Many employees prioritize a happy and healthy work environment because of the massive time investment our work lives require. This is especially true of millennials and younger job seekers, who value a positive workplace culture almost as much as salary and employee benefits.
For employers, investing in a happy culture reaps additional benefits, including increased productivity and profitability. Companies with positive cultures experience cost reductions through less absenteeism and job turnover and fewer workers’ compensation claims.
With increased efficiency and reduced costs, an organization’s workplace happiness is an excellent long-term predictor of the business’s ability to grow and thrive. We’ll explore eight steps to help you change your workplace culture and share even more benefits of a positive workplace.
A happy workplace can improve employee engagement. According to the 2022 Organizational Culture Research Report, employees who say their work culture is positive are 3.8 times more likely to be engaged at work.
How to create a happy and productive work culture
Finding a happy and healthy workplace is increasingly important for job seekers. According to the 2021 Jobvite Job Seeker Nation Report, 86% of job seekers consider culture crucial when applying for a position. To ensure you’re attracting top talent, shore up your workplace with the following eight tips.
1. Establishing mentorship creates a happy work culture.
A culture of mentorship creates a supportive atmosphere that encourages professional growth and empowers employees to take on tasks confidently. Employees who have been meaningfully mentored, in turn, become excellent leaders willing to mentor more team members.
Consider creating an open-door policy that encourages and welcomes employees to discuss new ideas and make suggestions. They’ll realize you won’t ignore or criticize them, and they’ll become more confident. You’ll also foster the atmosphere of mutual trust so vital to an organization’s success.
Leaders who become active mentors and participants in their employees’ self-expression, creativity and self-betterment tend to be rewarded with loyalty and increased business productivity.
2. Adopt wellness initiatives to improve your work culture.
In our digitally driven world, addressing the pitfalls of office work – long stretches of sitting, typing and gazing at screens – is essential. A workplace that passionately supports employees’ physical and mental well-being through flexible benefits and initiatives will be rewarded with a stronger and more loyal team.
Some ways to prioritize wellness in the workplace include:
- Healthy initiatives: Consider providing healthy snacks, lunchtime yoga classes or a fun fitness challenge. Your employees will benefit from your efforts and appreciate being part of an organization that prioritizes their health.
- Preventive measures: Reduce absenteeism and increase productivity by proactively addressing physical and mental issues. For example, provide annual flu vaccinations, and support employee mental health by making counselors available to help with issues like financial troubles, stress or depression.
- Office adjustments: Consider that an office environment affects productivity and health when designing or improving the physical workspace. An uncomfortable environment – poor lighting, low-quality furniture, outdated equipment – can complicate workers’ days. These nagging stressors could lead to workplace absenteeism due to medical issues like back pain, carpal tunnel syndrome and other ailments. A well-lit, visually pleasing environment with soothing colors and ergonomically designed equipment (such as adjustable chairs and standing desks) can significantly impact employee satisfaction and performance.
Understand the benefits and risks of corporate wellness programs before instituting one. Wellness programs can improve company culture, but they come with legal considerations, including HIPAA laws.
3. Promote communication and inclusion to improve workplace culture.
Communication and inclusion lay the groundwork for a positive work environment where everyone feels safe and equally valued.
- Communication: Open communication fosters innovation and agility – two key success elements leaders want to see in their teams. Communication also fosters mutual trust and respect. Nurturing employees’ individuality in an environment where they can express their true selves promotes career confidence and encourages them to contribute new ideas.
- Inclusion: Additionally, diverse and inclusive companies support all employees regardless of race, color, religion, sex, gender, national origin, etc., helping everyone feel respected and safe. A diverse and inclusive environment helps create a happier workplace by boosting employee morale, engagement, performance, innovation and retention, which improves the team’s ability to pivot and adapt when necessary. As a bonus, prioritizing inclusion can improve your company’s reputation.
4. Flexibility can contribute to a happy workplace culture.
Flexibility gives employees freedom, allowing them to create a positive work-life balance and grow their careers.
Here are a few ways to be flexible in your business:
- Flexibility with job descriptions: Companies can give employees more flexibility by steering clear of narrow job descriptions and fixed offices. Let team members cross-pollinate their skill sets with a shared purpose and common goals. You’ll make the most of everyone’s strengths and give projects greater meaning.
- Flexibility with work hours: The 9-to-5 workday is increasingly falling out of favor. Moving away from rigid schedules and organizational structures spares employees the sense of drudgery that comes with the weekday grind. That sort of prescriptive atmosphere gets workers excited about only one thing: the weekend. Today, employees highly value flexible schedules: Nearly half of respondents to a Skynova survey said a flexible schedule was more important than their salary. The four-day-workweek trend is also getting attention. Some companies, including Panasonic and thredUP, have shifted to a 32-hour workweek at full salary.
