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How to create a healthier work environment

1st Dec 2022
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On World Kindness Day, which is celebrated each year in November, individuals and organisations commit to doing good deeds and showing kindness to others. For organisations, this can involve leaders appreciating their employees by giving them a word of thanks, or an award through a recognition programme. This simple act of recognising employees and making their work environment more positive is beneficial not only to the employees themselves but to the organisation as well.

Indeed, a toxic work environment can result in disengagement and a lack of productivity, as well as increased stress, depression and anxiety, and burnout. According to a recent survey, for example, 40% of employees cited a toxic workplace culture as their main reason for leaving a job, whereas research from Deloitte and Mind revealed that lost productivity as a result of toxic workplaces is costing UK employers between £26 billion and £29 billion annually. Workhuman and Gallup’s latest wellbeing report also highlights that when low wellbeing manifests itself as employee burnout, employee turnover and lost productivity can cost organisations as much as $322 billion (£273 billion) globally.

A healthy workplace culture, on the other hand, means lower rates of burnout and employee turnover, increased employee engagement, and more content employees who feel psychologically safe enough to communicate honestly about their experiences. Workhuman and Gallup’s report also emphasises the important role recognition – the act of consciously recognising and appreciating your employees – plays in promoting a healthier work environment. The probability of employees flourishing increases by 91% when recognition becomes an essential part of their corporate culture.

While World Kindness Day happens once a year, kindness and human connection should be a part of everyday culture within the workplace. There are a number of steps organisations can take to ensure a healthy work environment:

  • Make gratitude and human connection a part of company culture

Workhuman and Gallup found that recognition is a vital part of creating a better workplace culture where employers are happier, more engaged, and more productive. When recognition hits the mark – when it is fulfilling, authentic, equitable, personalised, and embedded in culture – employees are 73% less likely to ‘always’ or ‘very often’ feel burnt out and four times as likely to be engaged. What’s more, they are four times as likely to recommend their organisation to family and friends.

Thanking your employees for a job well done, rewarding them with bonuses or extra time off, or even congratulating them on personal life events, such as getting married or adopting a new pet, are all ways to recognise them for the unique humans they are. Indeed, Gallup and Workhuman also found that when an employer recognises life events and work milestones, employees are three times as likely to strongly agree their organisation cares about their wellbeing and 30%+ more likely to say they plan to be at their organisation in five years. Introducing gratitude and facilities for genuine human connection into your company culture results in a happier, healthier work environment.

  • Promote clear and open communication

When leaders' expectations about employees' roles are not clearly communicated, conflicts and workplace dysfunction can occur. This can be prevented by promoting a culture of open communication and encouraging honest feedback. This way, employees can be certain about their responsibilities and feel comfortable enough to ask if any confusions arise.

An effective way to get the pulse of employees is through frequent performance management – rather than formal annual or six-month reviews, organisations should make check-ins between employees and managers a frequent, informal occurrence. This ensures everyone is on the same page and employees know that they have a safe space and opportunity to talk about the successes and challenges they may be facing, including voicing any concerns about feelings of stress or overwork. Employers can then step in and help before problems escalate or burnout sets in.

  • Ensure employees' psychological safety

Investing in employee wellbeing by making sure they feel psychologically safe at work is essential for a positive culture. This means ensuring employees are able to bring their whole, authentic selves to work, without fear of recrimination. Employees are far more likely to share ideas and contribute to the organisation's success when they feel psychologically safe, and per a Workhuman study, safer environments result in a 27% reduction in employee turnover.

  • Encourage company values to be upheld and shared

Ensure leaders uphold company values and culture so that others can follow suit and encourage positive, value-led behaviours throughout the whole organisation. An effective way for leaders to do this is to build the values they would like recognised into recognition programmes – this way, both managers and peers can recognise colleagues for behaviours that are connected to company-wide values. Since creating a culture of recognition can save a 10,000-employee company up to $16.1 million (£13 million) in employer turnover costs annually, according to Gallup and Workhuman, ensuring recognition is baked into company culture is no small thing.

Above all, support employees throughout their time at your organisation – especially during turbulent moments and organisational changes – and invest in their future. This healthy and supportive work environment means they will thrive and, in turn, so will your organisation.

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