In Q3 of 2022, our SGEi team completed the 2022 Culture Report, based on research seeking to determine the attitudes and behaviors of employees surrounding their experience at work. The research revealed that the second most important aspect of an employee’s work experience – one that would help to determine whether they would stay or look for a new job – is a positive and inclusive work environment.
With that in mind, I thought I would provide you with some easy ways that you, as the leader of your organization, can create a positive work environment, one that will make your people feel better for being there and want to perform at a higher level.
Carve out time for reflection
Leaders should carve out opportunities during the day or week where they and their employees can pause and reflect on their work. Employees may reflect at the start of the shift, spending a few minutes thinking about what they would like to accomplish in the coming day, or what they are proud of from or achieved the day before. They could also reflect for a few minutes at the end of their shift by discussing how the day went, noting both wins and opportunities. Managers should use this important time to listen to their teams and consider how they can enable or empower their people better for the next day or in the future. By using this time, managers can help employees feel connected to their work and realize that their work matters.
Prioritize breaks for all
Employees need to have opportunities to take breaks throughout their shift or day. Our body and mind are designed to perform at their fullest capacity for only about 90-120 minutes at once before needing a short break. So, managers need to plan and schedule their people to take breaks, and, more importantly, leaders must help guide them on what makes a break effective. Research suggests that an effective break only needs to be a few minutes long, and should include time to stretch or adjust posture, eat a light snack, take a walk outside, drink some water, and take a few deep breaths. These short breaks are a great way for employees to get a quick mental and physical boost before continuing the day.
Get to know your people
We’ve discussed before the saying, “People don’t care how much you know until they know how much you care,” and it is the most true when it comes to managers’ relationships with their employees. Leaders should create opportunities for meaningful conversation by understanding what their employees’ passions and priorities are. Engaging with employees on topics important to them is a great way to show that they are cared about as an individual, not just an employee. Leaders can also use this information to support employees in finding the right work/life balance. For example, if you know that your employee values spending time with their family, consider how you can adjust their schedule from time to time to allow for this. While this may not always be possible, supporting employees in what is important to them will increase the employee’s gratitude for their leader and their job. Ask yourself if you know the three most important passions or priorities for each of your employees – if you don’t, you have some work to do.
Help your people see that they make a difference
At least once a week, ask each employee on your team how they impacted someone positively, or what was the most meaningful thing to happen to them in the last week. By asking either of these questions, it forces employees to reflect on their actions and reinforces how each person can make a difference for others through their job. Sometimes, until required to take the time to ponder on the week, it’s hard to see the impact you are making. So, by encouraging this reflection, you help your people truly see the difference they make, and they’ll feel more positively about their role and work environment as a whole.
Make it fun
Create regular opportunities for your team to have fun. Whether it is a team lunch, playing games, or creating friendly competitions, infusing fun into the work environment helps lift everyone’s mood and leaves employees feeling refreshed. We have seen managers share brain teasers, cartoons, (appropriate) jokes, or movie clips, or even just ask stupid questions to get a few laughs from the team. Plenty of online resources are available to help guide your efforts in encouraging fun in the workplace.
Show sincere appreciation
Share your appreciation for your team regarding things they did well. Positive feedback makes employees feel as though their efforts are noticed and appreciated. It also reinforces the type of behavior you want your team to display. Make sure to give feedback consistently each week, even if the week didn’t go as planned. As a bonus, the leader providing positive feedback will also feel a sense of appreciation for the hard work that their team does.
As a leader, you must not only take care of yourself but also create opportunities for your employees to feel good about what they do and for whom they do it. Building positivity within your team’s daily and weekly routines improves wellness, reduces stress, increases productivity, enhances performance, and creates all-around happier employees. All of this is about building the right type of team culture – something every manager must do.