7 Ways to Create a More Positive Workplace

happy employee at desk

Many businesses today put an emphasis on working harder and longer, in order to climb to the top of that corporate ladder and find “success.”

As a result, Americans are working longer than ever, spending an average of 9 hours and 20 minutes working Monday through Friday in 2017, up from 9 hours and 11 minutes in 2003. They’re even working on weekends.

That non-stop work mentality comes at a high cost to both the individual and the organization.

At an individual level, nearly two-thirds of full-time workers have experienced burnout on the job, according to Gallup. Employees experiencing burnout are 2.6 times more likely to leave their current employer, increasing turnover rates and their associated costs.

So how can you inspire higher productivity — without pushing people too far?

Focus on creating a positive workplace.

Here are seven ways to cultivate it.

1. Define your company values — and live up to them.

Your workplace culture is made up of the shared values, beliefs, attitudes, and assumptions that define who you are as a company. They should be a part of your business strategy — and clearly communicated to everyone within the organization. Research shows that 94 percent of executives and 88 percent of employees believe a distinct corporate culture is important to a business’ success. Positive workplace practices can be broken down into five categories: employee involvement, work-life balance, employee growth and development, health and safety, and employee recognition, according to the American Psychological Association.

2. Keep lines of communication open.

Encourage managers to schedule standing one-on-one meetings with their direct reports — and allow time at the end for employees to share anything that’s on their minds. Try to avoid canceling one-on-ones, even when things get hectic or urgent client issues arise. These face-to-face interactions are integral to a positive workplace culture — and that benefits the client in the end, too.

3. Prioritize mental and physical health.

Constant preoccupation with job responsibilities can lead to erratic eating, lack of exercise, weight issues, high blood pressure, and increased cholesterol. To help employees prioritize their well-being, consider launching a health challenge or ongoing wellness program. For example, you might start a “step challenge,” encouraging people to move more throughout the day. They can do this by parking toward the back of the lot at work and walking the difference, scheduling walking meetings, or taking the stairs versus the elevator. Over time, these small steps can add up to big changes, such as reduced risk of disease and improved mental health.

4. Foster social connections.

Work friendships contribute to our personal happiness and a more positive workplace. But did you know that they also make us seven times more likely to be engaged in our work? Create opportunities for meaningful interactions at work. You might start a Monday team meeting with a short game of Jenga or Pictionary. You could also plan quarterly team building events, allowing employees to choose the activity from a list of options. That might even include volunteering together, which is believed to reduce stress levels, give people a sense of purpose, and even decrease the likelihood of depression.

5. Offer flexible work schedules.

Flexible work schedules allow people to prioritize the things that matter most to them outside of work. Some companies allow their employees to choose between two different arrival times at the office (such as 8 a.m. or 9 a.m.). Others allow people to work a certain amount of days from home each month. These options allow people to take care of personal emergencies as they arise, such as a sick child or replacing an important household appliance when it breaks down. It also helps to promote a healthy work-life balance, which contributes to a positive workplace.

6. Show gratitude toward other people.

Appreciation is a sign of respect. If your managers notice that certain employees are pitching in to help others meet deadlines or are generally going above and beyond to turn in great work, acknowledge that. It can be as simple as leaving a card on their desk that says “Thanks a latte,” with a $20 gift card inside to their favorite coffee place. This helps to make sure they know their efforts haven’t gone unnoticed. You can also set aside time at the end of your weekly team meetings for employees to give “shout outs” or kudos to their colleagues for a job well done.

7. Encourage ideas from everyone.

Great ideas can come from anyone at the company. Take Richard Montañez, for example. He was a janitor at a Frito-Lay plant when he came up with the idea for Flamin’ Hot Cheetos. It came to him one day when a machine broke in the assembly line and a batch of Cheetos didn’t get dusted with its infamous orange cheese powder. He took the plain Cheetos home and experimented with putting chili powder on them. After doing the legwork to score a meeting with the CEO, Montañez got the green light for the product — and it’s now one of Frito-Lay’s most popular items. And Montañez? He worked his way up to the executive level at PepsiCo. By giving employees a voice, they’ll feel more invested in the company’s success — and contribute to it in ways you never could have imagined.