Few workers relish in the thought of punching the clock week after week — hence the popularity of the office lottery pool. But there’s a stark difference between not wanting to work and despising every minute spent doing so.
A poor office culture can do a lot more than decrease employee satisfaction, though that alone should be concerning. When employees aren’t happy, productivity drops, negativity spreads, and turnover increases — all things that can, directly and indirectly, eat away your bottom line.
Obviously, avoiding a negative workplace culture will go a long way in keeping your business on the track to success, but how exactly do you build a positive workplace culture?
Engage with employees
Each year, the average American spends over 20% of their life working. Imagine dedicating those 1,811.16 hours to helping some faceless overlord pursue their business dreams. Not a great feeling, right?
For many small business owners, aiming weekly or daily face-to-face interactions with each employee is near impossible, especially for larger small businesses or those with numerous locations or remote workers. However, that doesn’t mean that you engage with employees in meaningful ways.
Holding quarterly one-on-one meetings, hosting company-wide, attending departmental or shift meetings, or hosting and being present at company gathers can all help you remain visible among employees. Monthly or quarterly updates via email or your company website can also help you maintain visibility among employees.
Encourage feedback and innovation
As the owner of the business, you likely have an excellent view from the top down — one that is necessary to make strategic decisions that will shape your business for years to come. It’s also true, however, that your employees also gain a unique perspective about their job as well as your business.
Businesses that succeed in sculpting a positive workplace culture recognize that employee-lead initiatives can serve to improve efficiency, productivity, cost, and customer experience.
Encouraging feedback can also result in a deeper sense of value among your employees, which will inevitably make employees feel they are appreciated and have a greater stake in your business.
Offer workplace flexibility
There’s no question that there are times when you need all hands on board, but if the nature of your business can accommodate some level of workplace flexibility, then you may want to consider doing so.
Extending opportunities to work remotely, start or end the day later, or gain additional vacation days can help employees strike a healthy work-life balance. These opportunities also give employees a sense of control over their work environment, increasing their morale and investment in your business.
Define and share your vision
Your vision — or mission, goals, etc. — are important to your company culture. It acts as a compass guiding you and your employees through important decisions. It also sets an precedent for performance, engagement, and workplace decorum.
You may have a single unifying statement in your employee handbooks, but your vision should be alive in all workplace interactions.
Is your brand mission eco-friendly? Your internal practices should be as well. Does your company strive to improve the health of customers? You should consider how you help employees maintain a healthy living.
Aligning your company culture with your mission creates a cohesive experience from employee to consumer. And, when you have a strong mission and hire employees who want to support it, your business with grow as they do. Plus, a strong internal commitment to your vision will allow you to attract and keep employees who want to see it thrive.
Give back to the community
Many of your employees likely live in or near the community your business calls home. Using resources to improve the community can build morale while showcasing your business as one committed to local development, not just revenue. Volunteering also has an additional benefit for your employees. When tasked with working together on a community project, employees must come together in new ways to meet goals. This means honing new skills and cooperating with team members they may not otherwise engage with. As such, new bonds are formed and your company culture grows in a positive way.
Cultivating a positive workplace culture isn’t just a matter of penning a mission statement, opting for a few volunteer opportunities, or having a one-off meeting with new hires. It’s an ongoing effort that must take place from the top down.
Hiring practices, management choices, vacation policies, communication efforts, dress codes, events and gatherings, etc. all come together to form your company culture. But if your commitment to a strong office environment waiver in any one of those areas, your culture can degrade and break down over time.
Efforts to monitor and improve company culture should be as regular as efforts to complete obvious tasks, financial planning or inventory audits. It should be part of regular business operations.
“Positive workplace culture,” and similar iterations of the same idea, have become buzzwords in our current professional culture. But that’s not without reason. A positive culture is the root of your business, and without a strong and nourishing foundation all aspects of your business can suffer.
This article was originally written on May 21, 2019.