Being a business owner comes with a lot of responsibilities, and being a business owner who employs a team brings even more. Managing payroll, coordinating time off, providing benefits and, in 2020, shifting your team to a remote work model can take all of your focus. Often, what gets lost in the mix is creating a strong workplace culture that contributes to the health and well-being of your employees.
However, studies show that happy employees are 13 percent more productive than their unhappy counterparts. What makes for a happy employee? In most cases, it’s a healthy work culture that meets their mental, physical and emotional needs.
Around this time of year, you’re dealing with a lot: holiday schedules, end-of-year budgets, strategy and planning for the coming year. In the hustle and bustle, it’s easy to let culture fall to the bottom of your list of priorities. Here, we offer you tips to kick the hustle and develop a healthy work culture that will make your employees feel valued and appreciated…and help your business thrive.
First, Identify Your Current Workplace Culture
You can’t build a healthier or stronger work culture if one doesn’t already exist. If you haven’t taken the time to establish your company’s values, beliefs and reasons for being, start now. Remember that a healthy work culture is more than playing ping-pong at lunch breaks or clocking out early on Fridays for cocktails. It is the core of your company, and it can be a deal-breaker (or maker) in terms of your continuing success.
Having No Culture Is Better Than a Toxic Work Culture
Having an unformed or unfocused work culture isn’t ideal, but it’s not as potentially harmful as having a toxic work culture. Toxic cultures result in unmotivated, unproductive employees, which is sure to impede your company’s growth. It also makes recruitment and retention of top talent more difficult, if not downright impossible. And studies show that highly stressful work environments negatively impact employees’ physical health, leading to absenteeism and associated costs. In fact, in just the last five years, toxic workplaces have cost businesses more than $220 billion in turnover costs.
So, how do you combat toxicity and ditch the hustle in order to create a healthy work culture? Here’s what you need to do to get started:
Hustle Buster #1: Be Generous with Time
To create a healthy work culture, you have to demonstrate a high level of concern for employees’ personal health. This includes helping them avoid burnout and giving them the time they need to recharge, refocus and invest in self-care. That isn’t easy, especially during challenging or busy times, but it is key to creating a culture that values the well-being of employees.
This doesn’t mean you have to offer more paid time off or unlimited vacation. But it does mean putting a plan in place to help your employees achieve a better work/life balance. Respect their off-the-clock hours, and set expectations that respect their personal time. Avoid asking them to respond to emails or call after hours, and encourage them to disconnect on weekends, evenings and holidays. Lead by example, and allow them to see you enjoying your time out of the office.
Remember that in 2020, the lines between work time and family time became blurred, and maintaining a balance can be tricky. Even if your team is now remote, if they’re meeting deadlines and achieving their goals, let them know it’s okay to take a break to help the kids with e-learning or sign off early to run an errand. Micromanagement is a large contributor to a toxic work environment and to employee burnout, and the consequences can be significant.
Hustle Buster #2: Keep Them Connected
In the era of social distancing, it’s a challenge to bring employees together or create positive shared experiences. Now, you need to find ways to keep employees engaged, collaborative and connected, even when they aren’t sharing the same office space. First, it’s important to be sure you have the right technology in place to make virtual connections easy and effective. Not only does this make your company’s “business as usual” operate efficiently and seamlessly, it gives your employees ways to keep the lines of communication open.
Until you can get back to traditional team-building, consider implementing virtual opportunities for employee interaction, like online trivia nights or coffee breaks via Zoom. If you have an employee communication tool like Slack, be sure to create channels for employees to share non-work-related communications, like funny memes, family pictures or pre-meeting playlists.
Hustle Buster #3: Invest in Their Health
Self-care has never been more important for your employees as they navigate the lasting effects of a global pandemic, social isolation and worries about potential financial hardship. Providing health insurance and sick leave are both important pieces of creating a healthy work environment, but supporting your employees’ mental health may have even more far-reaching benefits. Without being too intrusive, conduct regular mental health check-ins with employees to gauge their well-being. Be on the lookout for signs of burnout, like lagging productivity, distancing from coworkers, increased cynicism or criticism, missed meetings or deadlines, or increased sick time.
You may also want to look at perks you can offer employees to address mental health issues. Calm offers its meditation app for businesses, so employees can take a quick breather whenever they’re feeling stressed. Headspace also provides a business app designed to help professionals cope with daily stresses and increase your company’s productivity at the same time.
Hustle Buster #4: Have an Open Door Policy
Keeping employees connected with one another is important, but if they feel disconnected from leadership (i.e., you), there may be bigger troubles brewing. Let your team know that they can come to you with concerns, struggles or issues at any time. Be sure you back your words up with actions — listen actively, give thoughtful feedback and work with employees to create a plan to address their needs.
Keeping your doors and ears open not only builds trust and respect, but it also promotes a work environment where employees feel safe. In a time of frequent upheaval, creating a sense of security and stability is vital to your workplace culture.
Hustle Buster #5: Give Them a Shout-Out
Everyone likes to be recognized for their hard work, but it isn’t as easy to do when your employees aren’t all in the same space. Make an effort to create a system of appreciating, recognizing and rewarding excellent performance, and be sure it’s visible to other employees. Congratulate employees on birthdays, anniversaries and major life events, and plan celebrations when an employee or team reaches a major goal.
On the flip side, there will be times when you’ll need to offer criticism for performance that is lacking. Make sure it is constructive and respectful and that you approach the employee with a plan to get them back on the right course.
Even in small businesses, workplace culture is key to increasing productivity, reducing turnaround and optimizing performance. In challenging times, keeping culture at the forefront isn’t easy, but it is an integral part of your business growth strategy. And at Incfile, we want to be there for every stage of your business’s growth — that’s why we’re about so much more than business formation. Learn how we can help your business thrive, no matter where you are in your journey.
Wendi is a freelance writer based in Indianapolis, IN, with over a decade of experience writing for a variety of industries from healthcare to manufacturing to nonprofit. When she isn't working on solutions for her clients, she can be found spending time with her kids and husband, working in the garden or doing more writing (of the fiction variety).