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How to Build an Optimistic and Happy Work Environment

Heading into the office shouldn’t feel like a drag. Unfortunately, negative workplace environments are all too common. We’ve all been there; by the time you hit mid-career, you’ll probably have one or two horror stories about a dysfunctional workplace that had you dreaming of the day you could tender your resignation.

Although many leaders believe that a high-pressure workplace culture will lead to success, research proves otherwise. Studies indicate that a high degree of stress at work will ultimately lead to employee disengagement, and the more employees disengage, the greater the costs to your company. A recent study showed that disengaged workers had 37% higher absenteeism and 60% more errors and defects. Building an optimistic and happy work environment is not only good for your team, it’s good for your bottom line.

Experienced leaders across multiple industries weighed in with their tips for building a workplace culture that will keep your employees feeling happy and fulfilled. Try out some of these tips, your team will thank you.
Stability Through Flexibility

“We know that our employees are whole people, and that they lead complex lives outside of the office. Offering workplace flexibility helps to recognize that, and gives employees more breathing room. Flexibility is especially important when it comes to attracting and retaining top talent - lots of companies are moving into more flexible arrangements, and people won’t stick around if you’re still operating under antiquated office structures. Find a good balance that works for your team, and your employees will feel a lot happier coming into work each day.” - Dylan Trussell, Co-Founder of Culprit Underwear

Foster Connections

“When people feel connected to their coworkers, they tend to be a lot happier and more committed to the workplace. You spend the majority of your day with your coworkers, it’s important to know them beyond their Slack emojis. Incorporating some team-building activities can go a long way, or even something as simple as a mid-morning coffee break, or the occasional office lunch. For your remote employees, try setting up a virtual happy hour. Whether you’re meeting in person or virtually, building in some time for employee engagement will help to foster a happier environment.” - Ryan Rottman, Co-Founder and CEO of OSDB

Hold One-on-Ones

“I always recommend checking in with your employees one-on-one from time to time, just to do a pulse check and see how things are going with them. Especially as your company begins to grow and expand, it can be easy for people to feel lost in the crowd, or not feel recognized as individuals. People have different communication styles, so even if an employee isn’t vocal on team calls, it doesn’t mean they don’t have things to say. Sometimes holding a one-on-one will lead to valuable insights, and it will help your employees feel connected to the team.” - Daniel Osman, Head of Sales at Balance Homes

Forgive and Forget

“It’s usually a sign of a bad workplace environment if people are terrified of making a mistake, and by extension, terrified of trying something new or innovative. It’s important to encourage creative risk-taking, and one way you can do that is by modeling forgiveness. Everyone makes mistakes, and your office culture should allow for employees to learn from their mistakes. When you treat mistakes as learning opportunities instead of failures, employees feel a lot more optimistic about the work they do. ” - Remon Aziz, Chief Operating Officer of Advantage

Lead With Integrity

“If you want to build a happy work environment, model the same characteristics we were taught in grade school. Lead with honesty and transparency, and treat your employees with respect. Be honest about any upcoming changes or expectations, and your team will feel a lot more invested in the direction of the company. If your office has a culture of secrecy and siloed information, employees will quickly start to feel disengaged and disempowered.” - Jared Hines, Head of Operations at Acre Gold

Invest in Your Team

“To show that you’re invested in your team, it pays to actually invest in your team. Give employees the opportunity to participate in professional trainings or learning sessions, or develop a mentorship program so that junior employees can learn from their senior peers. Opportunities for personal development will show that you value your employees and their growth, and it will help to expand their knowledge base as well.” - Michael Hennessy, Founder and CEO of Diathrive

Prioritize Work-Life Balance

“People who are burned out are typically not very happy. If your work culture promotes workaholism and unhealthy work-life balance, your team’s morale will quickly devolve, and you’ll probably lose a lot of your star performers. Set a tone from the top, and show that you value a healthy balance between your team’s work and home lives. Depending on your work place, that might mean limiting after-hours emails, or encouraging people to take their time off. It’s also helpful to ask your employees what they need to better balance their schedules - you can’t fix a problem until you understand what it is.” - Jason Sherman, Founder of TapRm

Encourage Feedback

“It’s crucial that employees feel that they can trust the people in leadership positions. One strategy for promoting trust is the creation of dedicated avenues for feedback. Inclusive leadership is about valuing all employees, and valuing their perceptions of the workplace. By creating dedicated avenues for feedback, you are signaling to your team that their experiences are important, and that their opinions matter. This leads to employees feeling a greater sense of agency and ownership over the work your team is doing.” - Jeremy Gardner, CEO of MadeMan

Set Team Goals

“Clarity is like oxygen in an optimistic work environment: it generates energy; it is essential for life. Goals help create clarity, focusing people's attention on what's important. Don't just set individual goals. Set team goals that build accountability with each other. Monitor team progress towards goals as a team. Make it fun. Goal clarity has a positive effect on the health of the organization and its employees.” - Shawn Murphy, CEO of WorqIQ

Promote Diversity and Inclusivity

“Create a positive, inclusive work culture by welcoming individuals from all backgrounds and celebrating their differences. Encourage employees to share their pronouns with the rest of the team to promote inclusive language and consider establishing a committee to contribute to diversity initiatives. Work with the HR department to make diversity a part of your recruitment strategy and ensure diversity and inclusion continue to be foundational elements as your organization grows.” - Kate Heinz, Product Marketing Manager of Built In

Building a happy and optimistic workplace doesn’t just make sense from a moral standpoint, it makes sense from a business standpoint too. Happier employees are more likely to stay where they are, reducing costly turnover and time spent training. Since we spend most of our days at work, it pays dividends to make sure your workplace is a positive place where people feel valued and respected.

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