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Promoting a tonic culture: How to improve workforce happiness

Colette Wade

Vice President of Marketing, Cornerstone OnDemand

It’s Mental Health Awareness Week in the UK, and with approximately one in four people experiencing a mental health problem each year, the promotion of improving your mental health has never been more important. Not only do people struggle with mental health in their personal life but work-related stress and depression has recently been called a “growing epidemic”. It is therefore time for organisations to act and improve their cultures to encourage a healthy and happy workforce.

Yesterday, we were fortunate enough to have Liggy Webb, CEO of The Learning Architect, host a Cornerstone webinar on eliminating a toxic culture and the ways in which companies can encourage a healthy workplace. Her advice resonated with me, and so I thought I would build on her points and share some advice on how organisations can promote this notion of a tonic culture. But first, what is a toxic culture?

Toxic company cultures are costing the UK economy £23.6bn per year and if we want to mitigate their impact, we need to know what makes a culture toxic before trying to fix it. Micromanagement, overworking and a lack of innovation are all key features that you will find in a toxic culture. Unrealistic demands that lead to burnout and employees feeling under appreciated will all impact morale, relationships, employee turnover and ultimately, business success.

So, now we know a few of the toxic culture warning signs, how can organisations promote a healthier workplace and improve workforce happiness? Here are five tips if you’re struggling with a toxic culture:

1. Communicate clearly — As George Harrison once said, “gossip is the devil’s radio”, and this rings true when talking about clear and consistent company communications. If there are gaps in communication within your organisation, employees will talk to each other, often expressing feeling of concern or worry — letting their imaginations go wild. Leadership needs to listen to their employees and communicate from the top down. This will reassure and eliminate any niggling doubts which in turn, has a big impact on emotional wellbeing and mental health.

2. Be authentic — Be honest with your employees. Have honest conversations and set a good example. If your organisational values don’t translate into the behaviours within your organisation, then you can create an air of mistrust. See yourself as a role model and be authentic with your employees, this will add value and build confidence amongst your workforce.

3. Collaboration is key — Although flexible working initiatives are important to offer and are often a benefit to many employees, flexible working can contribute to loneliness. Consider how your employees are feeling in a remote working environment. Are you involving them enough? If not, create opportunities for them to collaborate. Encourage video conferencing and use workplace tools such as Slack or Skype for Business to motivate your employees.

4. Prioritise wellbeing — We all have a personal responsibility to take care of our health, but organisations can also contribute. When we think of wellbeing we tend to think of mental and physical health, but it also covers environmental and spiritual health. As Liggy mentioned in her blog on stress awareness, stress burnout is the 21st-century health epidemic. Organisations can support their employees by helping them manage stress, whether that’s allowing more breaks during the day, hosting yoga or mindfulness sessions or giving your employees the option of flexible working. By prioritising wellbeing, you and your employees will see an improvement in productivity and happiness across the organisation.

5. Celebrate success — We’re living in a world where everything is go, go, go, but sometimes you need to take a step back and celebrate your achievements. Organisations that demonstrate gratitude and go the extra mile for their employees will be rewarded with a positive workforce that is full of energy and passion. Congratulate your employees when they’ve achieved their goals and take the time to say thank you, it will go a long way.

If you feel as though your organisation has elements of a toxic culture, think about implementing some of these strategies and start building a tonic culture.

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