Importance of a Healthy Workplace
Most of us probably have read or know from experience what makes a toxic workplace “toxic.” Poor management, bad structure, and low employee morale all build into a ticking time bomb that can mean death for a company. But what makes a healthy workplace healthy and how do we get there? Notably, it can be difficult to turn a toxic work environment around, especially if the issues have been around for years or even decades. But it’s not impossible.
Sometimes it comes down to getting rid of a bad manager or employee who bullies, makes bad decisions, or disrespects their coworkers. Other times, management must reevaluate how they treat and pay their employees, as policies and salary offerings can become outdated as the economy changes. Indeed, loyal employees don’t always make good employees. And the way “it’s always been” isn’t always the way it should be.
Regardless of the big issue, turning a business from toxic to healthy takes a lot of work and sometimes a lot of restructuring.
A good entrepreneur can set themself up for success early on by watching for signs of a toxic workplace as well as the signs of a healthy one. By keeping an eye on their staff, they’ll recognize what’s working and what is causing problems. Or, sometimes, who is causing problems.
Keep reading to learn more about the signs of a healthy workplace.
6 Signs of a Healthy Workplace
There are some signs of a healthy workplace that are easy to spot and some that are less obvious. You’ll be able to see how your staff acts and operates on a daily basis. As long as you’re paying attention, you’ll notice trends both good and bad in your projects. Is everything usually submitted on time? Do your employees go above and beyond to make sure your clients are happy? Or is every project thrown together two days after the deadline?
Less obvious signs won’t be as trackable project-to-project, but they’ll still be visible to a good manager. Notably, does your staff talk kindly to each other or do you see cliques forming in the breakroom? Does anyone play favorites with PTO approval or scheduling?
There is no one way to create a healthy workplace and your company’s culture doesn’t need to be identical to everyone else’s. But there are many ways to create a toxic environment. If you’re worried your business is trending towards toxic whether due to a bad manager or a dip in employee morale, you need to catch it now. Below, we’ll go over our top six signs of a healthy workplace and how to achieve them.
1. Employees Feel Safe to Speak Up
In a healthy workplace, your staff will feel safe to speak up about a variety of different circumstances. Relevant issues that may come up are accommodation requests, feelings of being burnt out, mistakes and project issues, worries about other employees, and questions about pay. These topics are difficult to talk about as they all can create tension in the workplace.
Notably, employees in toxic workplaces will not bring things up for usually one of two reasons. One, they’re afraid of retribution or unfair responses from management. If they talk about Sally in HR only approving her friend’s PTO requests, they may worry that Sally will come after them if the situation is handled poorly. And they expect it to be handled poorly. Or, two, they don’t care to bring it up because they do not care about the workplace. They may make one big mistake or the same small mistake over and over again, and they’ll do nothing to fix it or draw attention to it. Because why does it matter? They don’t care about the job and probably think no one else cares either.
To create an environment where your staff isn’t afraid to speak up, you need to ensure you and your managers are trained to respond to these issues properly. Your employee’s first mistake should not be their last. If you didn’t train them correctly, it’s not on them if they complete a task incorrectly. Similarly, if you create an environment where the staff knows they’ll be punished harshly for errors, they won’t ever bother to report them. The mistakes will continue – they’ll just be hidden.
Basically, you need to learn how to respond with empathy and respect. Your employees aren’t children. Treat them like adults and both of you will benefit.
2. Everyone Practices Transparency and Accountability
Similarly, people employed in a healthy workplace practice transparency and accountability. In other words, people own up to their mistakes and keep everyone updated on project statuses. Sales knows that their reports are late because Dave made a mistake with the schedule. But they also know that the reports are on the way. The department isn’t stuck wondering what’s happening nor do they receive vague statements saying it’ll “be there soon.”
You’ll rarely see quality communication in a toxic workspace. People don’t talk to each other at all, meaning sales will be in the dark about what marketing is doing. And the higher-ups never tell their employees about the state of the company. So, when layoffs and office closures occur, it’s to the complete surprise of everyone not in management.
Notably, many larger companies fail to be transparent with their staff, but the issue can be seen in businesses of all sizes. To avoid this problem, managers should ensure that departments regularly update each other on their progress. This communication can be a simple email, a monthly report, or even a regular meeting between supervisors who then report back to their employees.
