We have all had conversations with friends complaining about work. But when a person really hates their job, it can make an enormous difference to their wellbeing. More often than not, it is workplace culture that brings employees down, causing increasingly negative feelings that spread from work into every aspect of life.

And it is not just individuals affected. A negative working environment can be detrimental to the overall company, leading to high staff turnover, an increase in sick days, low productivity and even mistakes which then generate complaints from clients.

What is Workplace Culture?

Workplace culture is the key to what makes your company tick. It includes attitudes and behaviours from the boardroom to the water cooler. It represents your core values and the way these are expressed in the workplace: the ‘feel’ of the office, how employees treat each other and clients, how you get things done…

From health benefits, business hours and dress codes to desk space, communication and providing free tea and coffee – workplace culture affects every aspect of your business.

How can a Positive Work Culture Benefit your Company?

Creating an environment that is more pleasant for your employees may sound like a noble cause, but it is hugely beneficial for your company, too.

Negative workplace culture has been proven to have a major influence on employee health and wellbeing which, in turn, can cost businesses a fortune. Figures released by the Health And Safety Executive show that work-related stress accounts for more than half of the UK’s lost working days, and it’s not an occasional occurrence.

More than half a million people suffer from chronic work-related stress, which is responsible for the loss of 12.5 million working days, according to recent data from the Office for National Statistics. In addition, a report from Breathe HR suggests that employees resigning due to poor work culture is costing the UK economy £23.6 billion a year.

There’s a firm link between employees who say their company has a strong culture, and those who feel happy and valued at work. A recent survey undertaken by Harris Interactive found 94% of executives and 88% of employees believe workplace culture is important to a company’s success. A positive and supportive workplace culture can encourage dedication and enthusiasm, collaboration and teamwork, as well as idea generation and productivity.

It also has a knock-on effect on recruitment and retention. A reputation for a strong company culture can be one of the best ways to attract potential employees. It also means existing workers are more likely to stay loyal.

Building a Positive Workplace Culture

Workplace culture should be prioritised as highly as any other aspect of your business strategy. If you’re not sure where to start, ask yourself this: Would you choose to turn up to your workplace?

If the answer is anything other than a resounding yes, here are some tips on how to improve the situation…

Start at the Top

Managers at all levels need to be on board with the company’s shared values and lead by example. Demonstrating positive working practices that inspire and empower can help to create a healthy workplace culture and avoid a toxic environment.

Almost a quarter (24%) of those working in the customer service industry said they’d leave their current job because of poor leadership, according to a recent poll by HR consulting firm Ranstad. Yet, when a boss exhibits positive behaviours – friendliness, fairness, calmness under pressure – it encourages the same in those around them.

Communication is Key

Poor communication can lead to a disconnect within the company. It can foster fear and encourage an environment led by gossip and paranoia. A workplace culture where employees don’t feel able to speak up often results in small issues ballooning into major problems.

Remember that listening is just as important as talking and can make employees feel more valued. A report from Culture IQ reveals 86% of employees at companies with strong cultures feel listened to by their senior management.

Get Social

While for some, the idea of team building is the stuff of nightmares, there are many ways employers can work to create a more social environment. When employees socialise together it can lead to easier work-based interactions, too.

Whether it is company-wide celebrations, weekly team meals or sports or cultural clubs, getting everyone talking about something other than that horrendous client email can have a strong impact on morale.

Meaning and Goals

These days, employees – particularly Millennials – are demanding more meaning from their jobs, asking themselves “Why work so hard?”.  It’s a fair question, and a strong and supportive workplace culture can create a more inspiring, rewarding experience.

Make sure core values are outlined in your company’s mission statement and communicated clearly. It can also be beneficial to provide employees with examples of how their position directly impacts the company and clients as this can significantly improve motivation and job satisfaction.

Strong goals for both the company and for individuals are also a good way to bring people together and give employees something to work towards other than their next week of annual leave.

Health and Wellness

When employees feel their best physically and mentally, they are better positioned to make a positive contribution to the company. Healthcare should be the basic building block around which workplace culture is developed. Introducing an Employee Assistance Programme (EAP) or Health Cash Plan can help immensely. This will allow employees to access health benefits more easily and offering safe outlets to talk about problems.

A good work-life balance is also important in avoiding burnout and stress-related illness. More than a third of people feel like their employer expects them to be on call or thinking about work during annual leave, according to the most recent Wellbeing Index.

As well as creating physical and mental health issues, feeling like you’re “always on” can lead to feelings of resentment and a lack of productivity. Encouraging uninterrupted time to relax, socialise and pursue hobbies away from work is an important way to support employees and maintain a positive culture within the workplace.

Don’t Drop the Ball

It can be difficult for management to spot the development of a toxic workplace environment. High employee turnover can be an indication that there’s an issue. Exit interviews can help to pinpoint the areas in which improvements can be made.

Even if a culture feels strong, it’s important to keep assessing and improving. This will help to maintain a positive environment moving forwards. It can have a surprising and far-reaching impact on your business as a whole.