How to create a positive workplace culture

13 March 2018

To see why a positive workplace culture is important, it’s vital to understand the organisation’s role. That role is twofold: as a business enterprise requiring productivity and profitability, and as a place that gives people a sense of purpose and meaning.

“There are so many workplace levels,” explains Mental Health @ Work founder and managing director Ingrid Ozols, “and it’s good for people’s health, productivity and identity.”

The organisation’s role in employees’ health and wellbeing needs a greater focus in most workplaces. “Work has a really important part to play as a conduit to people’s health, and the prevention and early intervention of mental health,” says Ozols. “There are some elements of wellness that people can only do alone, but it’s great when they have people in their work and home environments who will support them.”

Creating a positive workplace culture helps support employees in those actions.

Create change from the top

A cultural shift needs to be led from the top, with a collaborative approach towards making the workplace better. Ozols says: “The leadership team and the whole organisation need to work together to develop a culture that creates healthiness, supportiveness and resilience.”

SuperFriend’s Strategic Collaborations Manager Deborah Kennedy adds: “The only way to build a workplace that’s psychologically safe is through a whole range of strategies.”

Besides, when employees feel supported and well, they have more to offer at work. “If people don’t look after themselves and aren’t supported in their workplace, they’re no good to the people they work with,” says Ozols.

This means the business leaders need to be willing to talk about relevant issues and experiences. “It needs to be okay for people to say they’re struggling, so you need to make yourself available for brave conversations”, Ozols says.


Be genuine

A culture that’s positive and supportive needs to come from a genuine desire to bring about ongoing, long-term improvement. Although employers need to initiate and drive these changes, it also requires a level of vulnerability. “You can create a better workplace by being authentic and leading the behaviour change,” Ozols says. “You just need to be human.”

Positive change can be a slow process due to the heavy stigma around mental health, and it’s okay for organisations to not have all the answers. What is important is to try to create the most positive workplace culture you can, from a place of genuine concern. “This can’t be simply an annual exercise to tick a box for compliance, it’s a strategic process that’s ongoing,” Ozols says.

It’s widely accepted your people are the key to a flourishing business, and every person in your organisation is going to have hard times. “We’re all going to have periods where life just bowls us over,” says Ozols, “and if you can look out for people experiencing that then you’re showing everyone that this is a positive workplace.”

How are you going to help get the people who are struggling back to flourishing?

A supportive workplace culture will not only result in greater productivity and engagement, it will also provide an environment your employees want to be part of.