How to create a positive work environment

A positive work environment can improve performance and drive success

WeWork Met Park East in Seattle. Photograph by WeWork

No matter the size of your business, you shouldn’t underestimate how important it is to develop a healthy work culture that can foster productivity for your employees. Creating a positive work environment can help employees improve performance and drive your business to succeed. 

A supportive culture helps employees and employers alike. If you view a positive work culture as an optional benefit, consider some of its advantages below. Learn how to create a good working environment, and see how some companies are already putting these tips into action.

Sense of belonging

One of the most valuable empowerment tools you can give your employees is to make them feel like they belong. After all, when you want your company to be the best in its field, you want it to be more than a place where your employees spend a few hours each day. You want your company to help employees shape their identities and feel respected. Creating a positive work environment that encourages employees to forge connections and give their all enables a sense of belonging.

Improved productivity

Employees who feel valued at work and happy in their careers are more productive than those who never quite hit their stride. In fact, workers who consider themselves happy are 12 percent more productive than the average employee. As a study by the Department of Economics at the University of Warwick found, unhappy employees are 10 percent less productive than other employees. Creating a positive workplace culture can mean a significant difference in productivity for your company.

Better employee retention

Workers who feel respected also tend to stay with their employers for longer periods of time. If you run a small business and you can’t afford much employee turnover, then retaining the talent you have is essential. After all, replacing an employee can cost thousands of dollars and several weeks of company time. In addition to offering competitive salaries and benefits and providing your employees with challenging and rewarding opportunities, encourage loyalty by ensuring that they’re part of a forward-thinking work environment, too.

Five tips for encouraging a positive work environment

Whether you’re launching a new business or you need to fix your company’s current work environment, you can take steps to encourage positivity. Follow the tips below for creating a supportive workplace culture.

1. Establish a positive mission statement

For many companies, it all starts with a positive vision expressed in your mission statement. While some businesses use their mission statements to explain their purposes and objectives in a relatively simple and uninspiring way, you can do much more with yours.

Turn your company’s mission statement into a forward-thinking expression of where you see your company going. Mention how your valued employees will contribute to your overall success.

Don’t make it only about your business, though. Discuss how you’ll strive to do your part to improve the world. This mindset will help you build a positive work environment from the ground up.

2. Create opportunities for employees to advance

Few career-minded professionals want to stay in the same position forever, especially if they have ample talent to contribute. If motivated employees get the sense that they’re in a dead-end job, they’re bound to feel stuck and get frustrated, leading to unhappiness and lower productivity.

In contrast, creating opportunities for employees to advance tends to encourage positivity, leading to less turnover and better productivity. While an internal promotion is the best example of employee advancement, a promotion isn’t the only way to spread positivity. You should also consider offering advanced training, funding continued education, launching networking opportunities, or starting a mentorship program. All of these methods can promote forward movement while rewarding valued employees.

3. Give feedback

If you offer employees feedback only during their annual reviews, you’re missing countless chances to improve performance, encourage growth, and build a positive work environment. Instead of keeping feedback to yourself, encourage managers to give feedback regularly, especially when it’s relevant to a current issue. While negative feedback is inevitable from time to time, try to focus on overall improvement and strides forward.

Along the same lines, remember that employees love getting recognition for their successes, but they don’t always need elaborate rewards. Instead of giving away prizes for jobs well done, take the time to offer thoughtful, positive feedback and recognize your employees publicly.

4. Keep your office door open

If you’ve ever worked for a company where the boss was mostly invisible and remained behind closed doors for much of the workday, you know that feeling isolated can be frustrating for employees. As more and more millennials enter the workplace, they increasingly value transparency. While they might not expect face-to-face meetings with the CEO, they want open lines of communication with decision makers.

You can inspire transparency and communication by establishing an open-door policy for people throughout your corporate hierarchy. Taking this approach can also help build trust and strengthen the positive work environment you’re striving for.

5. Set up healthy workspaces

When you want your employees to feel good and put in their best performances, you’ll need to do more than create positive vibes. You’ll also need to make sure they feel healthy.

In the workplace, you can meet this goal by setting up healthy workspaces. This effort can include everything from allowing employees to select furniture and equipment that works best for them to maintaining a comfortable temperature and using warm lighting. While you should make sure that your employees have their own personal spaces to work, you can also leave some space flexible so that employees can collaborate and let their creativity flow.

Examples of companies creating a positive work environment for employees

From tech companies to health care providers and supermarkets, several U.S-based businesses set admirable examples for creating positive work environments. Find out which companies have the best work culture and what steps they’ve taken to do so.

Kaiser Permanente

Kaiser Permanente, the Oakland, California–based health care provider, shapes its positive work culture around healthy choices. The company offers popular programs such as Go KP, which encourages employees to take part in fitness challenges and track their own personal wellness.

Kaiser Permanente also has on-site dining facilities with plenty of healthy and locally produced items. Employees can get reimbursed for biking to work, which encourages a positive culture through good health and sustainability.


Google has long led the way to offering millennial-approved perks such as gourmet cafeterias, a fitness center, and on-site laundry services. However, the company does much more to encourage a positive work culture. Google offers a generous parental leave policy to help employees create a healthy work-life balance, and the company also leads workshops and meetings to build a workplace that’s safe and inclusive for everyone. As a result, nearly 100 percent of employees think Google offers great challenges, rewards, and workplace atmosphere.

Wegmans Food Markets

Rochester, New York–based Wegmans Food Markets might be smaller than Google, but this century-old company has long made headlines for its positive work culture. In fact, the company’s culture is so welcoming that, as Fortune reports, many employees feel like family.

Wegmans offers plenty of big benefits, such as flexible schedules and many opportunities to advance in the company. But this supermarket chain also offers small touches to make employees feel like they’re part of the team, such as birthday cakes every year. In addition, nearly all employees appreciate the health of the facilities where they work and the exciting challenges they face on the job.

Edward Jones

For employee advancement and development, Edward Jones sets the bar high. This St. Louis, Missouri–based financial services company provides its full-time staff members with more than 100 hours of training every year, which helps employees continually move their careers forward.

In addition, Fortune reports that Edward Jones hires more than one-third of its positions internally, which means there’s plenty of room for advancement. Thousands of Edward Jones employees have worked for this company and its positive work environment for more than 20 years.

Whether you’re managing a medium-sized company or you’re launching a small startup, you can lead your employees toward creating a positive work environment. Follow the tips above and get inspired by these forward-thinking companies.

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