Improve Your Working Environment

Work doesn’t have to feel like work—it can be joyful and productive! Your managing style has a huge impact on the workplace culture and your employees’ satisfaction, so be respectful and compassionate in how you manage others and approach tricky interpersonal issues. After all, improving your work environment can even boost employee productivity and performance. Just keep the end goal in mind: you want to create a positive, pleasant, and trusting environment where everyone can feel cheerful, respected, and worthy.


Creating a Workplace Community

  1. Plan regular social events for your employees so they can bond. Monthly or weekly outings will give your employees a much-needed break and allow them to get to know each other outside of work. Bowling, hiking, painting classes, cooking classes, escape rooms, and dinners are all fun ideas.[1]
    • Ask your employees what kinds of things they like to do outside of work to plan events they’ll enjoy.[2]
  2. Hold a weekly employee lunch once or twice a month. Sharing a meal is a great bonding experience, especially if you have lots of new employees that haven't opened up to the group yet.[3] If possible, take all of your employees out to lunch at least once a month or bring a buffet-style meal into the office.[4]
    • Encourage employees to share a little about themselves while they eat (e.g., their passions outside of work, their favorite films, their favorite childhood memory, their aspirations).
  3. Play games with your employees to boost energy and fun. Quick trivia games, treasure hunts, and card games can reduce stress and amp up the energy in the room. It'll also let your employees see a more playful side of their coworkers.[5]
    • Consider playing games like charades or buzzword so they can share some high energy and laughs.
    • Two truths and a lie is a great icebreaker game that will let your employees learn more about each other.
  4. Pair new employees with old ones for a positive onboarding experience. Having a workplace buddy for newcomers can help them get to know the workplace culture faster. It will also give them someone to talk to if they have any questions or concerns. Pair a newcomer with someone who shares similar interests so both employees will feel more comfortable.[6]
    • A buddy system will give your new employee a good onboarding experience, making it more likely that they’ll be happy with the position.
  5. Group people together according to their interests and personalities. If you’re assigning group projects, group your employees with people you know they like and work well with. Consider working styles, interests, and personality types to ensure effective teamwork.[7]
    • For instance, putting 2 “type-A” perfectionists together can be tricky because they may waste time and energy battling for control over the project.

Promoting Effective Communication

  1. Practice active listening to foster respect among employees. Give the person you’re speaking to your undivided attention by looking them in the eyes, facing them directly, and putting away distractions. Listen to every word they say and don’t try to formulate a response as you’re listening.[8]
    • Nod occasionally and use small confirming phrases like “uh-huh,” “I see,” or “right,” to show that you’re present and listening.
    • Make sure you’re not just recognizing the same 2 or 3 people every week.
  2. Hold regular training sessions so your employees don't feel stagnant. Giving your team opportunities to learn new skills and advance will show them that you value their work and believe in their ability to grow. Consider your employees’ career goals when you come up with opportunities to learn new skills or advance in the workplace.[9]
    • For instance, if you're the manager at an advertising agency, hold a training session about effective public speaking so your employees can learn to make better pitches to clients.
    • As another example, if you're the director at a public school, bring in a child psychologist to teach your teachers conscious and compassionate discipline skills.
  3. Foster healthy competition among groups of employees and offer prizes. A little healthy competition can be good for productivity—just make sure to group employees into teams to increase your employees' communication skills and bonding. It’s especially effective to reward the winning team with gift cards, movie tickets, or other prizes.[10]
    • Consider personality types when you’re grouping people to prevent unnecessary conflict.
  4. Encourage informal meetings between your employees. Aside from weekly meetings, allow your employees to congregate and brainstorm about whatever projects they’re working on to allow them the time and space to get feedback and work together. This might look like having a special, more relaxed meeting room for impromptu open-table discussions.[11]
    • Weekly meetings can be fruitful but may eat up more time than they're worth, so give your employees time and space to gather and bounce ideas aside from the weekly regimen.
    • Be flexible and allow employees to host the weekly meeting on a rotating basis. This will change-up the format to prevent boredom and allow people to address particular topics they feel strongly about.
  5. Use online communication platforms effectively. Giving your employees the tools they need to touch base with each other whenever they need to will allow group projects to get done with as little stress or wasted time as possible. For instance, use an online communication platform so employees can video chat or message each other without having to leave their desks.[12]
    • Slack is an easy-to-use platform to converse, share files, and host group chats.
    • Use Redbooth or Basecamp to communicate, assign tasks, and track progress.
    • Try Microsoft Lync if you want your employees to be able to message and video chat with each other.

