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Think back to all the job interviews you have been in. Although you probably don’t remember all the questions you have asked in those interviews, you probably remember that question you’ve asked multiple times: “What is your ideal work environment?”
Depending on personal preferences, the answer can vary greatly. For instance, if an employee is a target-driven person, keen on being part of a fast-paced team, then their ideal work environment may not resemble a very slow and laid back one.
When thinking of the ideal work environment, many things may come to mind. You are likely to think of company culture, office space, management approach, employee development and compensation, employee relationships, and one’s perceived meaning in their work.
As far as ideal work environments go, perhaps there is one example that comes to the mind of many - Google. You’ve most likely seen many pictures of Google’s premises, whose unconventionality resembles a playground more than an office. Although riding a bicycle in the company premises sounds interesting, there is a lot more that Google and other companies do to create the ideal work environment.
After asking a lot of questions and hearing from a lot of people, we’ve decided to boil it down to six things you can do to create the ideal work environment for you and your team.
Create Financial Reward Systems
The first and obvious desirable trait of the work environment is one that can offer nice pay to its employees. Who doesn’t like that, right? Employees are obviously not paid on how much they would like to be paid but based on contribution. However, there should be a certain curve for motivating workers to work smarter in order to increase their income. Although there are many other factors behind job satisfaction, money sure makes it at the top.
Through employing different methods of work optimization, companies often lose track of the all-time, original motivator - money. According to the Employee Job Satisfaction and Engagement survey, the three key elements to job satisfaction were:
respect towards employees,
financial compensation, and
Note how two of the three revolve around financial returns.
Appreciate and Encourage Team Work
The culture of collaboration in the company can really make it or break it for the employee experience. When the work environment is one that promotes collaboration, employees feel as if their jobs are truly interconnected and they can learn from each other.
So, how does a company practically promote collaboration? - you may ask.
Well, each company is unique and should come up with an individualized or personalized answer to that question. The main idea, however, is that a company can promote collaboration by creating processes that support it. For instance, a creative writing department can encourage collaboration by establishing peer review processes.
According to The Predictive Index, a company primarily concerned with the optimization of team processes:
“Learning how each individual contributor on the team is wired, then comparing that information to the same insights on other members of the team, helps us to understand what the team dynamic is composed of”.
To brainstorm on how you can improve teamwork performance, check out these seven strategies on improving team performance.
Don’t forget about Work-Life Balance
Every employee has a different idea of work-life balance. Some employees may be very driven to give more than asked for, as they might be looking to kick start their careers or climb the ladder. Other employees may find great value in balancing work and private life matters, and can only stay productive through doing so.
Whatever the case, it is important that your company encourages work-life balance. Burned-out employees are not happy employees. To create an ideal work environment, it’s crucial that employees have time for other pursuits as well, be it more time to spend with the family or pursue different hobbies.
Seventy-five percent of the workforce is predicted to be dominated by millennials by 2025. The millennial workforce is increasingly looking for work environments that offer work-life balance, a buzz word amongst this demographic. There is plenty of evidence that suggests that work-life balance prevents burnout and chronic stress, the leading health issue in the workplace. Modern societies place a high value on general wellbeing, and will eventually quit a job that makes them sacrifice their health for productivity.
What Drives Your Employees?
The modern workplace has evolved into a very personal journey for employees. What once was a place that solely granted food on the table, now is a personal search for meaning. Employees, especially millennials, will leave their jobs at some point if they perceive a lack of meaning in their jobs. At the end of the day, people like to feel needed and appreciated at work.
Gareth Jones, author of Why Should Anyone Be Led by You?, points out to a BMW factory employee whose job is to take customers for test drives. For this employee, giving people “the ride of their lives” is what makes his job meaningful. Hopping into a brand new BMW and taking it for a breezy ride makes his job experience.
People can find meaning in all types of jobs. It is the responsibility of the organization to share with employees the big picture, so they feel like a necessary part of the organization’s success, and find meaning even in the mundane activities that they do.
You should make it your job to show employees that their efforts are noticed by showing some interest in their activities. Tony Principi, a management-level professional in the construction industry sees value in regularly visiting the construction sites because, as he said,
"I believe that a management presence amidst the actual construction activities shows a level of interest and investment that can be inspiring to both the labor force and junior managers... It keeps me in touch with the pace of work and affords me some working-level perspective."
The meaning someone sees in their work is highly related to the culture of the company they work for.
When employees share a set of values with each other and work on reinforcing behaviors that promote those values, they share a sense of community and a sense of collective meaning in their work.
Employees who feel positively towards their jobs are also willing to work more than is asked of them. For instance, a survey of 1220 construction workers, released that 50% of the workers were willing to work longer hours and take on additional responsibilities. When they were asked to rate the most important things in their lives, their careers in construction came in third right after family and romantic relationships.
It’s Always Exciting to Learn Something New
The ideal work environment undoubtedly offers opportunities for growth. Research increasingly shows that growth opportunities are key to employee retention. A company can offer growth opportunities in various forms, depending on resources and strategic plans. Growth opportunities do not always mean promotions. A company can support its employees’ development through other means, such as training and mentoring.
Employees who feel stuck are more likely to quit their jobs in search of another growth opportunity. A survey conducted by True Careers revealed that 61% of 500 workers believed that further education will increase their marketability in the job market.
Google, as the leading company in employee satisfaction, invests in its employee’s personal development. Team leaders are also encouraged to get interested in their employees’ lives and help them achieve their personal goals, as a means of increasing job satisfaction.
Keep Everyone in the Loop
An ideal work environment is one where leaders are transparent. However, that does not mean sharing every little detail with all employees and perhaps revealing too much. Management should choose a practical way of informing employees on company updates and strategic plans to the extent that is needed.
For instance, if a new partnership is being negotiated but management cannot share anything yet due to the risk of leaking information, you can alternatively share the news of this new acquisition but not share the name of the company until it is formalized. It is essential to share information within the company, especially in large organizations where top management does not have daily contact with lower-ranked employees.
The ideal work environment turned out to be quite a complex idea. Although it is not all black and white, we managed to shed light on some desirable traits of modern work environments.
As a business owner, consider the nature of your company and how you can practically fit these concepts into your operations. As an employee, consider how you can contribute to your work environment and the shared experience with your coworkers.