How to create a good working environment – and why it’s so essential

This article was written by David Saul, managing director of the serviced office operator Business Environment. The company has been included in the Sunday Times 100 Best Small Companies to Work For list for the last five consecutive years.

Whether on a sports field or in an office, a divided team in which individuals attempt to undermine each other’s efforts will get nowhere.

On the other hand, a team of people passionate about their work, keen to support each other through difficult periods and ready to pull together, will get results.

Creating a supportive company culture enables business to recruit and retain the best staff and motivates employees to produce their best work.

While it may be easier to acknowledge the importance of a positive working environment than to create it, there are simple steps any business owner can take to improve their company culture.

A key first point is to acknowledge that most organisations occasionally require their team to go above and beyond the call of duty. Whether it’s staying late to meet a deadline or going the extra mile to ensure a project is executed to the highest quality, most people will go beyond the exact letter of their contract at various points in their career.

As an employer, it’s absolutely crucial to adequately recognise this, preferably with a special reward system for exceptional work.

It’s difficult to say whether a team that believes their hard work goes unrecognised will perform poorly, because there are plenty of people who believe in the importance of always giving their best. However, it wouldn’t be at all surprising if they started looking for a job elsewhere.

Next, there’s a company’s approach to appraisals. It’s not enough just to have these – although providing regular feedback is a step in the right direction – they have to actually be constructive.

A manager regularly reeling off suggested areas of improvement to their employees might have some benefits, but could also damage team morale. An appraisal in which a manager highlights areas where they’re particularly happy with a member of their team, outlines achievable goals and discusses how they plan to help them reach their full potential is a different matter.

Related to this, a readiness to enrol team members on training programmes or to assign employees mentors is important, helping staff to advance within their careers, as well as improve skills and knowledge for personal development.

While proper reward systems and appraisals are important, companies are increasingly seeking alternative ways to create positive working environments.

This is reflected in the methodology used to compile the Sunday Times Best Companies to Work For lists. Along with questioning employees on holiday allowance and pay, the Sunday Times also asks how proud they are to work for their company and whether they find it easy to be eco-friendly in the workplace.

This is why empowering employees to make a difference in their communities is so important – perhaps by offering them extra days’ paid leave, on top of their usual holiday allowance, to take part in charitable initiatives.

Of course, working to improve your local community and rewarding the employees that your success depends on is simply the right thing to do. However, for businesses, it really is a win-win, creating a working environment that ensures they can attract, retain and get the best out of the best staff.