A positive work environment can have a significant impact on your bottom line. Engaged, motivated, and happy employees are more productive, better focused, and less likely to leave. If you don’t want to spend all of your time hiring new people to just watch them disengage and pretend to be busy, then you need to take culture, and a positive work environment seriously — starting today, yes, today!
A big part of creating a positive environment is improving mental health at work. Although the ongoing global health crisis (and the isolation caused by lockdowns) has brought mental health into the spotlight, the issue of mental health in the workplace isn’t new. And most of what needs to change has very little to do with current affairs. It all comes back to coming up with ways to keep employees happy, engaged, and motivated — and a hefty bonus won’t cut it (although… who doesn’t love money!)
At Video Arts, we’ve spent the last five decades working to introduce a little fun into work. We’ve also lived through the digital shift in learning and development — probably the largest and longest-lasting impact of remote and hybrid working on this subject. We combine education and entertainment to deliver innovative solutions for cultivating a positive work environment. Here, we’ve put together a crash course on how you can improve positivity in your workplace today. There’s not a second to lose (well, maybe a second… but wasting minutes would definitely be outrageous). Keep on reading for more!
Additional resources: We just finished an ebook about how to incorporate mental health into your L&D strategy. Check it out (it’s got a very straightforward title — Workplace Mental Health) if you want to learn more.
Tip #1: Turn remote working into a positive
Up to 60% of the UK workforce ended up working from home at some point during 2020. Most employers weren’t prepared for such a transition, and only a few were able to provide ideal WFH experiences. For example, 67% of employees felt less connected to their colleagues and 55% said they found it harder to “switch off” while working from home.
But that doesn’t mean that work from home and mental health are incompatible. In fact, many employees love it, and they don’t want to go back to working full-time in a typical office. We’ve found that, for the most part, workers want to split their time between working in an office and home working (hybrid working). Making this accessible to people is your first move when it comes to turning remote working into a positive.
Your second move is to think about how remote and hybrid working impacts your L&D strategy. Having a strong learning culture is positively associated with job satisfaction, and if you are going to use your L&D programme to drive a positive work culture, it needs to be equipped for hybrid learning. By and large, that means embracing remote access, the use of video, and either an LMS (Learning Management System) or LXP (Learning Experience Platform). At the very least, that means ensuring you are regularly updating your learning content to meet the fluctuating needs of your workforce. At Video Arts, our content can be used alongside, or embedded into existing content as an iFrame— meaning your learning library can be continuously updated to serve your employees relevant material when they need it, without reinventing the wheel – win, win.
Remote and hybrid working does not spell the end of classroom training, but it does change the focus. Rather than being the centre of attention, your learning programme needs to rely on digital content, and only use the classroom when it’s really needed. This might sound like a big change, but it’s the direction the industry is headed anyway. Using the current context as an opportunity to invest in a better future is an important part of making lemonade out of lemons… and 2020 was definitely a lemon.
Suggested reading: For more detail on the future of digital learning, and why it’s so important, check out our blog — Classroom Training vs Digital Learning: A Cost Comparison.
Tip #2: Focus on managers
Employees may live and breathe your culture. But, fundamentally, managers hold the keys to culture change. They have the power to:
- Lead by example: Managers set the standard for what “good” and “bad” behaviour looks like. They can help employees take better care of themselves by doing the same, and set priorities through what they prioritise themselves.
- Encourage open conversations: Managers can make employees feel more comfortable talking about their struggles by doing so themselves and inviting others to share their feelings and experiences.
- Promote knowledge share: Managers are in a position to communicate with people across your organisation, and share the knowledge they have far more widely than normal members of staff.
Fundamentally, whatever cultural change you want to see across your organisation, you need to start that change within the leaders of your organisation. Culture, ultimately, comes from the top down, and securing buy-in for your entire plan to cultivate a positive work environment is critical to success.
Tip #3: Create a supporting and open culture
Your culture should empower employees to achieve their goals, adopt shared values, and embody the right attitudes — *eye roll* — we want less eye-rolling… but these are actually really important goals. Again, this is why L&D is so important. By demonstrating to employees that you care about their skills and their future, you earn their trust and support. This is also why mental health is so important. (Again, it shows that you care about people as “people”, which people tend to appreciate on a personal level… as people.)
