If the typical workday is 8 hours, then the average worker spends 33% of their day at work. For those who work in unfavourable environments, this is an incredible amount of time that they spend dissatisfied with their lives. The knock-on effects from this kind of working environment can be immense.
An article by TIME, which examined a research study undertaken at Tel Aviv University stated that,
“People who reported having little or no social support from their workplace (sic) were 2.4 times more likely to die during the course of the study than those who said they had close, supportive bonds with their workmates.”
This study was taken over a 20-year period and examined the physical and mental health of people who worked in hostile and non-hostile environments.
Aside from the obvious psychological and physical effects that a negative environment can cause on an employee, further effects spread outwards to the employer and the business.
In a survey done at Wayne State University in Michigan in 2000, over 80% of the people who worked in hostile and/or negative environments reported effects that prevented them from being productive at work. A healthy work environment is so important.
Although these examples are on the extreme end of the spectrum, a work environment does not have to be severely ‘hostile work environment’ in order to create some of the same negative effects. There are always positive steps that can be taken in order to improve the conditions of the work environment. This blog will delve into some of these techniques so you can learn how to create a positive work environment.
Tip 1: Recognise Hard Work
If you boil down human behaviour in any environment, you will notice that most people just want to feel accepted. Whether you look at the army or a kindergarten classroom, everyone wants to feel like they are doing a good job. The kindergarten classroom will give students a gold star for hard work and the army will give…a gold star also.
Things are no different in the workplace.
The common thought that most employers have when it comes to rewarding employees is that “they are already being paid, that should be the reward.” Although there is merit in this thinking (payment is nothing to be scoffed at), it neglects the fact that people respond very well to other forms of recognition.
Pulling an employee aside and telling them that they did a good job can both encourage the employee to perform that way in the future and help you to build trust. In addition to this, incentives to increase performance can act as both a reward for hard work and as a motivator. A study in Performance Improvement Quarterly 16(3) stated that,
“The overall average effect of all incentive programs in all work settings and on all work tasks was a 22% gain in performance” – The Effects of Incentives on Workplace Performance: A Meta-analytic Review of Research Studies
Tip 2: Be Flexible
As the owner of a business you are faced with an interesting dilemma when people want special treatment. If you allow someone to come in later than one person for legitimate reasons (such as children etc), then you leave yourself open for people to expect the same privileges. If this continues, you may find yourself in a situation where you don’t have any control over your work environment.
It doesn’t have to be this way.
If you just change your philosophy on this topic, you will find that being flexible with certain people will enable you to filter out who is right for your business.
The people who are right for your business will not take advantage of you when you give certain people the things that they need. The best approach is to be flexible (within reason) and then see how people react. If you notice that certain employees start taking advantage of your flexibility, which is a sign that you should think about finding someone new. You will get a sense of who is good for your business and who is not very quickly.
The benefit of using this approach is that once you have a good set of employees in place that respect the flexibilities that you allow, it will be a much more positive environment. Employees will feel a lot more trusting with you and you will get them at their best.
Tip 3: Encourage Feedback
Being open to feedback doesn’t just mean having a ‘feedback’ section on the annual employee reports. Anyone can do things that technically make it seem like they are open to feedback, but in reality they aren’t.
Being truly open to feedback means making people feel comfortable with giving you feedback, which takes some emotional intelligence. Normally people feel as if they can’t give feedback or their boss will judge them harshly or get offended. For this reason, they normally hold critiques that could be of benefit.
If you ask for critiques in a “I won’t judge your answers” kind of way, your employees will feel like their opinions are valued and that you are approachable as an employer. It makes it easier to critique your employees if they feel like they can critique you too.
Taking steps to improve your business environment is an investment. In the beginning it may seem like you aren’t getting anything back because there is no measurable change that shows your efforts. However, the research supports the fact that in the long run it will keep your business running efficiently and happily.