Do you have a formal workplace? Do people laugh in your workplace? Do you see lots of collaboration in your office? If you are not sure how to answer these questions, chances are you might not have a work environment that is optimized for people to do their best work. Work can be stressful, and in order for you to allow your employees to flourish, you need to build an environment that fosters collaboration and openness. Here are my 7 best ways to improve your work environment in your small business.
- Stay Approachable
Stay visible to your team. Always have an open door policy. Certainly you don’t want to undermine your managers and make people feel like they can work around the rules, but you do want to weigh in on staff meeting, big decisions and ask for feedback publicly. Too often business owners disappear into their offices, and do not seem approachable once the first layer of management is hired. It’s also important to share the vision, mission, sales goals with the entire team so that everyone knows what you’re working toward and how valuable their role is in it.
- Encourage Everyone to Take Breaks
No one’s whole life should take place in front of their laptop. Everyone in your business should take a break every hour or so, including you as the business owner. People need to step away for lunch, a water break, a phone call, or even a walk. The clearing of one’s head is important. It allows employees to recharge so that they can stay fresh and on top of all the tasks in front of them.
- Keep it Social
When you have a small team, you want to do things to help everyone get to know each other. The goal is to help everyone build trust and find common ground, especially if you have a multigenerational team. Once a month, organize something social for the team such as a book club, monthly birthday celebration, a happy hour, a bowling night or a potluck feast. If you have a virtual team, look for an opportunity to get everyone together in person at least once a year as conference calls can get stale.
- Offer Options for Movement
People are too sedentary; movement is key to keeping people engaged and on their toes. Offer your employees standing desks, if requested. Allow people a changing area to shower if they hit the gym before or after work. Encourage walking or biking to work, and stretching in your workplace should be a must for everyone. Hunching over a computer is not good for posture or alignment.
- Offer flex time
Working 9-5 doesn’t work for everyone. Some people have small children or elder care responsibilities or they just don’t do their best work in the morning. The more flexible you are with your employees that harder they will work. Commuting is tough for people, especially for those in big cities with nightmare traffic. Allow people to work from home a couple of days a week or to move their hours to 7am-3pm to make their life work better. Use Zoom, conference calls, and project management software like Teamwork to make sure key projects and routine tasks don’t get dropped.
- Create Stress Relief Area
Reimage your break room. Create a lounge area in your offices with bean bags, stress balls, healthy snacks and a community library. Encourage employees to go there during the workday to chill out and eat, read, watch TV or listen to music. You might even want to add a TV yoga mats, and nap cot in there, for the occasional power nap or mediation session. Your goal is to make your business environment as stress free as possible, especially if the work or deadlines are highly demanding.
- Encourage Peer to Peer Communication
Encourage your employees to talk to each other especially if there’s any kind of conflict. Passive aggressiveness should not be rewarded, instead train your managers to always encourage direct communication among your team members or facilitated communication if there is real dysfunction. If there’s a workplace bullying issue, that’s something different, but miscommunication happens when people make assumptions about other people intentions. Miscommunication also happens when everyone doesn’t have all the information needed to do their job. Mentor your employees to handle conflicts themselves. A direct conversation that is factual and not emotional can go a long way towards building a strong team.
Workplace stress is real, and you might not think it’s stressful working for you, but chances are it might be happening and you don’t know it. Be proactive about creating a work environment that people want to work in. Ask for feedback and survey your employees to find out how you can set them up for success.
Let me know how you’ve changed your work environment.