Creating a happy and healthy work environment isn’t just an office perk. Employee satisfaction is central to a functional office culture.

But building an enjoyable work environment isn’t as straightforward as it seems. For one, you can’t simply buy your way to a happier workplace. While pay is a priority for employees, studies have shown that giving employees raises does not necessarily lead to higher employee happiness.

Those findings can be confusing if you see employee relations through a transactional lens — but they can be liberating if you let them lead you toward a more holistic approach to workplace culture. And improving your work environment benefits everyone.

Research into employee satisfaction has shown happier employees equal higher productivity and innovation, fewer disputes and a more stable workforce that leads to greater institutional knowledge in the long term. Let’s look at a few best practices to cultivating a happier and healthier work environment.

Build Trust

Employees who feel safe and valued are more prone to trust the people they work for. Employees who trust their bosses are more likely to perform better, contribute more innovative ideas and stay long term with a company. The important thing to know is how to build an atmosphere of trust.

To begin, management should never censor, ridicule, dismiss or retaliate against employees for sharing their feedback. Establishing an adversarial relationship between management and employees or one where employees are scared to express themselves is counter to building trust. Employees should feel comfortable to express themselves, weigh in on management decisions and register complaints.

Employees should also feel that management sincerely cares about their well-being. This can be accomplished in a lot of ways — not only through generous benefits policies, retirement contributions and salaries, but also through management practices that emphasize empathy, openness and honesty. Conduct proactive check ins with employees just to see if they have any concerns or problems, and maintain an open-door policy that allows employees to give management direct feedback.

Encourage Two-Way Communication

Keeping employees in the loop is essential to cultivating a happy work environment. Employees appreciate working in an environment that values not only their performance, but their opinions. Leaders should go out of their way to seek feedback from their employees and give them the opportunity to chime in on company policies and projects.

A simple way to encourage this type of relationship is to hold companywide meetings to update employees on any new changes or happenings in the company. This can be coupled with weekly or monthly company emails as well.

In terms of soliciting feedback, workplaces are shying away from annual employee feedback surveys, and instead, are moving toward more frequent and briefer surveys. Surveys given periodically can provide leaders with an evolving, real-time snapshot of employee concerns and workplace morale, allowing them to course-correct before small problems can turn into big ones.

Making course corrections in response to employee feedback is very important. You could seek employees feedback every day, but it won’t make them feel engaged or listened to if you don’t convert their insight into action. Make sure you really listen to what your employees are telling you and use that feedback to guide company policy.

One important note: Ensure that your employees know you hear their feedback, and that you’re incorporating it to the business plan in substantial ways.

Advocate for a Healthy Work-life Balance

The days of rewarding employees for 90-hour work weeks, or sending emails from the office at 3 a.m., are long gone. Today, savvy managers understand that a proper work-life balance is key to employee happiness.

Remote work is a great way to encourage a work-life balance. Communication tools have made it easier than ever to work remotely and employee time-tracking software can promote flexible work-hours when feasible.

In addition, the company can implement policies intended to promote a work-life balance. For instance, all employees could benefit from a generous parental leave, a “no work email after a certain time” policy or even a shortened four-day work week, which is starting to gain popularity.

Be Generous With Praise and Appreciation

Telling your employees that they’re doing great work and that they’re valuable may seem like an obvious one. However, an Achievers report found that nearly 80% of employees wish they received more recognition on the job. A survey by GoodHire found that 82% of Americans would potentially quit their jobs because of a bad manager.

Publicly recognizing employee contributions is an easy way to boost employee satisfaction and engagement. It not only boosts the mood and motivation of the employees being recognized, but it’s also a subtle way to reinforce company values and expectations.

Have Clear Policies and Rules

Employees will feel more comfortable if there are well-defined rules governing the workplace. When you have clear policies, employees know how they’re expected to act and what’s inappropriate behavior for the workplace.

Clear policies provide management with a consistent and effective way to hold employees accountable. It’s difficult and ethically murky to punish employees for behavior that they didn’t know was against company policy.

To ensure a clear understanding of company expectations, policies should be written in simple, straightforward language and copies should be easily accessible to all employees.

Of course, clear policies are only effective when applied consistently.

Consistency is one of the most important values for a healthy work environment because it’s the foundation of fairness. If some workers are held responsible for their actions, but others aren’t, your employees are sure to notice. And in a workplace where standards are inconsistently or selectively enforced, morale is sure to plummet.

Hire for Culture

Hiring for a culture-add, or someone who adds new and innovative perspectives to your existing work culture, should be integrated into the hiring process.

Once you identify your company culture’s core values and beliefs, start screening for these traits during the hiring process and in interviews. Ask candidates about places they’ve worked and what they did or didn’t like about the culture there.

A great candidate who doesn’t align with your organization’s core values will probably feel out of place and could even affect the performance of their co-workers. After all, just one person pulling in the wrong direction can create a lot of drag that everyone else has to compensate for.

Building a happy and healthy work culture isn’t easy, but by leveraging the tips outlined above, you’ll be well on your way.

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