Today we have a Team of Guest Bloggers that are here to provide some insights into the working environment. Peter Scott and JT Ripton wrote this piece for us. We hope you enjoy the article.

Steps to the Ideal Working Environment

When it comes to employee engagement, there are many factors at play. But one of the most critical is a positive working environment, one that makes employees feel good about coming to work and motivates them through long days and difficult projects.

Unfortunately, companies cannot simply order a positive working environment like they would printer ink. It’s a complex and home-grown concept, and getting it right means putting together hundreds of elements to build a work environment that makes workers feel happy and secure.

The Elements of a Positive Work Environment

While details will vary, the important features of a work environment include relationships between coworkers, relationships between employees and managers, organizational culture, physical office space, easy communications and opportunities for personal development. A positive environment brings enormous benefits: employee retention and the valuable intellectual capital that comes with it, good customer relationships, increased profits and the pick of the brightest new talent.

While there is no one single model for an ideal work environment, there are common factors at its foundation.

Open communications. When secrets are kept behind closed doors, suspicions grow, rumors circulate and employee resentment builds. Managers should have an open-door policy with employees, and consider skipping the anxiety-causing once-a-year performance review in favor of more regular and constructive coaching sessions. Feedback will always be more effective when it’s received in a timely way.

Digital collaboration tools such as messaging can also help encourage regular communications and updates. Companies should be unified and open about the organization’s philosophy and mission, and outline them regularly.

Soften the “top-down” hierarchy. Employees who feel that their opinions are valued and heard will be more engaged, more productive and more passionate. When companies are structured like a dictatorship in which orders come down but suggestions and ideas never go up, employees will feel like cogs in a great, dispassionate machine.

A work-life balance. Employees who are expected to sprint every day will burn out quickly. Everyone needs downtime to recharge, so ensure that your organization is flexible with personal time off. Provide workers with the ability to work from home occasionally, and consider offering alternatives to the traditional 9:00 to 5:00 workday for people who do their best work early in the morning or later in the day.

Development opportunities. When workers understand that their own success and advancement is closely tied to the success of their employer, they will be more engaged with their work. Provide all employees with personal development goals and mentoring – and consider letting them determine some of their own goals — and be transparent about opportunities for advancement. Workers who don’t grow themselves can’t help a company grow when the opportunity arises. Be sure to emphasize both hard skills such as new software solutions, and soft skills such as leadership, teamwork and collaboration.

Encourage teamwork. While healthy competition can be a good thing, unchecked competition can quickly rise to toxic levels. Encourage collaboration by implementing team-bonding activities that allow groups of workers to focus on the positive sides of each member and eliminate the negative ones. To avoid the “group think” that can creep in when teamwork is too strong, however, build a “devil’s advocate” process into each team project by asking groups to list the cons as well as the pros.

Build a diverse workforce. While managers often joke that they’d like to clone their best workers, this wouldn’t necessarily be a good thing. If all employees were the same, creativity and perspective would suffer. Research by Harvard Business Review found that companies that seek out two-dimensional diversity – not only demographics such as race, age and gender but also diversity of skills and experience — are 45 percent likelier to report growth in market share and 70 percent likelier to report that the firm captured a new market.

Praise and recognition. While all organizations should provide regular coaching with managers, it’s important to call out good behavior across the entire organization. Recognizing employee contributions is one of the most effective low-cost ways of building a better work environment. A Gallup study found that only one in three workers strongly agrees that they receive sufficient recognition.

Implement a “wall of fame” in which you recognize a specific employee once a month, or plan occasional in-office social events during which you recognize stand-out workers. Consider offering non-cash rewards such as restaurant gift certificates, company merchandise or perks such first choice of a popular day off. When a good job is appropriately rewarded and recognized, employees will feel valued for their efforts and go the extra mile when the next opportunity arises.

Promote good health. Healthy workers are happy workers, and overly sedentary jobs take a toll on employees. Work-life balance Web site Café Quill recommends that employers find ways to help workers get moving more in the office. Employees should take frequent walks, use the stairs instead of the elevator, and park at the back of the lot. Standing desks are helpful, as are exercise balls. There are also exercises that can be done at the desk, from leg lifts to arm stretches, that will help promote physical wellness.

Happy, engaged employees are worth their weight in gold to any organization. When workers feel their employer has their back, they’re far more likely to invest emotionally in the company to help it succeed.

BIO: Peter Scott is a journalist and editor who has been covering business, technology and lifestyle trends for more than 20 years. You can contact him at PeterEditorial@gmail.com. And JT Ripton is a freelance business and technology writer out of Tampa. He loves to write to inform, educate and provoke minds. Follow him on twitter @JTRipton

Thank you JT and Peter!

From our Team to yours, have a great week. Make sure to keep tabs on us as we always are working on things!

Marc and the Cisco Business Team


Marc Nagao

Product Manager

Small Business RV Series Routers