemic unveiled the true impact of the workplace culture and environment in guiding adaptability and resilience during unprecedented times. For 74% percent of working Americans, it was the organizational values they turned to for motivation and direction during the pandemic.
A positive work environment fosters creativity and innovation
According to a McKinsey survey, organizations understand the critical role innovation plays in overall growth, but seem to lack the means to foster it properly. The numbers reveal that 84% of CEOs cite innovation as the key factor for growth, however only 6% report being satisfied with the actual execution.
A positive work environment, or more precisely — employee happiness — may be the solution.
Under the right circumstances, happiness is one of the activating mood states most likely to stimulate creativity, research finds.
Employees working in a positive work environment are naturally more likely to experience heightened levels of happiness. Effective communication, a sense of belonging, and support to pursue growth are all elements of a positive work environment that largely contribute to employee satisfaction and happiness, creating more opportunities for creativity and innovation to flourish.
What are the 8 ways to create a positive work environment?
Contrary to popular belief, facilitating and maintaining a positive work environment is a rather simple endeavor. All it takes is being open to understanding employee needs and designing a culture and environment that supports their best interests and well-being.
Let’s go over a detailed process of creating a positive work environment.
👩🏽🏫 Provide extensive onboarding and training
To create a more positive work environment, start from the beginning of the employee journey. Show support from day one. Companies that invest considerable time to welcome, inform, and help employees integrate into the organization are creating an environment where employees feel supported and safe.
In fact, effective employee onboarding improves employee retention by 82%, research by Brandon Hall Group finds. However, Gallup reveals that only 12% of employees find onboarding at their organization effective.
No matter how exciting, the new beginnings can be nerve-wracking for the employees, so make sure to provide enough resources and guidance to help them ease into the new environment.
- To provide a positive and welcoming start, be sure to offer plenty of information before their first day of work. This will help them feel better prepared for what’s to come and reduce the fear of the unknown.
- Consider reserving the first two weeks for training, socializing, and introducing your new workforce to your community and organizational processes and mission.
- Allow access to documents outlining important processes, code of conduct, and the company’s structure.
- Don’t underestimate the importance of communication. Schedule regular check-ins to better support your employees and understand their needs, challenges, and expectations. Introduce your new employees to channels in a company team chat app, such as Pumble, and make sure to offer quick tips and guidelines on the dos and don’ts of workplace communication. Whether it refers to internal chats or communicating with clients, you want your employees to follow the common chat etiquette.
💡 Pumble Pro Tip
For more on how to perfect your onboarding system for the virtual setting, be sure to visit our guide on the blog:
✨ Highlight the company mission
A great part of building a positive and motivating work environment has to do with providing a clear direction. Your company’s mission and vision statement are more than a nice uplifting message people can reference from time to time. Their real value lies in empowering and guiding people to put their best foot forward to achieve company objectives. Mission adds meaning to everyday work and allows employees to keep moving forward when facing challenges.
We reached out to Bill Catlette, a Partner at Contented Cow Partners (Leadership and Workforce Advisors), and asked for his expert opinion on the topic of building a positive work environment. He too highlights the company mission as one of the key elements of a positive work environment:
“One of the chief ingredients to a great, productive work environment is the work itself, more specifically, the mission. People want to read mysteries, not live them. Where are we headed? Why, and to whom does it matter? Absent real clarity on this last item, people will conclude that what they are doing all day long doesn’t matter very much, and a decline in their spirit and motivation will be imminent.”
🛋️ Optimize the work environment for comfort
When considering different ways to create a positive and productive work environment, organizations need to consider how the physical components of space and equipment affect how employees feel. A great work environment provides optimum comfort and fosters focus and productivity.
The pandemic and the global shift to remote work brought this aspect to the forefront. As the employees were allowed to design their own home offices, it allowed them to get a better insight into how the space and the equipment affect their overall productivity and well-being. This paved the way for organizations to understand how to better prioritize the physical and mental well-being of the employees — both on-site and remote.
