positive work environment

Creating Positive Work Culture

Erich has more than 18 years experience as an award-winning digitizer, e-commerce manager, and industry educator. He empowers decorators to do their best work and achieve a greater success. A current educator and long-time columnist, Erich takes every opportunity to provide value to the industry. Find more information on Erich and his publications here.

A positive work environment has an incredible impact on motivation. Though you must certainly start with the physical basic, there's a lot more to the work environment than having nice tables and keeping the temperature managed and the machines well-serviced. Aside from of providing adequate facilities and equipment and creating ergonomic workstations wherein workflow and efficiency are ensured through the presence of comfortable work surfaces and having a complete toolkit for every task available and within reach for each employee, here are a few other factors to consider. 

Each employee needs to have certain measures of autonomy in the way they do their job, a chance at improvement and mastery of the related skills, and a sense of the purpose for their role within the larger purpose of the company to stay motivated. The work environment you create needs to foster and protect these critical points.

Ensure that employees are encouraged and rewarded for sharing ideas and reporting needs on the shop floor and that all employees share in that mission. 

Quash the 'blame game.' Though it's important to understand weaknesses in your process, the first priority should be solving immediate problems in a given order and moving forward. After the immediate problem is solved we can look for ways to make things better, but finger-pointing always makes for more friction than progress. Don't lead with blame and don't let employees play the game with each other.

Create space and time for generating new ideas, learning, and experimentation. Anyone on the floor might have the next big idea for your company or could be just the person you are looking for in a critical role. They may surprise you. Moreover, being part of new processes and innovations gives them some stake and ownership in your shop.

Cross-train your staff. Expose all departments to the workings of each other department so that every employee is aware of what each team member does and their needs. Each department will feel more understood, and each employee will have a complete picture of the process and order, and hopefully what they need to deliver down the line to make the process flow smoothly.

Always provide feedback and guidance. Nothing feels worse to most employees than thinking they are on a rudderless ship. Though they need autonomy in their work, they also need to know where they stand. Encouragement and praise is a powerful, free way to reinforce and motivate growth. Use it often.

Acknowledge and celebrate hitting goals and growth, and do so publicly. Organize a monthly meeting that focuses on progress and discusses improvements both in the former month and the future goals to help get your employees on the same page and encourage them. Pair it with a little social time and a collective meal or coffee break and get people together from all departments to increase the feeling of belonging to the greater team.

Whatever it is you choose to change within your work environment, whether it's about physical layout, employee interactions, or leadership, always think, "Does this remove friction? Does this improve satisfaction? Does this promote growth?" Put yourself in the place of the employee and see how you'd feel in their situation, and don't be afraid to ask them directly about their pain points. It's more than numbers and not always something you can quantify, but the gains you'll get with motivated employees will be immense.