Employers20 October 2017

How to create a positive workplace culture


In order to see why a positive culture is important within your workplace, it’s important to understand the role of the organisation.

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. Importantly, these two aspects are linked very closely.

'There are so many levels to the workplace,’ explains Ingrid Ozols, founder and Managing Director of Mental Health @ Work, 'and it’s good for people’s health, productivity and identity.'

The organisation's role in your employees' health and wellbeing is part of the equation that needs a greater amount of 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 is a strong method towards supporting employees in those actions.

Create change from the top

Like any change, a cultural shift needs to be led from the top tier of the organisation. In order for that shift to filter down, there needs to be a collaborative approach towards making the workplace better for the entire team. 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 Development Manager, Deborah Kennedy, adds, 'The only way to build a workplace that's psychologically safe is through a whole range of strategies.' SuperFriend offers programs such as SuperFit Mates and Mental health literacy that can play a role in this overall strategy.

When strong leaders create an environment that looks after their people, they are rewarded with a surprising effect; 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.

In terms of creating a mentally healthy culture, this means that the business leaders have 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 be strong in initiating and driving 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 changes towards supporting your employees' mental health can be a slow process due to the heavy stigma involved, and it’s okay for organisations to not have all the answers. What is important is to be trying 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 that your people are the key to operating a flourishing business, and every person in your organisation is going to have times that are a struggle. '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.' 

That will not only result in greater productivity and engagement, it will also provide an environment that your employees want to be part of.

So, how are you going to help get the people who are struggling back to flourishing?

This article was provided by SuperFriend®, a national health promotion foundation that helps ‘all profit to member’ superannuation funds to promote and support improved mental health and wellbeing for their members, through the workplace. SuperFriend provides easy to understand information about mental health and mental illness, tips on how workplaces can create supportive work environments and importantly, where to find reliable help if you or someone you know needs assistance.

Approaching employees about th...

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