- Flexibility with remote work: Creating a remote work plan can improve employee happiness while helping you attract and keep top talent. Remote work was thrust into the spotlight during the COVID-19 pandemic, and its popularity shows no sign of waning. In 2021 and 2022, over 4 million people quit their jobs, many without first securing another job, in a phenomenon called the Great Resignation. In a FlexJobs survey of people who left their jobs during this time, 43% said their job did not have remote work options, and 41% cited their employers not allowing flexible schedules. Additionally, the 2021 Jobvite Job Seeker Nation Report found that 33% of workers prefer 100% remote work, 30% prefer 50/50 remote and in-office work, and 74% say that a remote work option is an important factor when considering a new job.
In a changing workplace landscape, job flexibility and flexibility with hours and remote and hybrid work situations can significantly contribute to employee happiness.
5. Invest in fun to create a happier workplace.
Injecting fun into the workplace pays dividends for everyone. An organization’s investment in joy can be as simple as encouraging employees to take five-minute breaks from their desks (which reduces muscle fatigue and eyestrain and improves focus). For a company with deeper pockets, investing in fun can mean building inspiring green spaces on its campuses, where employees can take walks.
Workplace teamwork is crucial, and team-building activities that fortify relationships among colleagues can also be a source of renewal and satisfaction. Allow employees to suggest fun activities, giving them a sense of ownership in the company’s quest for happiness.
6. Reward employees generously to improve workplace happiness.
Everyone wants to feel their contributions are valued. To help employees feel valued, company leaders should celebrate team members’ accomplishments through rewards, incentives, promotions and employee bonuses.
Another way to reward employees is to provide opportunities for self-improvement and lifelong learning. Initiatives and benefits that support employees’ continued education and training are the ultimate expressions of how deeply an organization appreciates and supports everyone’s continued growth.
Investments in a positive workplace culture improve productivity, reduce turnover, improve morale and prevent employee burnout.
7. Be supportive to foster workplace happiness.
Perhaps the most meaningful way to ensure your employees’ long-term happiness and health is to prepare for the inevitable moments when they’re anything but happy and healthy. We all experience bumps in the road, and we all dread what could happen if an illness, loss or other unfortunate circumstance renders us unable to fulfill our work duties.
A leader who shows concern and eases someone’s way – a sincere, trustworthy supporter rather than another source of pressure – can win an employee’s appreciation for life. Model empathy and compassion in the workplace, and encourage similar citizenship behaviors in your colleagues. It can also help to have an employee assistance program in place.
8. Prioritize a positive workplace culture.
Creating a positive work culture is a continuous process that requires regular attention, thoughtful planning and corrective actions. It might be the most crucial task company leaders can undertake. When employees experience true happiness and health at work, success tends to follow. Ensure that your company’s compensation, hiring, management and policies align with your positive workplace culture goals.
Benefits of a strong company culture
Creating a strong company culture can provide a host of benefits to your employees and your company.
- Retaining employees: When employees are happy and feel valued, they have little reason to look for another job. High employee retention levels eliminate the costs associated with recruiting and training. You’ll also avoid periods of reduced productivity while new employees learn the ropes, and you won’t have to offload unfilled positions’ extra work to already overburdened employees.
- Attracting top talent: When you have an excellent company culture, word gets around, and you’ll be able to hire for a cultural fit. Top job candidates will be more likely to apply to open positions at your company and may even be willing to work for a lower salary. If you want to attract and retain millennials or Gen Zers, the cultural effect is even more pronounced because these younger generations prioritize work-life balance and flexibility.
- Meeting emerging needs: In many respects, the pandemic was an eye-opener, putting employee well-being at the forefront of people’s consciousness and realigning priorities. Individuals and companies were forced to reassess certain assumptions, such as “everyone needs to come into the office to work” and “work is the top priority.” Health and flexibility came to the forefront, and these new priorities will likely remain for the long term. When you have a culture that accepts and works within this framework, your employees and company can work happily together to achieve business goals without friction.
- Increasing productivity: Not every employee is as productive as the next, but a strong company culture can enhance engagement, boosting productivity. According to a study by the University of Warwick, highly engaged employees can be up to 12% more productive than their less engaged co-workers. This benefit multiplies depending on how many of your workers are highly engaged. Engaged workers also tend to be more creative, helping the company thrive and grow.
- Removing silos: One of the hallmarks of a traditional, rigid corporate structure is distinct silos within the organization that operate semi-independently with limited communication and interaction with other departments. Without a bigger-picture perspective, mistakes are made and money is lost. With an open culture and flatter corporate structure, communication can flow from one area to another so that the benefit of a particular decision or initiative to the company as a whole can be assessed. Employees will be engaged to consider their work’s broader implications and gain more problem-solving creativity. Additionally, the company can be more agile, responding quickly to market or competitive space changes.
- Improving customer interaction: Happy customer-facing employees, including sales and customer service representatives, provide better and more pleasant service. Disengaged employees are unlikely to go above and beyond for customers.
A happy workplace is a valuable investment
Investing in company culture is a win-win. Happy employees are better workers and tend to stay with the company longer. The company, in turn, enjoys increases in revenue, productivity and customer satisfaction. Creating a happy, productive workplace is an ongoing process that becomes part of a company’s culture and helps ensure its success.
Rachita Sharma contributed to the reporting and writing in this article.