Visit the Workplace Wellbeing and Stress summit on Thursday 28th November to explore different ways to improve health and wellbeing at work.
Negativity affects businesses in many different ways. If not tackled, it can contaminate the workplace and lead a company to underperform and fail. To ensure sustainability, businesses should be aware of the effects of negativity and able to recognise the signs and take action to prevent the disease from spreading. The head of any business should embody positivity in the first place and lead the way, reflecting this in the way the business is managed, its ethos, its environment, its policies, how it recruits and treats its employees, etc.
The effects of negativity include poor communication between employees, loss of motivation, poorer work quality, less productivity, lengthy decision making. Negativity can also weaken team work, build reluctance to change, increase staff turnover and slow down innovation. A negative workplace ultimately impacts the health of a business and the wellbeing of its employees.
I was an employee myself in several businesses before running my own and am well aware of the little things that make a difference between a negative workplace and a more positive one. I would like to share these observations with you and suggest simple tweaks that can drastically improve the business’s atmosphere and environment and make it a more pleasurable workplace to work in.
Eight simple tweaks to reduce negativity in the workplace:
- Restore humanity in the workplace. Make an effort to say “Good morning, how are you?”, mean it, show you care about the response, engage with your coworkers. A lot of employees function on auto-pilot. They come into the office, sit at their desks, zoom through the day then come out the door in the evening without having interacted much with their colleagues. One of my favourite games in the last place I worked in was to answer “not well” to the daily “how are you?” question I was thrown and see how many people actually stopped and realised I hadn’t automatically answered “good and you”? Well, not many did. How wrong is that?
People have lost touch with the real world. If you realise at the end of your working day that you have had fewer than 5 conversations with real people in your office, make an effort to take 5 minutes out to walk up to a colleague in your department or elsewhere in the building and have a face-to-face conversation with them rather than reaching for your phone and dial their extension number.
- Inject life and dynamism into the office. Sitting all day is bad for your health. Take regular short walks around the office. Employers, offer space where staff can work standing up should they wish to. Employees, if this facility is available to you, aim to work standing up at least 3 hours of your working day. Swap your office chair with one of these big exercise balls. Personalise your working space with images of places/people that make you feel happy and calm. Bright and colorful working environments trigger creativity and improve coworkers’ mood. Do not eat at your desk at lunchtime; not only is this bad for your health making you fatter but it is also bad for productivity. You need a proper break half way through the day to regain energy.
- Care about your staff’s health and wellbeing. Encourage employees to take micro-breaks which will help them relax, recharge their batteries and boost their focus. Maybe allocate and area where people can unwind in the business, a relaxing welcoming space. Encourage them to take 5 minutes to go outside and get some fresh air. Set up wellbeing initiatives like running regular Sophrology sessions, a yoga class, an exercise area where people can use a cycling bike or skipping rope to get their bodies moving. There are plenty of options available. Ask what people would benefit from and make it happen. Also equip them with practical tools to help them manage their stress (breathing, body movements, visualisations, etc) and improve the quality of their sleep, these are keys elements to boost their general wellbeing.
- Show recognition and express gratitude. Don’t take people’s work for granted. Recognise their contribution to your success. Acknowledge their efforts. Don’t underestimate the power of a “thank you”.
- Value and encourage work/life balance. This should come from the top. Top people in the business must set example of good work life balance and expect the same from their employees. Know your employees’ limits. Recognise signs of overwork, beware of burnout. Set clear priorities; teach better ways to manage workload and time. Consider flexible work (flexitime, telecommuting, job sharing). Encourage staff to take time off work especially when showing signs of overwork. Limit how often employees take work home. Work needs to get done in the office instead of at home (limit overtime). Allow staff to take a certain number of hours per year to do community or volunteering work. Demonstrate this commitment to work/life balance throughout the office using posters, handbooks, etc.
- Build a sense of community and belonging to a group. Do regular team building activities. Find ways to bring more fun into the office. Organise regular days out. Offer a warm welcome to newcomers. Discourage exclusionary behaviour without patronizing. Create a social committee and embrace diversity.
- Be transparent and give constructive feedback. This is valid for employers and employees; share information, actively listen, provide feedback and suggest solutions.
- Mentoring and coaching. An employee who feels like his/her company has invested in his/her development and actually cares about his/her progress is usually more productive, engaged and more likely to stay with the business than an employee who isn’t supported and helped to grow. Implementing a mentoring system for new recruits from the start can help foster a sense of belonging and create this positive environment. Encourage staff to coach each other and give them tools to help each other grow. Use powerful questions to explore alternative solutions to problems.
These tweaks cost barely anything and will make a big difference in the workplace. Managers should show the way – demonstrate a positive attitude and it will not take long before the snowball effect kicks in.
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