Managing a Team Effectively

  1. Hire team players and don't be afraid to let go of those that aren't. Employees are the heart and fuel of any company and need to work harmoniously for positive results. Look for team-player behaviors and note any employees that don't share these traits and be willing to let them go for the sake of the team. Team-players exhibit the following traits:[13]
    • They're reliable, meet deadlines, develop positive working relationships with colleagues, and you can count on them to do quality work.
    • They have great communication skills and respect the views of others.
    • They take creative risks and go above and beyond, often taking on extra responsibilities.
    • They're adaptable and don't complain or get stressed out about change.
    • They're committed and express passion in their work and inspire other team members to do the same.
  2. Set realistic and clear deadlines. Be clear about what you expect to have done and when you expect to have it done. Clarifying expectations will help your employees manage their time efficiently and prevent any anxiety from dodgy deadlines or unclear objectives. Be realistic about the workload and the timing to avoid the stress of taking on what your employee might deem to be a Sisyphean task.[14]
    • For instance, instead of saying: “I need to see a completed proposal ASAP,” you might say, “I’d like to see a rough proposal by this afternoon so the team can mark it up with notes and you can have it finished by lunch tomorrow.”
  3. Get to know your employees to build trust and respect. Take time to sit down with them and ask about their family, hobbies, favorite foods, and background. This will show that you care and respect them as a person, not just an employee.[15]
    • Dedicate 20 minutes a week to chat with an employee over coffee or tea.
    • Encourage your employees to get to know each other as well by blocking out weekly 15-minute chat-breaks and assigning group projects.[16]
    • Do bonding exercise like having everyone share their passions aloud during staff meetings.
    • Encourage your employees to bring in photos of their families and pets.
  4. Use positive reinforcement to increase productivity and boost spirits. If you work above or alongside employees, praising them for their work regularly will boost their mood and motivation. Positive reinforcement can be anything from recognizing hard work in front of everyone to giving away prizes.[17]
    • Check in with employees about how they feel about public praising because some people may prefer to not be put in the spotlight.
  5. Offer snacks and refreshments to your employees if possible. Giving employees something to munch on during short breaks will allow them to feel refreshed and energized. It will promote a more collegial environment.[18] If your budget allows, keep the kitchen or rec room stocked with coffee, tea, nuts, fruit, fresh vegetables, or snack trays to replenish their minds and bodies.[19]
    • Consider bringing in breakfast tacos for a monthly employee breakfast.
    • If you have the funds to offer complimentary beer and wine in the workplace, consider your employees' needs first (i.e., if someone has shared they have issues with addiction) and how alcohol might affect their health, focus, and quality of work.
  6. Increase the number of casual dress days or plan costume days. Employees will appreciate the chance to wear comfy sweatpants to work and, according to some studies, casual dress days can increase productivity and workplace satisfaction. If casual Fridays are already in place, add funky dress-up days according to cultural events or make it random.[20]
    • “Crazy Hair Day” or “Wacky Wednesdays” are fun options to boost morale in the middle of the workweek.
    • Tailor themed dress-up days to the type of work you do. For instance, if you work for a nonprofit that provides art and music lessons for children, you might have a day where everyone dresses up as their favorite artist or musician.
    • If important sports games or other events are coming up, encourage your employees to wear their team jersey or dress up as an important public figure.
    • Leave it up to your employees to come up with their own outfits and offer prizes for the top 3 costumes.

Addressing Problems in the Workplace

  1. Include a clear code of conduct in the employee handbook. A clear code of conduct is crucial to let your employees know what types of behaviors will and will not be tolerated at work. State the disciplinary actions that may result from harassment, discrimination, or substance abuse in the workplace. Provide examples so everyone is clear about constitutes harassing or discriminatory behavior.[21]
    • For instance, making racial jokes or displaying intolerance toward religious traditions might result in temporary suspension or sensitivity training.
    • The employee handbook should also include the company’s values, communication policies, workplace culture, compensation, performance reviews, employee benefits, and policies about quitting or termination.
  2. Talk openly and respectfully about interpersonal disputes. If you are managing conflict between employees, talk to each person separately. Listen to their grievances and develop a plan to resolve the conflict so each party feels heard and respected. If you're in a dispute with a coworker, talk with them openly and respectfully to find a solution that works for both of you.[22]
    • Understand that settling conflict may involve some compromises.
    • Listen to each person's grievances and don't take sides.
    • Focus on behaviors instead of personalities (i.e., reframe “Janet is selfish” to “Janet was behaving selfishly”).
  3. Teach not-so-stellar employees how to improve. If an employee isn't doing their best work or is creating drama in the workplace, give them a chance to improve and correct their actions rather than punishing them outright. Let them know exactly what they can improve on and, if necessary, teach them skills so they can do better.[23]
    • For instance, if you notice an employee dominates group discussions and interrupts others, pull them aside after the meeting and say something like, "I appreciate how passionate you are to share your opinions, but interrupting and talking over others isn’t constructive. Please try to take a step back so everyone gets a chance to share."
    • If the behavior doesn't improve, write them a formal letter about what exactly they need to improve and what might happen if they don’t show signs of improvement.
    • However, when it comes to theft, physical violence, harassment, or other misconduct, it is appropriate to fire them immediately.
  4. Stick to a policy when employees call in sick. If an employee calls in sick, feel free to ask why and then make a note of it. If your employee is sick for more than 3 consecutive days, require that they provide a doctor's release.[24]
    • Don't guilt an employee if they call in sick—they shouldn't bring the cold or flu into the workplace!
    • Make sure to include rules about absenteeism in the employee handbook if you provide one.
  5. Treat mental health issues with compassion and diligence. If an employee or coworker has shared that they suffer from a mental illness, offer tools to support them. This can look like providing self-assessments for mental health, hosting workshops to promote the management of stress and depression, and offering free or subsidized counseling.[25]
    • Don't be pushy or try to play doctor—it's not appropriate and will likely cause them to push you away.