Smaller businesses may be able to quickly share updates via a chat system or regular reports or meetings. It’s even more vital for these companies to maintain quality communication, as many employees of small companies tend to hold multiple roles or run departments on their own. As a result, there may be little oversight over their role or decisions. They must keep everyone informed of their choices and operations.
Additionally, supervisors should be encouraged to admit to mistakes as well as to encourage other staff to speak up. Remember: everyone makes mistakes – it’s how they react to them and fix them that matters.
3. Supervisors Regularly Check In With Employees
There’s an ideal balance between micromanagement and undermanagement. In a healthy workplace, supervisors will let their employees be independent and will treat them like adults. But they’ll also check in from time to time to make sure they don’t have any questions, concerns, or unresolved issues. Staff should be encouraged to speak up, but some may just deal with a problem instead of handling it. Maybe a program they use stopped working properly, but they found a workaround. They might just use that workaround permanently instead of reaching out for help.
In a toxic workplace, supervisors may simply abandon their underlings or micromanage them out of distrust. Both can be exceptionally damaging to morale. Undermanaged workers may either overwork themselves into burnout or stop doing the work they’re provided. Micromanaged employees are more likely to harbor resentment, have lower satisfaction, and even leave a company.
To achieve a balanced company, you should ensure your managers are trained properly. Supervisors who struggle to let go of responsibilities may need some attention or support from their boss. They may just worry that a vital task won’t be completed on time and not realize they’re undermining the new hire in the process.
4. Everything is Kept Up to Date
Another good sign of a healthy workplace is that the software, hardware, and staff training are up to date. Toxic managers don’t care about the quality of life of their workers. It’s not important if their equipment and software are defunct or acting up. Instead, they expect their employees to deal with it and get tasks done. This attitude can be frustrating and may demoralize staff. Truly, they see that management doesn’t care about the state of the company, so why should they?
Similarly, all managers and staff should go through regular training as new policies are implemented and new discoveries are made in your industry. Make sure to follow new trends and inform your staff of what’s going on in your field. These may be small social media trends that your marketing team can benefit from or an interesting think piece you found. Even if you don’t work in a specialized industry, scientists and researchers are constantly learning new things about psychology and communication. Your managers and public-facing employees will benefit from such knowledge.
5. Growth and Expression are Encouraged
A healthy workplace will encourage its staff to grow and learn, while a toxic workspace will trap its employees in certain roles. If you’ve ever heard a statement similar to “you’re too valuable to promote,” you probably worked in a toxic environment. Truly, employees will excel in positions and roles that fit their skills and interests. A worker stuck in a role they hate will leave for someone who respects their abilities and needs.
Similarly, toxic managers may fear employees who wish to improve their skills through higher education and training. They may worry this action means their worker plans on leaving and see it as a detriment rather than a bonus. This attitude will likely drive employees out, as most people aren’t going to abandon a chance to better themselves for less pay. A well-educated employee may cost more, but they bring new knowledge and skills to the table in addition to further credibility.
Indeed, a staff member may hold certification that makes certain roles and goals more easily obtainable. Or they may enhance a department. Consider how valuable an employee with knowledge of cybersecurity would be for a small business. These companies can rarely afford to hire big security firms as they’re just getting started. Notably, the same can be said for a non-profit in need of a grant writer.
Freelance and professional grant writers are expensive but invaluable and necessary for success. Instead of hiring one, a current employee can obtain certification and take on this role in exchange for a higher salary or stipend.
6. Management Encourages a Work-Life Balance
Finally, a manager of a healthy workplace will treat their employees as valuable resources and make sure they’re operating at their best. That means ensuring a healthy work-life balance. A healthy work-life balance minimizes burnout, encouraging staff to take care of themselves physically and mentally.
Truly, a burnt-out employee will quickly lose morale, submit lower-quality work, and may experience health problems from stress. Ultimately, they’ll leave.
To ensure your staff is working at their best, minimize mandatory overtime, encourage employees to use their PTO, and avoid keeping people past normal hours. Indeed, a new business requires a lot of hard work and attention. If you find your staff can’t keep up with the demands, it’s not on them. It’s on you. You may have taken on too much too quickly. Part of running a successful business is sustainable growth. If you can’t afford to hire new employees to keep up, consider scaling back.
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