Building a positive work environment for your team

by Gerald Leonard

“You can’t just give someone a creativity injection. You have to create an environment for curiosity and a way to encourage people and get the best out of them” (Ken Robinson, n.d.). In other words, building a positive work environment is key.

Different musical organizations have different visions and purposes. For instance, an orchestra often performs in a hall with a large stage. The women dress in black dresses or black pantsuits, and the men dress in tuxedos. A jazz band may play in a larger auditorium, but often they play in a different environment with a different setup and feel.

A small jazz combo might be set up in a local lounge where the dress code is more casual. There may be talking, eating, and drinking during their performance, which in a symphony setting would be frowned upon. The atmosphere in a jazz performance is much more intimate and is closer to the listeners rather than experiencing it far away in the back of a large auditorium.

All of these create a certain environment. If you want a creative space, you have to make sure people are around a table or able to think. Confined spaces may confine creativity. Here are ways that you can begin to build a positive work environment within your organization:

Encourage social connections

When you foster positive social connections between employees, it can improve their health, reduce sick days, help them recover twice as fast from surgery, experience less depression, learn faster, remember longer, tolerate pain and discomfort better, display more mental acuity, and perform better on the job.

Show empathy

Show empathy for your employees and encourage others to do the same within your organization. This fosters trust and goodwill throughout the organization.

Find ways to help

It is easy to help people out with a problem or mistake. When we offer help, we then become part of the solution. This promotes goodwill and a feeling that we are in this together. It creates a sense of community and inclusiveness.

Encourage people to share their struggles

While you don’t want to be a therapist, you can be seen as caring and empathetic to a person’s struggles. They feel that the company cares for them, and they will care in return. As I mention in my book, Conrad Hilton, the founder of Hilton hotels, used to sit with his employees every day to talk about their personal struggles and even their triumphs. This practice still exists at individual hotels between management and staff.

Create a physically appealing environment

Pay attention to the colors on the walls and the pictures. Use colors that are bright and patterns that are not cluttered. Moderate complexity in the visual environment is best. Include as few colors as possible.

Get outside input

Have people from the outside ask your employees about the environment they work in. This kind of feedback is invaluable. You are looking for consistency and positive remarks. You are also looking for patterns in any negative feedback you receive.

Allow your employees to have some control and say

Get their input about furniture arrangements, lighting, and other aspects of their environment. Also, ask them about other aspects that would make working at the organization more appealing such as daycare, exercise programs, healthy snacks, etc.

Does your workplace environment generate the type of atmosphere you need to support the culture you’re trying to create? Would they consider it a positive work environment? To ensure that your tangible and intangible environments are aligned with your vision and values, conduct an assessment of your company’s office setup, compensation packages, awards and appreciation events, opportunities for training and advancement, leadership engagement, work/life balance, and flexible scheduling arrangements.


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