How to create a positive workplace

Building a business isn’t just about making money. It’s about building a workplace that people want to be part of.

Whether you are building a new business or part of an existing one, you can and should take steps to make the culture of the workplace a positive one.

In this article, I’ll discuss some of the challenges that workplaces face, why it’s important to focus on workplace wellbeing and how to change your workplace for the better.

We spend half of our waking lives at work, getting to and from work and thinking about work. For some, maybe even more. Work is an incredibly important part of most people’s lives, whether they realise it or not.

Many of our friendships, conversations and achievements happen at work. And of course, it is necessary to work to bring in money to support the other parts of our lives.

So whether you are an employee, an employer or self-employed you owe it to yourself and others to make the workplace as pleasant a place as possible.

Managing stress

Every business has times that are more stressful than others. But in some places ‘stress’ can become so ingrained that it becomes the norm.

Software and game companies often employ a strategy of ‘crunch’ time before a major release, with extra-long hours and overworking actively encouraged. But some big name companies such as Criterion Games have abandoned this practice, reducing the stress associated with new releases, while still delivering excellent results.

If you or one of your colleagues is in a stressful situation the first step to dealing with is making the rest of the team aware of the issue. Help is at hand, priorities can be rearranged, and maybe the urgency of the task reassessed.

All of us are learning every day and finding new ways to approach and solve problems either alone or as part of a team – managing stress is one of these problems.

Dealing with confrontation

Often related to stress, blame and disagreement can get thrown around a lot in the workplace. But at the end of the day, blame and argument does not help.

Once again the solution lies in communication. In workplace cultures where blame and pride are rampant any questioning of your decisions is seen as an assault on your integrity. But everyone – everyone makes mistakes, or comes to what they would admit in hindsight to be the wrong decision.

If you and your colleagues decide to operate in a no-blame culture, then the fears and chest-beating of confrontation diminish.

Questioning and challenging decisions is a necessary part of being in the workplace. This should not turn into a blame game or a shouting match. A little injured pride may be unavoidable – but not essential!

Improving communication

Communication, communication, communication. Do any of these sound familiar?

“Why hasn’t this been done?”

“I didn’t know what to do.”

“You said earlier that…”

“I haven’t heard anything from…”

“We should have followed up on it.”

The trouble with communication in business is that different people have different priorities about what is important, and different levels of knowledge that cause them to judge situations differently. And more often than not this isn’t any fault of theirs!

The resolutions to most workplace issues involve better, clearer, more sensitive, or just more communication.

If something is taking longer than expected or problems are cropping up, it is far better than other members of the team, or clients/customers know about this than that they get a surprise later on.

Cultivate an open attitude to communication, where any individual in the business can discuss their work without being judged. Who is better placed to know their work than they are, after all?

Providing clear leadership

One of the biggest causes of stress after pressure to get things done is not knowing what to do, or not having the skills to do the job at hand.

Good leaders should provide clear direction to their colleagues and also have an understanding of the challenges they face. Leaders in the workplace could be the business owner, a manager or simply the most organised member of a team of equals.

Whatever the role, the most important thing a leader can be is approachable. They don’t blame, don’t shout or get angry – they solve problems.

Often articles on leadership focus on ‘how to be a good leader’ – but some don’t admit the problems of being a leader. There’s the pressure to be right, pride and respect you feel you must maintain…

But if you’re in a business with good communication and a no-blame culture that take workplace wellbeing seriously, then you as a leader should feel these pressures relax.

Your role as a leader is to improve and direct the efforts of your colleagues, but this doesn’t mean you shouldn’t take criticism or accept mistakes as your own. We are all only human, no matter what some corporate hierarchies might try to suggest.

Often different members of a team will take the lead on different projects, or for different parts of the business. In many businesses, this can be an incredibly positive thing, as long as there is good communication between leaders.

Efforts to improve employee engagement can often help create a positive and productive workplace.

Creating a positive environment

Finally, the actual physical place in which we work has an effect on our wellbeing.

A messy desk may be the sign of a cluttered mind but the most important thing is to provide a working environment appropriate to the needs of the people working there.

Do some of your colleagues need a quiet place to concentrate on their work? Is there a private space to make personal calls or just get a bit of alone time? Or maybe a drab outdated office could use a new paintjob, carpet, some plants and a good clean?

These may seem like small, inconsequential things – but when you consider how much of the day each of us spends at work, the environment in which we work should be as finely tuned to our workplace needs as our homes.

About the author

This article has been written exclusively for ByteStart by Robin Booth of the financial forecasting app that turns your ideas into numbers. Robin is a regular ByteStart contributor, and other articles he’s written to help business owners to get to grips with forecasting include;

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