The workplace experience that employees have can be largely driven by their work culture and interaction with colleagues and customers. An overall culture that emphasizes a sense of belonging at work can nurture a positive environment, one in which achievements are recognized and rewarded, and employees are empowered and more motivated to contribute to a company’s success.
What Exemplifies a Positive Work Environment?
A positive work culture and environment typically embodies these characteristics:
- Reinforces employee comfort and safety
- Features visible, responsive, trustworthy leadership
- Helps employees interact comfortably and effectively with their colleagues
- Promotes positive social connections inside and outside of work
- Supports employees’ abilities to stay positive and bring their positivity to their workplace
- Emphasizes positive reinforcement and offers sincere recognition and gratitude
Benefits to Employees and Employer
In its 2020 Global Human Capital Trends survey, Deloitte found that many of these aforementioned characteristics made employees feel more comfortable, connected, and productive at work. In fact, 25% of respondents felt that being treated fairly and allowed to bring their true, authentic selves to work were the biggest drivers of creating belonging. Meanwhile, 44% said being aligned with their company’s mission, vision, and purpose, as well as being valued for their individual contributions, were most important in making them feel like part of the team.
According to the Deloitte study, organizations that are able to establish this inclusive culture are significantly more likely to meet and exceed financial targets, be high performing, be innovative and agile, and achieve better business outcomes.
When employers understand the importance of fostering this work environment, they can build a positive brand that attracts the best talent, retains critical employees, and accomplishes their business goals.
How Employees Can Contribute to a Positive Work Environment
While employers bear much of the responsibility in fostering a positive work environment, the employees themselves can play a valuable role in the process. These ideas can help them increase their contributions to a more desirable workplace.
Reinforce Employee Comfort and Safety
A positive work environment is one in which employees can work safely and comfortably—especially during the time of a pandemic when physical and mental health are primary concerns. As an employee, you can help mitigate this by:
- Following all safety measures recommended by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) including wearing a mask, staying a minimum of six feet away from colleagues, and scheduling your use of shared facilities
- Holding as many essential meetings via Zoom or other video conferencing platform method to reduce contact, remotely or onsite
- Avoiding coming into work if you absolutely do not need to be on the premises
- Maintaining awareness of your mental health and watching for symptoms of stress or anxiety
- Keeping mentally and physically healthy through relaxing activities, exercise, fresh air, and eating properly
- Speaking with your manager to have a positive impact on any work processes, expectations, or concerns that are affecting your mental health
Expect Visible, Responsive, and Responsible Leadership
Trust that you can have an impact on the quality of leadership at work. Your manager may not know what you need from them without your input. Here are some ways to communicate with those in leadership positions:
- Tell your manager what you need from them such as how often you’d like to receive updates, have meetings, and the types of emotional support that would help you work either onsite or remotely.
- Ask your manager for feedback on your performance and input on how you can improve your contribution.
- Schedule a meeting if you are struggling with the objectives of a project, knowing the best way to proceed, or if you disagree with the direction your manager is taking.
Interact Comfortably and Effectively With Colleagues
Make communication and collaboration with your colleagues a priority to reinforce the positive work environment you want to create. You can accomplish this by:
- Asking your team members how often they’d like to meet, receive feedback, or discuss the progress of your current project
- Being self-aware during team interactions, like taking notice if you are monopolizing the time and conversation in a Zoom meeting
- Practicing your most intuitive emotional intelligence while striving to understand what your colleagues are saying, experiencing, or feeling
Promote Positive Social Connections In and Out of Work
Whether in the office or remotely, the social connections you maintain with colleagues are critical to your sense of wellbeing and developing a positive work environment. Here are ways you can strengthen these connections:
- Participate in any remote team building session your organization may sponsor or schedule.
- Make your remote meetings effective whether you are working from home or minimizing contact with others onsite.
- Organize team building activities, ice breakers, and team building sessions that promote relationships (you don’t need to rely on the employer).
Bring Positivity to the Workplace
Positive attitude, interactions, and outlooks can promote a healthier work environment. If you find yourself bringing negativity to work or an online meeting, determine what you can do about it. Be willing to ask yourself if you are the negative employee, and provide critical feedback to colleagues if they demonstrate workplace negativity or try to tear each other down.
For your and your workplace’s sake, try not to engage in unhealthy gossip. Instead, talk to those taking part, think of positive things to say, and also make your manager aware so they can address the issue with the staff directly.
Foster an Environment that Encourages Respect, Trust, and Fairness
Respect is one of the first words employees respond to when asked how they want to be treated at work. A positive environment enables all employees to feel as if they are being treated fairly and with dignity and respect regardless of background, gender, sexual orientation, or ethnicity. To play your part, keep the following in mind:
- Your words and actions ring loudest when you show respect for your coworkers.
- When interacting with colleagues, start from a position of trust. Make the assumption that your colleagues are honest until proven otherwise.
- Focus on building strong alliances with people in the interest of promoting company and colleague success.
Embrace Workplace Flexibility
As the coronavirus pandemic made remote work the norm, people showed that they could actually be just as, if not more, productive working from home. This bodes well for a positive workplace future, one in which work flexibility will play a crucial role. As an employee, you should take advantage of any opportunity your employer provides for flexibility if it is in the best interests of you and your household to do so.
If your employer seems less inclined to offer you such amenable working options at first, try to negotiate a flexible schedule during, say, your next salary negotiation or positive performance review.
Emphasize Positive Reinforcement
A positive work environment is built largely on healthy, productive interactions between employees and teams, as well as positive reinforcement. You can help play a major role and set an example by providing positive feedback, heartfelt gratitude, and recognition to both colleagues and managers for their contributions.