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Workplace Culture Blog

What impact does workplace culture have on wellbeing in the workplace?

Workplace culture hasn’t been a hot topic over the years but this, fortunately, seems to be changing. We are becoming increasingly aware of our surroundings and how it affects us and our mental health – including in the workplace. This is shown in a recent survey by Oak Engage (2023) where it found that a shocking 61% of employees resigned due to workplace culture issues.

What is workplace culture?

You ask a few different people and you’ll most likely get varying answers but most, I suspect, will centre around the attitudes, values and behaviours shared by people in a workplace. Forbes describes workplace culture as “the shared values, belief systems, attitudes, and the set of assumptions that people in a workplace share.” In the same survey by Oak Engage, 75% of employees said that they had experienced a toxic culture in the workplace and 87% of them said that it affected their mental health.

What factors have an influence on workplace culture?

There are various areas that have an impact on workplace culture and whilst many of these may seem simple, it can be surprising what effect they have.

Policies

Employee friendly policies can have a huge impact on culture in the workplace. Dress code, flexible working, code of conduct, anti-discrimination and harassment policies are a few examples of key areas where employee’s wellbeing and happiness can be kept in mind. If employee’s feel the policies aren’t ‘people friendly’, it’s likely it’ll affect their attitudes and behaviours towards their job role.

Leadership

60% of employees in the same survey by Oak Engage said that those who’ve experienced a toxic work environment felt it was caused by either middle management or leaders indicating that leadership has a big influence on workplace culture. Similarly to policies, if employee’s feel that management/leaders aren’t communicating with them clearly or perhaps they feel they’re being micromanaged, this is likely to have a negative impact on their behaviours and attitudes.

Communication

Communication is crucial in the workplace. Employees are likely to be happier when communication is clear and they’re provided with a platform to be heard. In environments where communication is patchy or they feel unable to talk freely, employees can feel that the environment is toxic.

What’s the impact on mental health/wellbeing?

Those who work full time are, generally, spending about 8 hours a day at work which is a big portion of our time spent with colleagues in the working environment. So, it’s probably not a huge surprise that our work can influence our mental health – whether that be positively or negatively.

Those who have experienced an unhealthy working environment have reported higher stress levels, decreased levels of productivity, burnout and anxiety (to name a few!). This usually leads to becoming disengaged at work along with a higher number of sick days. One employee becoming disengaged or being less productive may not have an extensive impact on the organisation. But what if it’s a substantial percentage of employees who feel like this and you have a team who are disengaged? How can that affect the running of the company? Companies with toxic environments often experience high level of staff sickness and a high turnover which can prove disruptive and costly.

How can you improve culture?

So, how can culture be improved in the workplace?

Ask your employees

As highlighted earlier, a healthy workplace culture will probably look slightly different for every individual. Providing everyone with a platform to be heard will allow you to understand which areas need to be reviewed. However, be mindful that people are more likely to be honest if they can provide feedback anonymously.

Add/improve appreciation into the culture

Research has found that those in the workplace who don’t feel appreciated are twice as likely to resign in the next year. Rewards and even verbal praise can go a long way for an employee. Encouraging managerial level staff to provide verbal praise and recognising employee’s hard work can have a big impact on the day to day mood in the office.

Transparency and communication

As highlighted earlier, communication is a key area in the workplace. Being transparent and communicative will encourage your employee’s to adopt the same attitude as well as helping to build trust in the organisation. Trust is crucial in a healthy workplace culture and you will find that an increase in trust will result in increased productivity, boosted morale and increased staff retention.