A workplace culture is the shared values, beliefs, and attitudes people within a workplace foster and share with each other.
NZDF has an important responsibility to ensure our people are treated fairly, feel comfortable and safe to have their own individual identity within the workplace, and feel fully equipped to carry out their role, so our people can thrive within the organisation.
What does it mean to have a positive workplace culture?
The overall workplace culture or atmosphere we work within has flow-on effects to the way we interact with others, how we behave, and how productive and engaged we are with our work.
The World Health Organisation defines a positive workplace culture as ‘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.’
Here are some features of what makes up a positive workplace environment:
We have a clear understanding of our job scope and responsibilities.
We treat people with dignity and we show respect for employees, employers and fellow co-workers.
As a values-led organisation we have clear expectations that our personnel will not engage in behaviours such as harassment, bullying, discrimination or bias against gender, sexual orientation, ethnicity, culture or religious background.
There is two-way communication between our manager(s) and their employees.
Personnel are comfortable and supported by their managers to express concerns without fear of reprimand.
We provide support to enable a work-life balance.
Wellbeing of employees is put at the forefront of workplace decisions.
The workplace values diversity and inclusion.
Leaders ‘walk the talk’ and reflect the values our organiation promotes.
Why work culture is important
The importance of building trust in the workplace.
>> ANNA: So when you say the word culture, what do you mean when you say culture?
>> ANNA: One of the first things that comes to mind is an environment where there is deep
trust and one of the elements of creating trust is is vulnerability
and creating it about an environment where vulnerability is not just a dirty word, but
something that team members embrace.
Having a vulnerable workplace is actually one where people trust each other wholeheartedly
and with that trust you can do bigger work.
So one of the people who I think we both consider a work hero is Dr. Brené Brown.
And one of her quotes that just rings in my ear is that
"you can choose courage or you can choose comfort, but you can't have both"
and so what kind of an environment do you want to create?
>> ANNA: Healthy environments are ones where people feel connected to themselves, they
feel connected to their team members and they feel connected to their end user.
And creating an environment where a deep connection can happen in all three of those areas is
one where innovation thrives
and as you scale you're able to bring people in in a way that feels really healthy and
then they're able to connect in to your mission and your user and one another.
>> ANNA: When you look at an organization, an organization has its set of beliefs and
And so part of creating a healthy environment is taking the time to reflect on what the
organization beliefs are.
And then mapping that to "is that what we want? Is that really what we believe are those
And if they're not then how do we move toward the values that we want from where we are?
And then on the back end to actually have measurement in place to see if this is where
we want to go then are we getting there?
You know just a gut feel isn't enough. It's important to actually track it and then course-correct
if you're not hitting the mark then we need to do something differently.
Just like anything that matters it requires attention.
And you can choose how you want to pay attention to something like your culture.
There are lots of different approaches as long as you're paying attention to it and
you're being intentional about creating something that you want then you're on the right track.
It's the problem comes when you're not paying attention and it is evolving in a way that
can down the road cause problems.
Why is it important?
One of the strongest predictors of happiness is our social connections with others. Research has shown happy employees are up to 20% more productive than those who are unhappy in the workplace, and it all starts with fostering positive working relationships and environments.
A positive workplace culture has the power to improve how well we work together as a team, it raises morale and enables a more productive and efficient working environment. It also leads to significantly higher job satisfaction for employees, an increase in worker retention, and higher levels of resilience where our people are better equipped to bounce back from adversity.
Having a working environment which creates and nourishes positive connections results in motivated employees with a desire to improve the organisation.
In comparison, when an organisation has a toxic workplace culture this can have significant negative impacts on employees' wellbeing and on the organisation itself.
Wellbeing in the workplace
There has been an increase in things like anxiety and depression.
You don't have the capacity to do the work that you do, makes people incredibly anxious
and this then has flow-on effects both to their productivity,
but also to their broader mental health.
People are investing more time, money and energy
into themselves because they're realising that the pace that they've
been operating in is not sustainable.
Depression is due to overtake heart disease as the most as a common health issue
by next year, and that's the World Health Organization's data.
We may be richer as a planet but we're not happier.
We've been reaching out to a lot of businesses and talking about
corporate wellness, and there's much more interest in it, I think, from higher up in
small to medium sized businesses that we've approached, to see
what do they do to look after their team, as an experience as an employee, an experience
being self-employed, and now as an employer. I think for businesses your
staff or your best assets and so if you can look after the people who work for you,
your business will thrive.
Our mental health is a thing, just like our physical fitness is a thing.
If we practice it, if we do certain things on a regular basis
then we'll get stronger in our minds as well as our bodies.
And again we tend to do those things more if we are
encouraged to do them by others, so if a workplace for example or a school
develops a culture of promoting well-being and promoting positive mental health,
then people are going to be influenced by their peers and
be encouraged to participate.
If there is true interest from higher up
and encouragement for employees from their employers, like if they feel
like their employers have buy-in, that they actually do want them to be well
rather than the Health and Wellness Committee ticking a box to say "oh yeah we
look after your mental health and here are the reasons you know why and
how we do it", versus an HR team or owners or directors that are actually
passionate and authentic around wanting to look after their staff, like there is
a difference, and I think employees feel that.
If you want to recruit the best staff, then having employee assistance programs or positive wellness
things in place is, going to make you an attractive employer. So I think that there are both,
it's the right thing to do - it actually makes sense to the bottom line,
and it has long lasting consequences that potentially protect the future security
of your companies.
Encourage people to get out and be active and again talk
about how does this make us feel not just the fitness side of it,
so build positive mental health and well-being into the sort of the day-to-day language
of the workplace.
For some people it's religion, other people it's nature,
other people it's meditation, like being able to look at a human being from a holistic
perspective and what their needs are, that to me what wellness is, is looking
at the whole picture and not just picking one or two things.
I think if I ran the world, I would have businesses take this very seriously, have a look at their
health and safety policies, explicitly integrate mental health into that,
so that it's both overtly acknowledged that this is something that's important,
but also that then leads on to having processes around managing it.
And as I say, at the end of the day that helps the business' bottom line,
not just the employees' well-being
The impact of negative workplace culture on employees
Increased feelings of anxiousness and worry
Poorer sleeping habits
Burnout or fatigue
Lower productivity and overall work performance
Higher levels of psychological distress and lower overall wellbeing
The impact of negative workplace culture on the organisation
Higher absence rates
Higher number of employees overworking or staying past their regular number of hours
Increase in staff turnover
Higher rates of work mistakes, accidents and injuries
What can we do to encourage a positive workplace culture?
One of the easiest things we can do to ensure we're creating a positive workplace culture for our people, is to lead by example. When we make an active effort to ensure our words and actions reflect the working environment we would want for ourselves, it creates a strong foundation which empowers others to reflect and do the same. Work with leaders and other managers to identify positive behaviours, and encourage others to model these.
Build trust and respect with the people you work with. It’s important for us to feel like our ideas are being valued and heard by others. We all think differently and we might not always agree, but diversity and sharing of ideas are what creates change and allows us to move forward and develop as an organisation.
Positive workplace cultures are ones which are inclusive. It’s important for us to actively include others on decisions and work together. Encourage skill sharing, team building, giving and receiving constructive feedback, coaching and communication. When we encourage inclusiveness, we also encourage those around us to feel comfortable to speak up if they feel workplace practices are no longer positive.