How to Achieve Sustainability by Defining Your Workplace
28 May, 2019
For a lot of companies, making an effort to define the workplace is not always a priority. Small and growing businesses, in particular, tend to get caught up in the chaos of day-to-day growth, leaving work culture and sustainability in the workplace to get lost in the fray.
In this series, we’re covering why sustainability in the workplace is so important and how focusing on sustainability can help improve your bottom line. This post is about how to define the workplace to achieve sustainability.
What Does ‘Sustainability’ in the Workplace Mean?
When you think about it, people spend most of their time at work. When you have several people dedicating much of their time to a particular company, it’s important for both the company and the well-being of the employees that there is sustainability in the workplace. Workplace sustainability can refer to the following:
- Employee health and safety
- Good work/life balance
- Promoting a positive working culture
- Aligning your business with a mission that gives importance to all jobs in the company
- High employee retention rates
In Doing Good: Business and the Sustainability Challenge, a study on workplace sustainability by The Economist Intelligence Unit, the survey showed that companies investing in a sustainable workplace perform better overall than those that don’t.
Defining Your Workplace
Defining your own workplace can often leave company heads lost on where to begin. While it may seem like a daunting task at first, putting in the effort to create guidelines that define your work culture will better facilitate workplace sustainability. Here are five steps to start defining your workplace:
1. Establish core values - Spend time thinking about the most important core values of your company, or what you want them to be. This creates a base from which to move forward. If these core values have already been decided, perhaps look at revisiting them to see if they are still true for the organization and get feedback from other team leaders and company members.
2. Look for inspiration - Dedicate some time to researching the culture codes and practices of other companies that your organization aspires to be like. Identify some of their core principles about work culture and routines they implement, and start compiling a list of items that you want to adopt in your company.
3. Create a collaborative folder - Once you have done the research and want to put pen to paper, create a shareable online folder so other stakeholders in the company can contribute their research and ideas, too.
4. Hold meetings - When your team has created a robust list of ideas, hold a meeting with the contributing members and other important stakeholders to assess how your company should move forward with these ideas, and which core values are the most important.
5. Open it up - You have solid ideas on how you want to define the workplace, now you can open it up to lower-level employees of the organization for feedback. Someone might have a valuable insight that leaders didn’t think of before, and it also sets a precedent that this is a company that values the input of its employees.
Sustainability with Employees
Employee engagement is a hot topic these days, and that’s because it has been continuously proven that satisfied employees are heavily linked to successful businesses. According to Gallup, having highly engaged employees results in a 21% greater profitability, a 20% increase in sales, and 59% less turnover. Here are ways to engage your employees for better sustainability:
Implement Feedback Programs
Checking in with employees and getting regular feedback is crucial in getting the perspectives you need to improve your business. The way one company does this may look much different than another, for example, the feedback may be anonymous or not, or it could take place during an in-person meeting or through an online survey. Either way, figuring out how to safely elicit honest feedback from employees will help the business perform better.
Make Room for Opinion
Workplaces are becoming increasingly democratic, as it helps employee morale when workers feel their voice is heard and valued. A simple way to do this is making time during meetings to ask employees for their input: if they disagree, or if something could be improved. This could just lead to your next great business opportunity.
Have Robust Benefit Programs
The fact of the matter is that benefits play a significant role in keeping employees engaged and avoiding high turnover rates. Also, it’s important to note that you do not have to be a large corporation making a lot of money to give good benefits to employees. In the digital era, benefits can come in the form of:
- Allowing employees to work remotely
- Having flexible hours
- Allotting a healthy amount of time off to avoid burnout
- Implementing a performance-based bonus program
- Taking care of healthcare costs;
- and more
Notice the above benefits do not all require a monetary investment. In fact, not having an office with bills to pay can actually save your business a lot of money, which is why more companies are adopting this model.
Setting clear expectations in the workplace is imperative for teams to measure how they are doing, which enhances workplace sustainability as a byproduct. Here are ways to set expectations to define the workplace better:
- Never assume a member of the company has all of the information they need; be as specific as possible.
- Communicate upfront what the needs of a project are.
- Don’t leave a meeting without establishing clear next steps and deliverables.
- Keep the flow of communication open so any problems or areas of confusion can be addressed.
- Ask for expectations from the opposite party to ensure you’re both on the same page.
- Set clear rules that stakeholders need to abide by
- Establish definitive sets of goals, so everyone knows what the final output or results should be.
Identifying and Eliminating Negative Work Culture
A negative work culture, whether it comes from general bad company policies or a single team member, can create disastrous results for sustainability in the workplace.
Understanding the causes of negativity
To root out negativity in the workplace, it’s vital first to understand where it can exist. Negative work culture can stem from:
- Language used
- Workplace norms
Sometimes, the causes of workplace negativity are not always obvious. That is why it’s valuable to define the workplace and the values your organization wants to uphold daily.
How to Cut Down Workplace Negativity
There are few useful things to remember that will help eliminate workplace negativity, those are:
Encourage autonomy - We’ve touched on keeping fluid communication and setting clear expectations, but that doesn’t mean members of the company can’t be autonomous. Give employees the framework, but then make sure there is plenty of room for them to come to the end goal in their own way.
Celebrate achievements - Whether an entire team accomplished something or an individual employee, there should be a culture around taking a moment to celebrate that accomplishment. The last thing you want is to push past achievement and move on to the next big thing right away. Repeatedly doing this can cause burnout over time.
Leave ego at the door - There is no room for ego at a successful company, and this begins at the top. Leaders should readily admit to their own mistakes, avoid blaming others, and take responsibility for their part. This can have a trickle-down effect that will foster an open and caring workplace.
Establishing the Mission/Purpose of Your Organization
We touched on this earlier with the ‘Defining Your Workplace’ section, but it’s important to mention again how having a solid mission statement in your organization helps create sustainability. This mission/purpose is what will keep all stakeholders in the company engaged even through the tough times. Leadership and employees need to have a reason to be where they are, so they feel more fulfilled in their jobs.
The right software may be just the key you need to helping align your company and improving overall communication within the organization, thereby achieving sustainability in the workplace. Read more about our performance management and alignment software here and contact us today for a demo to see how it can improve your workplace.
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