The workplace environment can be loosely defined as everything that exists around your employees while they’re completing their work. Some elements of the workplace environment are physical, from the room’s temperature to the view out the window. Others are psychological or emotional, such as the presence or absence of team camaraderie and whether employees receive regular constructive feedback. All these elements work together to create either a positive or a negative employee experience.
You may have heard of Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs, a pyramid that shows how people’s needs must be met in a particular order. For example, they can’t worry about socializing if they’re afraid of starving to death. This also applies in the workplace. To build a productive work culture, focus on the individual, not the organization, and address the five categories of individual needs. In order of importance, they are:
- Physical. Ensure your employees have a comfortable workstation, regular access to a clean restroom, water and meal breaks.
- Safety. Your workers need to feel safe in the office. This includes physical safety, such as taking steps to prevent workplace injuries, and emotional safety, such as policies prohibiting harassment. Now strong Covid-19 protocols are also vital.
- Social. Everyone wants to fit in. Help new workers become part of the team. Encourage collaboration and promote a culture of positivity and acceptance.
- Esteem. Proactively find ways to make each employee feel valued. Praise their accomplishments, implement a strong feedback system and make sure any negative feedback is constructive and solution-oriented.
- Actualization. Help your employees become the best version of themselves. Present challenges. Set goals and milestones. Create pathways to promotion. Focus on their individual strengths and place them in roles that are the right fit.
Impact of the workplace environment on employee production
A productive workplace environment helps employees work smarter, while a negative environment can spell burnout. It really is that simple. When you create a strong, positive workplace culture, employee engagement rises. Engaged team members want to work hard and find success, which boosts organizational success.
Embedding a positive environment in your work culture
Do you want to create a more positive work culture but aren’t quite sure how? Use these easy tips to help address the higher levels of Maslow’s Hierarchy, including social, esteem and actualization needs:
- Prioritize transparency. Your team members deserve to know what to expect, bad or good. Commit to radical transparency and keep employees in the loop.
- Consistent communication. When managers go quiet, rumors start. Keep the lines of communication open at all times and make sure they go both ways. Every employee should know at least two ways to reach management and trust they’ll get a timely response.
- Interactive feedback. No one likes to be lectured. Restructure feedback to make it more interactive and solution-oriented, and offer plenty of support.
- Encourage collaboration. A strong collaborative culture serves two purposes. First, it increases team members’ sense of belonging, driving employee engagement. But it also ensures that the best ideas are surfaced, iterated and refined.
- Tie work to mission. Whenever possible, make work meaningful to your employees. Lay out how each project fits into the larger organizational mission and how each part of the project combines to create the whole.
Creating physical and virtual environments
There’s also a lot you can do to improve the overall environment for your employees, whether they’re in the office or remote. Try these tips to help your team meet their more-basic needs, including physical and safety concerns.
Physical comfort in the workplace
If your team is working in the office, take a hard look at their workstations. Are they ergonomically optimal? Is everything they need within easy reach?
Also consider the overall layout of the space. Is there a watercooler? Do they have access to an employee cafeteria? If not, consider offering a small snack station with free or minimally priced healthy choices.
What do your Covid-19 protocols look like? Do you require vaccinations or masks, along with social distancing? Is there adequate space for social distancing?
For remote team members, you can’t control their physical workspaces. But you can try to help from afar. Consider sending out information on how they can make their spaces more comfortable while reducing the risk of repetitive strain injuries.
Emotional comfort in the workplace
Revisit your company policies. Do you have strong anti-harassment and anti-bullying policies in place? Do employees feel comfortable confiding in you when there’s an issue? Are you promoting a culture of positivity and inclusivity? Do you have an Employee Assistance Program (EAP) or other resources to help team members with mental health concerns?
Communication and collaboration tools
Whether your team members are remote or onsite, they will quickly become frustrated and disengaged if they don’t have the needed tools. Promote communication and collaboration with tools like Slack. You can set up different channels to meet team-specific needs and quickly customize individual access. You might also want to offer access to time management resources, such as an automatic time tracker that shows how long each task takes, especially for remote workers who might be coping with distractions at home.
A strong, positive work environment helps bring out the best in your employees. This boosts engagement and productivity, ultimately improving your bottom line. Focus on the individual. Use tools such as Slack to keep everyone organized and communicating. And meet your employees’ holistic needs.