You’ve heard that one cousin at Christmas or friend of a friend going on and on about how much they just love their boss and their job. They can’t seem to get enough of spending time after hours with coworkers or even their job itself! And while this may seem like a gross exaggeration (and maybe it is!) you may be thinking: is there anyone out there who actually likes their job this much? The quick answer is yes!
Listen, we’re not advocating that you have no friends outside of work or spend all your time in the office, but a positive and healthy tech work environment can have incredible benefits on your health and the well-being of the office as a whole. And for bosses and office managers, prioritizing a positive work environment can have tremendous benefits.
In this article, we’ll outline the importance of a positive workplace and how your efforts towards creating a better workspace will benefit the company (and its employees) in the long run.
What is a Positive Work Environment?
It would be hard to start discussing the intricacies of a positive workplace without first explaining exactly what it is. So let’s dive right in: a positive work environment is one where all employees feel appreciated, respected, and safe, in addition to being one that promotes productivity, wellbeing, and growth. Positive work environments can manifest in many forms, but these qualities are the main traits associated with safe workplaces, which are so important because:
They raise productivity: it’s quite simple: happier workers do more and better work than their unhappy counterparts; they’re also more willing to go the extra mile to produce even better results.
They improve retention: employees talk between themselves and others who might be interested in joining the company; if your company gets a negative reputation for how it treats employees, it may end up both losing quality employees and driving away great candidates.
They encourage teamwork: the best teams are ones that work seamlessly together, using the specific talents of each team member to deliver the best results. In teams where employees don’t feel safe or secure, teamwork will be affected.
They promote better mental health: stress and burnout are legitimate concerns in any profession and can severely impact a worker’s performance; positive workplaces help workers have better mental health due to their safe and open nature.
Positive work environments sound great, but how can you know if your workplace fits the bill? One size doesn’t fit all when it comes to positive work environments, but the following can point you in the right direction.
Clear and honest communication
There’s nothing more frustrating than receiving contradictory advice or instructions from different team members, especially if you’ve already completed the task in question. Or being told that you’ll need to achieve a certain KPI to get a raise and then not receiving the promised raise–dishonest or confusing communication, especially from management, can not only leave a bad taste in the mouth of the employee, but also create a negative workplace.
A healthy work/life balance
Overly friendly or inviting coworkers and bosses aren’t a clear cut signal of a positive workplace and can sometimes lead to workers feeling a pressure to stay late, share information regarding their personal lives, or end up focusing more time on work than their personal lives. While friendly and inviting coworkers are definitely a plus, positive work environments should have clearly defined boundaries that are respected across the board.
Opportunities for growth
A key element of positive work environments is that workers feel appreciated for who they are and not just what value they provide to the company. Providing opportunities for growth to employees that will serve them during their entire career and not just their exact responsibilities in your company will help them feel cherished and appreciated for who they are and what they bring to the table.
Telltale signs of a negative work environment
If you’re not sure if your workplace falls under the positive umbrella, take a look at some of these telltale signs that you’re in a negative work environment:
You hear employee gossip: no one wants to be talked about and the more employees are whispering behind closed doors, the more likely it is that they’re unhappy about something specific.
Employees are constantly stressed out: are people overtired and seem constantly stressed out? This can lead to taking out their frustrations on others or even reaching a breaking point.
There’s little to no employee interaction: companies don’t need to have teams made of best friends, but teamwork does result in better outcomes and if employees are reluctant to or simply against working together, it’s probably not a safe environment.
Creating a Positive Work Environment
Now that we’ve convinced you of the importance of creating a positive work environment, it’s time to get into the good stuff: taking the right steps towards creating a positive work environment. There are lots of things you can do (and even more you shouldn’t!) on your way to achieving a positive workplace, but these are just some suggestions that will help you get on the right track.
Focus on the hiring process
Your employee’s opinion of your company and their role begins from day one–this doesn’t mean their first day on the job or when they’ve completed the onboarding process; it means that from the first contact you have with the potential candidate, you’re communicating your company’s values and prioritizing the candidate’s wellbeing. For example:
Include all relevant information, including salary, benefit, and hybrid/in-person requirements on the posting to avoid wasting anyone’s time.
Stay true to your values during the interview process, responding within reasonable windows and keeping your side of any deadlines/answers promised.
Maintain clear and open communication about the hiring process, the length, the steps, and the estimated start date.
Offer fair compensation and benefits to the candidates you want to hire.
Once you’ve hired a candidate, make sure you:
Follow through with the expectations expressed during the interview stage, refraining from piling on different tasks.
Provide thorough onboarding so that the new employee feels secure as they get started.
Make working comfortable for employees
Ensuring that employees are comfortable at work is quite broad and encompasses many different areas and no, we’re not talking about adding ping-pong tables to the break room. To truly make a comfortable workspace for your specific group of employees, you’ll need to listen to them and hear exactly what they’re lacking. Remember–satisfied employees are more productive:
Invest in comfortable and ergonomic chairs and desks for employees, in addition to properly designed and inviting meeting and break spaces.
Offer a wide range of materials so that individual employees feel heard; some prefer standing desks and others might appreciate workout equipment or gym access to let off some steam during the day.
Consider various design choices and research the best ones for your specific office, adding in greenery and other warm and inviting elements.
The news has been full of stories of companies mandating the return to office after the 2020 COVID-19 pandemic led to the rise of remote working, but that doesn’t mean that’s the best choice for most employees. In fact, we can’t tell you what’s best for your employees–you’ll have to ask them:
Listen to your employees and see if they prefer a hybrid or remote set-up, taking into consideration their differing circumstances and their lives outside of the workplace.
Consider leaving the traditional 9-5 schedule behind and letting employees work when they’re most productive and take breaks as needed.
Trust your employees when it comes to sick days and other paid time off–they’re humans with responsibilities and will thank you for your flexibility when they need it.
Choose growth-oriented feedback
No one likes being told what they’re doing wrong and we get it–criticism is hard to hear, especially in the workplace. It is, however, necessary, and a given part of the corporate world. Choosing growth-oriented feedback can help employees feel appreciated while giving them a chance for improvement:
Mix critiques and praise; feedback isn’t just negative and you shouldn’t forget to praise employees when they do great work.
Give employees a chance to provide feedback on management or higher-ups as well so they feel heard as well.
Help find solutions for problems, presenting them with your feedback so that it seems like you’re both working towards a fix instead of simply stating a problem that exists.
Finding tech talent is just one step in the process–retaining this talent and making them motivated and productive is the responsibility of everyone, colleagues, HR professionals, and bosses alike. At Ironhack, we know that our graduates are looking for positive work environments–that’s why they chose tech!
Part of our commitment to our students is helping them find the right professional fit for them and we do that through weeks of intensive career preparation throughout the entire bootcamp, helping them prep their resumes, pitches, and portfolios to land their first tech job.
We’re doing our part to prepare the next generation of techies for success--are you?