Toxic workplaces can develop without you even realising. There could be a clique there, a bully here and far too much pressure on one department. You might think that with the increased opportunities to work from home and be flexible at work, employee wellbeing is higher than before, but that’s not always the case. Here are some ways you can cultivate a more accepting and workable work environment:
- Encourage cross-departmental work to reduce cliques
- Keep everyone goal focused
- Build a friendly, welcoming environment
- Leave work at work and inspire others to do the same
Read on to find out how you can help improve workplace wellness at home and in the office…
It’s hard for employees to ‘see that toxic person and walk the other way’ when they’re working in a close environment together. And sometimes it can be the whole atmosphere in the office that’s the problem. But there are ways you can help:
4 steps to fixing a toxic workplace
1. Encourage cross-departmental work to reduce cliques
Most people relegate the idea of cliques to the schoolyard, but they’re more present in workplaces than you realise. Those who work together have better and more close-knit relationships, which can benefit their joint projects.
However, you need to be careful that they’re not isolating or excluding anyone. If they are, it can feel like a clique in school and could be misconstrued as bullying or targeted harassment.
To tackle this, try to encourage cross-departmental teams and convince colleagues to mix at parties or through team-building activities.
2. Keep everyone focused
Watercooler chats are all well and good for promoting workplace friendships, but you are a business at the end of the day with goals and targets to meet. And lengthy chats in the kitchen aren’t helping anyone achieve what they’re there to do.
So, you need to find out a way to gently encourage those overly chatty colleagues to focus on their work:
- You can start by delegating work to those who need to focus more, just make sure it suits their skillsets and doesn’t overwhelm their workload. For example, give them a new report to complete, or ask them to do some research for you.
- Then you could offer training and development opportunities to remind them that there are chances to learn and help themselves and the business.
- Recognising those who go above and beyond, and those who have adapted and improved is an excellent morale booster.
- Fixing any equipment issues can help too, as it removes another distraction.
The key thing is to let them have their breaks, so long as the work isn’t suffering and they are using the time to relax, not gossip or bully.
You’ve got to keep them engaged in the business as well as their workplace friends, so make your break policy clear in inductions and employee reviews. That way, there is no chance to take advantage of it, and they are clear on what’s acceptable.
3. Build a friendly, welcoming environment
Certain workplaces can feel a bit like the Hunger Games, with everyone fighting to win or gain recognition over their colleagues. The backstabbing, lies and stealing of ideas all feed into an overall untrusting workforce, which does not bode well for staff retention or loyalty.
Getting over this one is not easy, but it can be done by encouraging a kind and considerate environment and showing that support is available for everyone, no matter if they need help with personal or workplace issues.
If you do come across someone that’s proved to be lying or cheating to get ahead, show the rest of your employees that this is unacceptable and has consequences. You should be aiming to create a hardworking but nice feel at the office, and a lot of this comes down to employee personality, so don’t forget to ask telling questions when making new hires.
Making the design and layout of the office more welcoming doesn’t hurt either. Some companies have seen productivity and wellbeing increase with more bright, open-spaced environments, improved hydration facilities and sustainable adjustments.
4. Leave work at work and inspire others to do the same
There’s a lot of talk around work-life balance in the wake of working at home during the pandemic, and it’s a conversation that businesses should be welcoming. For a more engaged and less toxic environment, keeping work within working hours is essential.
No one likes overtime if they’re not being paid for it, and the idea that everyone should be loyal and do whatever is possible to get the work done is kind of outdated. There is so much research around how balancing work and life is beneficial for everyone involved.
For example, one study showed that companies who encourage work-life balance have less turnover, and 85% of companies who offer it stated an increase in productivity.
So here are some ways you can encourage your employees and reduce any toxic feelings about work hours:
- Set an example by only sending emails during working hours and leaving when everyone else does at the end of the day.
- If you see an employee struggling to complete their workload, speak to them and see if there’s anything you can do to make it more manageable.
- Encourage your employees to take their holiday.
- Allow working from home and other flexible working setups.
Asking someone to work from the office when they request flexible working can show you don’t trust them. So, consider trailing it and seeing how it works instead of flat-out refusing. What’s more, they may take any increase in overtime as a sign you don’t care about their workloads and wellbeing, so stay on top of it and spread the workloads where you can.
Workplaces can be toxic – anything can be where money and service are involved. But anyone can make a difference. Mother Teresa once said, “I alone cannot change the world, but I can cast a stone across the water to create many ripples.”
The small changes you make can have a large impact, so lead by example, change the way your office works and say goodbye to the toxic atmosphere for good.
Author: Kano Anafora
Newslibre is a media company that provides informative news, technology, entertainment, web, startups, gadgets, and open source projects across the world and Uganda.