- Providing ergonomic office chairs for each employee is a great place to start, as they ensure optimum back and spine support. This is essential for people with positions that require sitting at a desk for long periods of time. If you really want to make a difference in your employees’ work environment, consider adding equipment expenses to your regular budget for both remote and in-office staff.
- Next up, it’s important to provide adjustable desks with enough space to accommodate different requirements based on the people’s job requirements and needs.
- Finally, when optimizing for best comfort, take into account how the layout of your office space aligns with your team and work structure. Moreover, think of how people relax and recharge during their work and be sure to create enough space for this.
Designing a comfortable and distraction-free space where people can focus on doing their best work is one of the critical steps in creating a positive work environment people would love spending time in.
🧑🏽🤝🧑🏽 Promote a culture of belonging
To better connect to the overarching mission, people need to feel they belong to a community that shares similar values.
We spend great portions of our time working, therefore the relationships with the people we work with present one of the key aspects of how we perceive our work environment.
To achieve a strong, unified workforce, organizations need to facilitate a culture of respect and kindness to foster better relationships and support among coworkers.
Regular one-on-one check-ins, feedback sessions, and chats are a great means to learn about employees’ expectations and needs. However, these are great icebreakers, but to promote a culture where employers feel comfortable initiating these conversations among themselves, it takes more encouragement and more structured guidance.
For example, instead of reminding people to catch up and share their ideas with their teammates, create clear directions and channels to allow for these conversations and connections to take place. Create channels in a team chat app specifically dedicated to project discussions, and others for informal chats, for instance. This way, you’re allowing people to organically bond over shared interests and by working together to achieve a common goal. At the same time, you’re developing a culture of transparency employees are then mirroring in their cross-department collaboration which substantially reduces the risk of team silos.
Another way to promote a sense of belonging across your organization is to organize live informal gatherings, team-building events, and retreats. When people are given the opportunity to relax and show their true personalities, they are more likely to form stronger bonds and connect.
💡 Pumble Pro Tip
Discover more ways to help your remote team connect in our ultimate guide on the blog:
⏳ Offer flexibility
Flexible work schedules and environments have become staples of the post-pandemic business world. People have grown accustomed to fitting their work hours around their family arrangements, and the work from anywhere model offers plenty of flexibility and freedom in terms of choosing the spaces and locations people work from.
To continue the positive trend across hybrid and fully on-site arrangements, organizations should rethink the way they promote optimal work-life balance for employees.
We spoke with Jason Palmer, CEO and Co-Founder at Bear Claw ATS, and asked for his perspective. He agrees that flexibility in the workplace is the key to creating a positive work environment, especially in today’s climate.
“Flexibility offers the opportunity for a real work-life balance. This, especially in recent times, is of the utmost importance to employees. People are really prioritizing life outside of work more now than ever. Showing current and future employees that companies can be understanding and accommodating on an individual basis regardless of scale, within reason, is of the utmost importance. Employees need choices about how to live their lives, and by giving them that, the company is showing they respect everyone’s individual needs. In the grand scheme of things, offering flexibility can be more impactful on a personal level than a few extra days of PTO, a Marginal Bonus, or Traditional Benefits that are already expected by today’s workforce. Giving employees this certain amount of freedom is aligned with the values, needs, and conditioning of people who entered the workforce since COVID started.”
A positive work environment recognizes and supports life outside of work. By allowing flexible arrangements, you’re encouraging your teams to structure their days around top priorities and enjoy a healthier work-life balance.
📲 Strengthen communication and collaboration
Making your employees feel comfortable and respected is essential when looking to create a positive work environment. And the key way to achieve this dynamic is through effective communication.
However, you can’t rely on micromanaging to maintain this culture. It’s simply not sustainable for managers to personally monitor each individual interaction or decision their team members make.
Instead, consider creating clear communication guidelines and processes every employee can access and follow. That way, you’re letting the atmosphere naturally unfold within the defined framework without too much interference from higher management.
You can structure communication in your teams by providing:
- Directions on how to maintain open and clear communication — Detailing key values the organization nurtures to make sure your team members align with and understand how to translate these into each communication situation. Instruct your teams to use simple vocabulary and avoid industry jargon whenever possible. Role model transparent communication by sharing real-time updates and remembering to give clear and detailed explanations and feedback.
