In 2015, Glassdoor published a survey report that explained that remuneration alone does not necessarily equal job satisfaction. The research found that many other factors actually influence how positively people feel about their jobs.
Of course, anyone in work can appreciate this: a positive work environment is the key to a fulfilling and rewarding career. Perhaps even more so than extensive pay rates and benefits!
What makes for a positive working environment though? Here are a few important characteristics to look out for in any workplace.
A helpful way to gauge a company’s culture is to see how communication is handled.
Are people afraid to talk to their supervisor? Is there a clique? Lots of office gossip? Do people just let problems build up instead of proactively talking to each other to fix it there and then? If you answered yes to one or more of these then you have found a negative working environment.
A positive work environment tends not to have any of the aforementioned communication traits. In a positive environment people will talk openly and willingly to each other, supervisors are kept in the loop, people respond reasonably to you and, ultimately, things get done a lot easier.
Shared visions and goals
This is partially relevant to the previous point about communication, but also covers a much broader area of the working environment.
Ask yourself: do employees share a vision? Is it in line with the company’s mission statement? If the answer is yes, then you have found a positive work environment.
When members of a business – from the interns, to the CEO – behave cooperatively, then they are generally happier for lack of conflict. If everyone wants the company to succeed then the business structure becomes one of mutual support.
When employees work towards a shared goal, in line with company values such as honesty or customer satisfaction, there is greater cohesion and less frustration in day-to-day tasks. This kind of structure leads to a happier, more productive workplace with a professional, relaxed and friendly atmosphere.
Another sure-fire way to see what kind of work environment you are currently in (or entering) is to see how the weakest links in the corporate chain are treated.
If co-workers or the supervisors look down on the lower paid or unskilled staff then, unfortunately, you’re entering a toxic work environment. If people exclude a disabled employee, or make flippant and rude remarks behind the backs of the interns, or cleaners are treated rudely and HR does nothing about it, then it might just be time to re-start your job search.
Many an article has outlined the principle in more detail, but as a quick summary: the strongest businesses and most positive workplaces tend to appreciate, rather than devalue, what everyone brings to the table.
They are grateful for their cleaners, they value their student interns and they don’t discriminate against people for being different. In these businesses, as long as an employee works co-operatively with the company, they are made welcome.
Employers respect what people can do whilst still accepting that some workers are more capable than others since everyone has different responsibilities and skill sets. They value all contributions and recognise exceptional talent without ever devolving into the petty insults and unfettered elitism that has poisoned many workplace environments.
Functional and pleasant surroundings
This is a very literal thing to consider but the actual physical workspace is the key to a good working environment. A good working environment is usually practical, safe and pleasant.
Safety is perhaps the most pressing thing to watch out for. A company that cares about its employees’ safety and takes the necessary precautions is a good company to work for. If you also have everything you need to do your job there too, then your workday will be a lot less frustrating!
This kind of security is invaluable. The benefits of this practical and safe work environment will shine through in your mood at work.
Regarding a pleasant environment, decorative plants in offices could be the key as numerous reports suggest they boost employee morale and productivity. If your place of work is spartan in aesthetic, it might be time to invest in a desk plant to counteract this.
Flexibility and adaptability
The final characteristic to note is the flexibility and adaptability of company culture. Both are somewhat related. A positive work environment is relaxed, professional and productive; an essential part of maintaining this environment is flexibility.
If a team-member is ill, a positive work environment adapts around this obstacle and can keep working with good morale. A negative work environment can often utterly fall apart as a result of remaining rigid in the face of obstacles such as an ill employee or a lost email.
To quote Lao Tzu: “A tree that is unbending is easily broken.”
Employees in a positive work environment are aware of this adaptability, too. They never feel trapped or stuck. They work together to move around obstacles and adapt to new challenges as a matter of course and everyone involved is much more secure and happy for it.
The ideal workplace would have all of these characteristics. In reality, most workplaces have only a few. Some particularly challenging environments will have none of them.
The best thing to be aware of as a job hunter, employee or manager is what characteristics make a fulfilling work environment. From there, you can judge the suitability of your own work environments; whether they are palatable for you or if you need to improve them by promoting a more positive corporate culture.
About the author: James Thorp is a graduand at the University of Birmingham. Having studied English with Creative Writing, he now plans on moving on towards an MA in Creative Writing before moving on to copywriting, higher education or Charity work. In his spare time he curates his own blog: www.wanderinglikewater.wordpress.com, writes poetry, maintains a garden diligently and can be found on LinkedIn.