If you manage a team, you probably know that encouraging people to work productively, creatively, and enthusiastically isn’t always easy. When morale dips, so can efficiency levels. And when interest on a project wanes, the results can be disappointing.

Forbes contributor, Debby Routt, explained that focusing on employee wellness can have a positive impact and help minimize these dips in productivity and efficiency. Instead of focusing on how you can spur on individuals on your team, it can be useful to shift the focus to creating a healthy, positive work environment. Gallup found that teams who are actively engaged tend to generate 21% more profitability, so prioritizing a positive work environment can really pay off.

Here are 10 ways to transform your work environment from a place where people have to work into a place where people want to work.

10 Ways to Create a Positive Work Environment

1.  Recognize Your Team’s Efforts

While it may feel a little juvenile to effectively hand out participation awards, this can actually be an incredibly beneficial tool to help recognize and acknowledge your team’s hard work. Even when projects don’t yield the results you had hoped for, rewarding employees efforts can still be a good tactic.

By rewarding or giving positive reinforcement to your employees who take that extra step or put in extra effort, you’ll help build employee engagement, loyalty and retention. Employees will begin to feel a stronger personal connection to the business and will be more likely to continue to put in 100% for every project that comes their way.

Some examples of positive reinforcement can include: 

  • “I really appreciate your hard work”
  • “We wouldn’t have been able to accomplish this task without you”
  • “I’m really impressed with how you handled this task because….” 

2.  Encourage People to be Proactive

Pro-activeness should always be encouraged if you’re hoping to create a positive, healthy environment at work. Regardless of their position or level of authority, take the time to listen to everyone’s ideas and contributions.

By encouraging this kind of proactive creativity in your workplace, you’ll find that your entire team becomes more engaged and soon, more innovative. Give your team members a proper seat at the table, you can learn something new from them – learning is a continuous journey.

3.  Lead through Empathy and Compassion, Not Fear

As the head of a team or even of an organization, people will look to you as the leader. In other words, it will be up to you to set the tone. While some leaders feel that fear is a good tactic for encouraging productivity, it turns out, fear rarely makes a lasting impact.

Fear can cause your team members to feel alienated, unhappy, and eager for a change. In most cases, workplaces that run on fear will experience much higher rates of employee turnover and much lower rates of employee engagement.

As Forbes found in a 2018 study, empathy is far more effective. In fact, 96% of team members believe showing empathy is an important way to improve employee retention. A person who leads with empathy is more likely to form long-term and lasting relationships with employees because they are understanding towards their team’s issues.

4.  Offer Non-Monetary Gifts to Recognize your Team

Studies have shown that switching up your employee recognition tactics can help to create a positive work environment for employees and boost motivation levels. Beyond offering the standard annual bonuses, try incorporating other non-monetary gifts such as a spa package, a gym membership, or additional vacation days. You can also recognize people through collaborative team building activities, off-sites, and extracurricular. Moving away from competitive work environments to workplaces that prioritize collaboration will help increase motivation, companywide success and improve communication amongst team members.

5.  Allow Flexible Work

Contemporary office culture is shifting rapidly. The days of the desk-bound, 9-to-5 are vanishing in many forward-thinking corporations in favor of more flexible systems.

The COVID-19 pandemic may have had a hand in this, forcing many employees into work from home situations which highlighted for corporations that working remotely is a viable possibility.  A FlexJobs survey in 2020 found that 95% of employees become more productive while working remotely. In another survey, FlexJobs found that 92% of employees believe that work flexibility could make them a “happier person in general” citing decreased stress levels, more time to exercise and improved overall quality of life as key benefits. 

The world is changing. If possible, offer remote options or flexible work schedules to encourage employee well-being and retention.


6.  Develop a Clear Workplace Culture

Workplace culture has become something of a business buzzword — but it can have a real, tangible impact on your employees. Workplace culture refers to the personality of your organization as a whole. If you’ve ever walked into an office that feels happy, stressed, laidback, or trendy, this is an indication of a workplace with a clear sense of culture; whether that be a negative or a positive one! 

Take steps to create a sense of culture at your workplace. Do you want the space to feel young and hip? Modern and slick? Everything from interior design to email etiquette can contribute to culture. And by creating a culture where your employees feel happy and safe, you’ll succeed in retaining and engaging these employees.

7.  Encourage Employee Learning and Growth

Most employees want more from a job than a simple paycheck — they want a career that has substance, meaning and the potential to grow. In fact, as ClearCompany found, 68% of employees claim that continuous training and skill development is an organization’s most important policy.

Prioritize seminars, onboarding, training, and growth within the company to help your employees continuously feel nurtured and stimulated in their roles.


In the above chart, 35% of HR directors believe that boredom with their current role or company leads to high turnover, while 30% feel as though stagnant career prospects are the cause. In providing employees with continuous opportunities to grow and learn new skills within their current position, you can help foster an environment where employees feel as though their career has meaning and substance. 

8.  Active Support is Vital

The last thing employees want is to feel isolated and unsupported at work. This can leave them feeling lost, confused, and stressed. In order to help employees feel confident, be sure to set aside time for one-on-one feedback sessions and check-ins.

Plus, these sessions can also help employees produce their best work. As Globoforce found, 89% of HR leaders agree that ongoing peer feedback, as opposed to traditional annual check-ins, is a key element of success. Ongoing feedback can help improve the quality of conversations amongst team members as well as employee development and performance throughout the year. 


This graph shows how employers assess the impact of learning and development (L&D) on staff in the US in 2018. 33% of respondents stated that they measure learning and development through feedback from employees and 29% of respondents stated that they measure this from feedback from line managers.

Feedback from employees is a great way to gauge how your employees are performing and improving and, in turn, can help foster better communication amongst team members. 

9.  Don’t Shy Away from Tough Conversations

While rewarding effort is crucial, it’s also important to have difficult, but honest, conversations. When things aren’t working for certain members of the team, set aside some time for an open, honest conversation. Give concrete, clear feedback and explain the areas of improvement and offer suggestions on how they can improve. Build a growth plan with them. 

While you may think that these tough conversations have the potential to create a more toxic workplace environment, they can actually have the reverse effect. As Harvard Business Review explains, approaching these difficult conversations with an open and understanding mindset rather than a combative one will, in most instances, result in both parties walking away from the conversation feeling better and more productive. The key is to not approach these conversations with the mentality that one person wins, and the other loses. Go in with a plan, and understand that both parties can benefit from having tough conversations that focus on constructive feedback.

10. Celebrate Together

Onto the fun part! Make some time for celebration, fun and team bonding. Celebrate successes, birthdays, and holidays together as a team; and it doesn’t always have to be at the office. It can do wonders for office morale to break out of the workplace routine every once in a while – try celebrating with an outdoor office picnic or BBQ at a local park when it’s safe to do so again.

If your company is currently working from home due to the COVID-19 pandemic, virtual celebrations are a great alternative! Celebrating holidays and milestones online is a great way to help boost company morale and encourage collaboration. If you’d like to take it one step further, sending care packages to employees is another wonderful way to recognize special events. It’s also a great way to help support the small businesses who create these care packages. Everyone wins! 

Summing Up

A positive work environment matters. By creating a safe, positive space for your employees, you can boost retention rates, encourage innovation, and, most important, create a company that people actually want to work for each morning they wake up.

About the Author: Diana Rocca is an expert brand strategist and founder of DREROC Marketing Strategy. Through consulting and coaching, she helps businesses build remarkable brands that customers easily say “yes” to with her proven methods. Follow her on Instagram for tips!