- Effective collaboration instructions — Guide your team’s collaboration by providing clear directions on goals, team structure, the right technology, role division, and responsibilities. By empowering your team members to work together harmoniously, you’re facilitating a positive work environment where every team member understands their contribution in achieving the overarching vision.
- Guidelines regarding the right tools — Provide clear instructions on which technology is used for project-specific communication, file-sharing, brainstorming, one-on-one, or team communication. Having a precise plan on hand reduces the potential miscommunication and stress associated with looking for the right tool and thread, and improves time efficiency.
Constructive communication and productive collaboration are the cornerstones of employee job satisfaction. By supporting employees through these two key processes, organizations are making the biggest positive impact on how their teams perceive their work environment.
👩🎓 Encourage learning and growth
To truly make an impact in your employees’ professional journeys, consider focusing on how you can support their growth with long-term benefits. While there’s nothing wrong with providing extra PTO days, it doesn’t come close to working in a growth-oriented environment that supports each employee’s individual journeys, preferences, and visions.
Let’s take a closer look at some of the ways organizations can support their employees’ professional development.
- Skill development — Depending on your resources, you can organize workshops, provide continual training and allow access to valuable resources to support your teams’ growth. By investing in their future, you’re showing your employees that you value their commitment and effort.
- Promotions — Never let great talent and hard work go unnoticed. Design a clear promotion plan to reward and motivate employees to perform their best and engage in the company mission.
- Feedback — Regular feedback sessions and performance reviews are a great way to gain more insight into your employees’ individual perceptions of the company culture. In addition, these sessions can also serve as an opportunity to work together on creating a professional development plan that aligns the organizational with the personal development goals of employees.
When I asked Hasnain Malik, the talent director of Brainchild Communications, what the key is when creating a positive work environment, he said:
“Align their personal and professional aspirations through the work being given to them. Let them work on tasks they want to and take on challenges they feel excited about. Give them more flexibility in the shape of maybe longer leaves to rejuvenate. Give them chances to work on organizational-level projects or real-time problems being faced by the organization to make them feel like they are part of the bigger picture of the company.”
💡 Pumble Pro Tip
For more detailed information on feedback sessions in a remote environment, visit our guide on the blog:
🎖️ Prioritize employee recognition
Recognition fosters employee engagement, a study finds. Naturally, when people feel valued and appreciated for their effort and accomplishments, their level of enthusiasm and dedication toward their job is only going to increase.
Simultaneously, productivity gets higher as well as a sense of belonging to the organization, which then takes on a snowball effect of affecting the entire organization and company culture.
However, it’s important to understand your organization and the people working in it, before you can start making assumptions about which method of employee recognition to use.
Make sure that the reward matches the accomplishment. A simple “Good job!” in a company team chat may not always be the most adequate form of praise, especially when it comes to huge accomplishments that provide massive long-term returns for the company.
- To mark a successful project launch, treat your employees to a weekend getaway, a lunch, or a set of tickets to an event you know they’ll enjoy. Additionally, you can shout out your team members in a company team chat, on social media, or the company website.
- To honor entire teams, organize fun team building/bonding events. Or, provide regular treats and surprises to celebrate special events.
- Set up a work buddy system to welcome new hires and help them integrate into the company culture.
- Provide subtle, but practical tokens of appreciation for your workforce by offering free parking or public transportation tickets.
By making your employees feel valued and appreciated, you’re creating a culture where people feel motivated to do their best job and have fun in the process.
💡 Pumble Pro Tip
For more tips on how to show appreciation to your teams, visit our ultimate guide on the blog:
Wrapping up: Positive work environments accelerate company success
Productivity and great performance are directly related to how employees feel at work. A great workplace atmosphere, optimum work conditions, appreciation, effective communication, and meaningful relationships are all key to keeping your top-performing people engaged.
Be sure to use tips and techniques outlined in this blog post to turn your work environment into a positive space that inspires productivity and happiness.