But creating a supportive and open environment goes beyond L&D. Realistically, you can find people talking about everything from lava lamps to infinite paid time off. A few ideas we find interesting include:
- Perks and benefits: Employee benefits are usually a key consideration for anyone applying for a job and staying in that job. You can make these personalised and complicated using an app (for example, Juno), but it also might be as simple as a cycle-to-work scheme, regular Friday drinks, or any number of other activities that employees feel benefit their lives.
- Office architecture: Along with our biology and experiences, our environment (the places we live and work) has a huge impact on our mental health. A lot of big companies (like Google, HubSpot, and Amazon) take architecture very seriously in relation to mental health — you’ll struggle to inspire a positive mental health environment with a cut and paste, grey, windowless maze of cubicles! Ensuring there are safe, quiet spaces if needed, natural light and proximity to nature are just a few considerations. For more examples of what architecture experts see as good cultural design, check out this article about workplace wellness architecture.
- Innovate! Innovate! Innovate! Anything that makes your employees work easier is encouraged. Nurturing an innovative culture makes employees feel the workplace is great, and they’ll likely share such experiences with others.
Creating an open culture isn’t just about one thing. It’s about a range of outcomes that ultimately add up to improved relationships and better communication. All of this helps create a more positive culture… and we, actually, think this comes straight back to L&D.
Tip #4: Put mental health front-and-centre in your L&D strategy
Employees who learn at work are 47% less likely to experience stress and 39% more productive. Learning is vital for employees’ personal development and growth. When they’re unable to learn, they feel they’re making little to no progress, which is likely to affect their mental health. As we’ve suggested, investing in L&D is a great way to create a more positive and productive work environment.
L&D is also your vehicle for delivering mental health awareness, which is a critical part of what employers can do to support mental health, and — therefore — what employers can do to create a more positive work environment. You need a learning and development programme specifically designed to address the challenges of mental health — and target both the needs of managers and employees.
In fact, you should have two separate mental health L&D programmes, one for employees and one for managers. Remember how important we said managers were to creating cultural change in tip 2 — well… that’s doubly true for a topic as sensitive as mental health. Within this context, it’s critical to address:
- The ways in which mental health is like physical health, and the fact that mental health sits on a spectrum that we all struggle with.
- Removing the stigma of mental health, and getting people talking about it in the first place.
- The importance of diet, exercise and sleep to good mental health outcomes.
- How managers can have better mental health conversations with employees.
- How to identify the warning signs of mental health struggles, and what to do if you notice them in yourself or others.
- When managers need to step back and connect struggling employees with professional help.
- How to follow up with employees who have had time off for mental health recovery.
Each one of these topics is important, delicate and valuable. But, fundamentally, to be successful you need dedicated content addressing each of these topics in an engaging and educational way. And that brings us right to tip 5…
Tip #5: Putting the FUN in fundamental mental health learning
Positivity and fun are very close on the emotional spectrum. We believe that fun and learning go hand-in-hand. A big part of this comes down to engagement. If you make learning fun, it’s more likely that learners will get started in the first place, and make time for learning in their busy schedules. However, there is actually a lot of research to suggest that laughter helps with retention and the formulation of memories. One study actually showed that humour helps improve the amount that people learn — up to 15% more when it’s included in even the smallest amounts.
But humour has a particularly important role to play when it comes to breaking the ice on subjects as sensitive as mental health in the workplace. It can help spark conversations and encourage self-reflection — getting both employees and managers to take cultural change seriously by getting them to laugh about it first. But, even more simply, if you can make someone smile, you’ve —
- Helped to brighten their day.
- Helped to improve company culture.
- Increased likelihood of learning adoption so…in turn, you’ve taken positive steps towards cultivating a positive work environment.
Fundamentally, like so much of this advice, this all comes back to content you source for your L&D programme, and using that material to drive positive culture change. More than anything on this list, we can help you make this change at Video Arts — get in touch if you want to learn more.