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How Can I Create a Healthy Work Environment to Return to Post Pandemic?

As many of us begin to return back to the office part-time, a question I’ve been asked many times by clients is how they can create the healthiest work environment for themselves. I believe many individuals have used this time during the pandemic to assess and focus on their mental health and are now realizing the impact their work environment has on their overall well-being. So much progress has been made this past year in highlighting areas within our world, country, and systems that need to be fixed and modified. Our work environments are something more within our control, where we spend a lot of our time, that can be a good place to start. While many of these tips are for people in a position of power or that oversee other individuals, they’re helpful for all individuals interacting with others and can help to create a more positive and supportive working environment. Discussed below are 5 building blocks of a healthy working environment.

  1. Create clear roles and boundaries

While most managers have a solid understanding of their role expectation as set by their boss, the main content of their position is to oversee a team. It’s important to have an understanding of what team members need and want from them at any given time. Having open communication can allow team members to express what they need from a manager in order to be successful in their individual roles. While a manager and their boss have the loudest say in role definitions, the group’s needs are what has the biggest impact in creating a healthy work environment.

  1. Start with trust (scary, I know)

It may seem counterintuitive but when hiring a new team member, it’s helpful to start off fully trusting them from the beginning. Our mentality is typically, each new hire has to prove themselves in order to be trusted, but according to the evidence (aka the reason you hired them in the first place) they’ve earned the right to be trusted. Starting from a place of trust catalyzes a positive chain of reciprocity. “Individuals who feel trusted by the boss will move mountains to live up to this overt sign of respect.”

  1. Define clear rules and expectations

In order to have a healthy work environment, rules/expectations for success need to be clearly outlined and stated. Most environments are lacking guiding values or expectations which leaves employees feeling lost on how to manage a situation when encountering a road block or obstacle. Engaging your team in an activity surrounding the creation of values, or rules for success can be a great, collaborative, way to set expectations that everyone agrees on and is comfortable with. Collaborative activities are a great way to empower your team.

  1. Create a clear and motivating purpose

When work gets difficult or road blocks are consistently hit, it can be disheartening and discouraging to continue to show up day after day. An effective way to combat this experience of burnout is to “help everyone around you see how their work connects to the larger goals and strategies of the organization, and reinforce the importance of their work to the larger mission.” It’s human nature to want to be a part of something bigger than ourselves. It’s beneficial to everyone involved to identify what the bigger pictures is and highlight how each individual is able to contribute to achieving it.

  1. Establish comfort with feedback

There are three directions feedback can flow, up, down and sideways. There are significant gains to be had with performance when feedback is cultivated within a team, between the members. While managers and employers are able to identify some areas of success or improvement, the team people are a part of is the most critical avenue of both support and feedback. It’s important that everyone feels relatively comfortable bringing up the issues that are standing in the way of the team’s progress and perfection. “Healthy working environments are characterized by quality feedback flowing in every direction.”

Creating a healthy work environment is incredibly hard work but very worth it. While it may not be explicitly stated in a job description, building a space where your team can feel motivated to do their best work is beneficial for you and the company.

If you’ve found yourself struggling to create a health work environment or simply functioning within the work environment, it may be useful to try counseling. Contact Symmetry Counseling at 312-578-9990 to set up an appointment with one of our very skilled therapists today!

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