Lindsey Wilcox
Written by
Lindsey Wilcox

Most team members spend a considerable amount of time in the office. Those hours can increase for small businesses, where employees will often cover more ground to help the business succeed. However, it’s not always easy to spend so much time at work with different personalities and stress factors. As a business owner and manager, there’s one clear way to set up your business for success: creating a positive and safe work environment.

Working in a positive and safe work environment has a great impact on your employees and co-workers. According to a Deloitte study, 94% of executives and 88% of employees believe a positive corporate culture is key to a company’s success. In fact, unhappy employees cost U.S. businesses up to $550 billion annually.

Setting your team up for success helps them have a better outlook on their career, improves their wellbeing, and leaves them feeling like valued members of the team. It all comes down to the physical, emotional, and intellectual ways you support them.

How do you create the type of work environment where employees look forward to coming to work? With some effort and support from your co-workers and team, you can create a safe space that allows everyone to thrive. Here are some of the best ways to create a positive and safe work environment for your employees.

1. Prioritize onboarding and training new team members

When an employee first joins a company, they should feel supported, uplifted, and informed. Building high-performing teams and throwing them into a sink-or-swim environment doesn’t quite work anymore, especially if a positive work environment is your end goal.

According to a BambooHR survey, ineffective onboarding was the primary reason why 17% of new hires quit in the first three months on the job. Management and onboarding is key to retaining top talent.

Ensure your onboarding is complete and includes all types of training for team members, from sexual harassment training to OSHA compliance training. Without comprehensive training in all facets of the company, new employees might be unclear on certain rules, which can lead to an unsafe environment.

Of course, it’s not always possible for companies to dedicate weeks to comprehensive onboarding. But most employees should feel supported during their first two to three weeks on their jobs with planned meetings, training sessions, and team-building opportunities. Try scheduling some of the following meetings:

  • Shadowing different co-workers within their own department and other relevant departments.
  • Listen in on various meetings.
  • Schedule a time to go through company files and documents about different company processes.
  • Set aside time for workplace safety training, codes of conduct, and company values to help them understand how the company functions.

2. Make space for open (and uncomfortable) discussions

Many managers focus on setting their employees up for short-term success. But long-term success involves making space for hope and honest (and sometimes uncomfortable) discussions. Workplaces should be the perfect places to have open discussions, as they can be a great way to brainstorm and generate new ideas.

Employees thrive when a company becomes a true learning organization with open discussions about all types of topics. Knowledge sharing is key to long-term productivity. To make a safe space, make sure to develop a system where everyone gets an opportunity to voice their opinions and thoughts.

Company culture should create a way for employees to bring up all different types of topics, from difficult discussions to talks about projects. Team members need to have a way to remain anonymous if they need to report concerns. A whistleblowing system ensures people have a secure channel to report any concerns—and have those discussions. 

3. Spend time together outside of the office

Your employees are real people—not working machines. That’s why it is so important to take the time to do non-work activities together. This time together can help rejuvenate the team and give them a way to get to know each other as humans instead of job titles.

More and more companies are switching to a more flexible working future, with some employees opting to switch to a hybrid working schedule. Spending time bonding outside of working hours becomes even more crucial when you are managing hybrid and flexible teams. If your team feels relaxed, comfortable, and familiar with each other, you will create a more positive environment for the team.

4. Set team goalsand celebrate wins!

A positive work environment starts with a collaborative foundation. One way to make employees feel safe, happy, and valued is to set up goals in the workplace—and celebrate once those goals have been met. Have teams work together to pick their own goals, and set up a peer reinforcement plan with learning and feedback options to keep the team on track.

Celebrating when each goal is met is an important part of the process, too. A team that celebrates together will realize that their success is the result of everyone’s joint efforts. It’s important to celebrate wins in the workplace, no matter how big or how small, so employees feel welcomed and appreciated.

Celebrating victories won’t only ensure that your employees feel appreciated—it will also help them see the impact they have on the organization or company. In return, the team will feel much more invested in their goals. It’s a win-win! Try letting the team decide how they will celebrate their win, whether it’s an ice cream outing or a team lunch.

5. Create a comfortable work environment and company culture 

A workplace should help employees feel empowered, both physically and emotionally. Employees should feel that their employers are concerned with their work environment. Leaders need to focus on using their soft skills to implement a positive company culture centered around comfort and inclusion.

When it comes to the physical elements of the office, it’s crucial to design a space best suited to a workers’ cognitive and physical needs. That means adjustable standing desks, well-positioned computer screens, high quality, adjustable office chairs, and more. These tools can help alleviate pain, of course, but they also have an impact on employee wellbeing.

In addition, comfortable working spaces can help employees get their job done better—because they are focused and more comfortable. Employees can’t do their best work in a space they find distracting and disruptive.

It’s not just about the physical office, though. Company culture plays a big role. Workplace culture has a big impact on employee comfort. Make sure employees understand company values, company character, and brand. Comfort comes from alignment. Values may differ from company to company, but when employees understand a company’s goals, it defines a clear direction and promotes unity.

6. Trust your employees

It can be difficult to trust your employees, but it is critical to promoting a positive and safe work environment. Think about it this way: your team is made up of adults who are competent and take responsibility for their actions, at work and outside of work.

Your team doesn’t need to be treated like children. At the end of the day, people will act the way they are treated. So treating your team like adults is only to your benefit.

How does that play out? Try these tips to trust your team:

  • Delegate your projects and let go—let your employees handle them.
  • Ask team members to make decisions for their own projects without needing your approval.
  • Ask team members to suggest when (or if!) meetings should happen so it fits their schedule.
  • Assume your employees want the best for your company and the projects they work on.
  • Invite discussions about issues within the company and take their advice. 

7. Encourage collaboration as often as possible

As a manager, it’s important to ensure that new hires don’t feel left out or confused.

You will not always be there to facilitate a healthy and thriving team atmosphere. In fact, you will have days off and days sick. That’s why it’s important to set up a culture of efficient and effective communication. You want your team members to collaborate as often as possible—without wondering what might happen.

How can you make that happen? Try these tips:

  • Implement channels for communication—using new sections for new projects can help facilitate collaboration.
  • Make sure everyone is included on relevant and appropriate email threads.
  • Use simple and straightforward communication as a bedrock for your team. 
  • Make sure new hires are included in relevant meetings, calls, and discussions.
  • Set up a buddy system when a new hire starts, so they have someone to collaborate with.
  • Make a public space for team priorities and goals.

Collaboration leads to a positive and safe space

Creating a safe space with high-performance teams depends on the company culture and atmosphere you cultivate, the physical environment in the office, and relationships between co-workers.

If you plan to attract and retain top talent, you can’t just lock them up and expect them to work. You need to build a safe and positive space filled with rewarding and fulfilling work.

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