Leading a Healthy Workplace Culture

As employers, we do our best to prevent harm and incidents from occurring in the workplace. However, we must aim to go beyond this and strive to foster a positive culture where workers are fully engaged, are treated fairly and feel safe in the workplace.

The World Health Organization says: “a healthy workplace is one in which workers and managers collaborate to use a continual improvement process to protect and promote the health, safety and wellbeing of all workers and the sustainability of the workplace.”

What does a healthy workplace look like?

In a strong workplace culture, everyone has a shared safety mindset and works together to achieve common goals. The overall culture influences how workers behave, how they interact with each other and how they perform in their roles. Here are some characteristics of a healthy workplace culture:

  • Everyone has a clear undertsanding of their role and responsibilities.
  • There is alignment between the organisation’s strategic objectives and the way in which work is done. Workplace leaders ‘walk the talk’ and set the standards for how the workplace should operate.  
  • Bullying and unacceptable behaviour such as harassment, discrimination and unconscious bias are not tolerated in the workplace. Policies and actions reflect this.
  • Everyone actively reports incidents, hazards and near misses.
  • Incidents are promptly and appropriately investigated, without fear of blame or recrimination.
  • There is open and honest communication across the organisation, especially from management.
  • Business priorities are balanced with employee’s wellbeing needs, and workload expectations are appropriate.
  • The workplace values diversity and inclusiveness, and real team work is encouraged.
  • Worker engagement and participation in health and safety matters is highly encouraged. Staff are included in decision making and are supported when speaking up.

Why is it important?

A large body of research has shown that a positive environment will lead to dramatic benefits for employers, employees, and the bottom line. A study titled “Happiness and productivity: Understanding the happy-productive worker” found that happy employees are up to 20% more productive than employees that are not happy at work.

Creating a positive environment can lead to higher engagement and satisfaction. Wellbeing and collaboration will also be enhanced as a result of a strong and healthy workplace culture.

In contrast, the costs and impacts of a toxic workplace culture are detrimental to the employees and organisation itself. It has substantial negative effects including reductions in wellbeing, and increased anxiety, depression and stress.

Employees working in a poor workplace culture report:

  • Higher levels of psychological strain
  • Lower wellbeing
  • Lower commitment to their organisation
  • Lower job performance (Mental Health Foundation 2019).

An unhealthy work environment can disrupt organisations through:

  • Increased absence
  • Low morale and fear
  • More mistakes and accidents
  • Loss of company reputation
  • Resignations and difficulty recruiting
  • Poor customer service and/or product quality.

How do you create a healthy workplace culture?

Understanding what influences the culture of your organisation can make a significant contribution to changing employee attitudes and behaviours. The leadership and the strategic organisational directions influence the workplace culture to a huge extent. Research by Deloitte found that 76% of these employees believed that a “clearly defined business strategy” helped create a positive culture.

It’s crucial for management to lead by example. When you make it clear through your words and actions of what is acceptable behaviour and what is not, you are setting the foundations of a strong culture that will protect your people and your business. Positive attitudes and behavior in the workplace are the direct results of effective leadership.

Further ways to lead a healthy workplace culture includes developing team agreements, implementing operational processes and systems that drive a positive workplace culture, and providing training and education to increase awareness (MBIE, 2013).

Cultural change is powerful, however it takes time and patience. Working Wise have developed a programme dedicated to leading healthy workplace cultures. We aim to engage leaders and train them on areas such as diversity and tolerance, addressing conflict in the workplace, effectively investigating reports, and interpersonal communication. Read more about it here.

For more information on leading a healthy workplace culture, contact us on 04 499 0710 or fill out our online contact form.

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