Changing the Physical Space

  1. Increase the amount of natural light to boost energy and mood. Open a window or situate your office in a way that increases the amount of natural light. If the windows don't offer much natural light, use blue-enriched light bulbs.[26]
    • For instance, if a bookshelf or desk is blocking a window, move it to a sidewall.
    • Remove any blinds, if possible, or pull them open.
    • Avoid fluorescent or yellow-hued lights because these can promote a sense of fatigue and dreariness.
  2. Use air purifiers for better air quality and more focus. Stale air can be a productivity-killer and induce feelings of stagnancy and depression. Invest in a quality air purifier with a HEPA filter to decrease the number of allergens and, in turn, boost energy and focus.[27]
    • Keep air vents open and make sure no furniture is blocking them.
    • Check the humidity every month, especially during the winter and summer months (45% is ideal).
    • Replace air filters every 2 to 3 months.
    • Have the air ducts cleaned every 2 to 5 years—if you see any dark residue collecting near the vents, it's time for a cleaning.
  3. Decorate the space with cool colors to increase energy and productivity. Drab or colorless walls can look (and feel) downright depressing. Blue, purple, and green hues are best used in places intended for creative thinking like offices and meeting rooms.[28]
    • Green, in particular, is a great wall color for places where you or your employees need to be thinking creatively.
    • Purple is a great color if you have a meditation room or chill-out area in your workplace.
    • Grey walls may look modern and clean, but too much grey can be depressing.
  4. Paint the walls of lounge areas warm colors to promote feelings of comfort. Yellow and orange hues are a great choice for recreation rooms, lounges, and office kitchens. Paint the walls or use pillows, chairs, and other decor pieces to incorporate a splash of warm colors.[29]
    • Avoid using too much red in your work environment because it can be too alarming and, as a result, increase stress.
  5. Add some comfortable, adjustable seating options to your office. Increase the comfort level by offering comfy armchairs or couches as an alternative to desk chairs or stiff hardback chairs. The more adjustable the chair is, the more comfortable and productive you and your employees will be.[30]
    • Consider getting balance-ball chairs or offering cushions to ease the discomfort of long-term sitting and promote and good posture.
    • As an alternative, get a standing desk for your office to keep you energized and engaged.[31]
  6. Increase the natural greenery in your work environment to cut stress. Purchase some low-maintenance plants for your office or, if you have employees, allow them to purchase their own office plants on the company dime (if the budget allows for it). Plants have been shown to increase productivity (by as much as 15%), concentration, and workplace satisfaction.[32]
    • Pothos, ferns, and succulents are great desktop options while palms and ficus trees are non-fussy floor plants.
    • Snake plants and philodendrons can tolerate low-light environments.
  7. Keep your work environment clean and free of clutter. Dust and clutter can give off the idea of disorganization or chaos, causing stress and anxiety. As a result, it will be that much harder to focus. Take time every day before you sit down to work to clear your desk and the immediate area of clutter or loose papers.[33]
    • If you work with employees, emphasize cleanliness during your weekly staff meetings so each person is responsible for keeping their area tidy.
    • Declutter and deep-clean your work environment at least once a month, tossing useless knick-knacks and making sure each item has a place.
    • Stock your employees’ offices with organization tools like file cabinets, folders, and drawer organizers so they don’t waste time rummaging for something they need.
    • For large offices with a maintenance budget, you may want to hire a cleaning service to keep your environment sparkling clean.


  • Consider dedicating a bulletin board for employees to put up photos of their pets and family.
  • Start the day with 5 or 10 minutes of mindful meditation as a group to cut back on stress.


  • Respond to employees’ grievances with respect and empathy.


  4. [v162052_b01]. 15 December 2021.
  16. [v162052_b01]. 15 December 2021.
  18. [v162052_b01]. 15 December 2021.