Businesses are starting to give employee engagement and well-being the attention they deserve and are beginning to understand the role that a healthy work environment plays for both.  

For far too long, most regarded this as a responsibility of the HR department rather than as an integral part of the business strategy.

However, evidence shows that employees who are struggling with stress or poor mental well-being are more likely to be disengaged, which means they will be less productive. For that reason, innovative business leaders are beginning to understand the importance of a healthy work environment if they want a healthy bottom line.

Businesses that prioritise creating thriving workplaces by focusing on employee engagement notice higher customer satisfaction, higher productivity and improved employee retention – which in turn can lead to a 21% increase in profitability.

As if that wasn’t enough, several studies show that a well-planned employee well-being program reduces absenteeism by 78%, saving businesses an average of $3.27 to $6 in resulting costs for every dollar spent.

When you look at the numbers it’s a no brainer, right?

How to create a healthy work environment

So, how do you create a healthy work environment that supports well-being and employee engagement? It’s not with offsites, meditation or free fruit.

You do it by creating solid foundations so engagement and wellbeing are embedded into the DNA of the business.  Here are 8 pillars you need to get right before you waste time or energy on well-being initiatives or perks.

1. Clearly define roles and responsibilities

Teams work best when members understand what each member does, when and why. One reason teams fail is a lack of understanding among team members of their roles, responsibilities, and expectations. This is especially true when working together to achieve the company’s vision, mission, and goals. 

The more clearly you define roles and responsibilities, the less redundant tasks your team members will have to do. You will also experience less workplace confusion and frustration. 

Individual team members will look beyond their own individual positions to recognise, respect, and value the unique contributions of their colleagues. They will recognise that the overall success of the team is linked to shared responsibility and ownership. Which will contribute to higher self-esteem and more confidence.

2. Ensure your demands are reasonable

Leaders and employees must be able to recognise, cut, reduce, and manage excessive workplace demands. These demands become problematic when they exceed your team member’s capacity to meet them at a sustainable pace.

Unreasonable demands can increase stress, and exhaustion, and cause burnout, which will lead to reduced productivity and even employees quitting. In fact, 1 out of every 5 employees quit due to stress.

Training your managers on how to spot the signs of burnout so they can better support teams is really important. Especially ahead of periods of high demand or change. Helping them understand how to distribute work and set realistic deadlines will also help.

And finally, be sure to encourage your staff to speak up when workloads start to become unmanageable. Better to catch it early than risk burnout.

3. Give your team members ownership

Allowing your team members to have a good level of control over their work, make decisions autonomously, all whilst knowing that they are accountable for the results can help them build confidence and trust. 

Making team members accountable for their work instils a sense of responsibility in them. They start to see their work in a different light, and how their decisions impact the team’s overall performance.

This shows that you have faith in your team and their abilities. You’ll notice that they’ll work for you in the same way that they’d work for themselves. So, by cultivating an autonomous culture, you can help them reach their potential and stop needing to hold their hands held through every task. It’s a win for them, a win for you and a win for the business.

4. Foster good relationships

Humans are social creatures by nature. And, given that your employees spend around 1/3rd of their lives at work, it becomes clear that having good relationships with their coworkers leads to a more enjoyable work environment.

To be more comfortable sharing ideas, brainstorming, and accepting new ones, coworkers must feel at ease with one another. This level of engagement is required to embrace change, create, and innovate.

Positive working relationships also give you the freedom to focus on other aspects of your business. Instead of sacrificing time and energy to dealing with negative relationships, you can focus on business opportunities that affect your bottom line.

And, in order to foster healthy relationships, you must also call out bad behaviour. Ignoring inappropriate workplace behaviour is detrimental to employee growth. Such ignorance breeds a distrustful workforce which will chip away at morale and eventual unravel efforts.

5. Support your employees

Even in the most uncertain of times, your role remains the same: to support your team. This is especially true when it comes to helping them manage their mental health. According to WHO, for every $1 invested in mental health initiatives, you can expect $4 a return in improved health and productivity. Other studies put the ROI even higher when the support is proactive.

With so many people working from home these days, it can be difficult to know when people are struggling.

And obvious way to fix this is to check  in with  them regularly – really ask how they are. Listen to what they are saying as well as what they are NOT saying.  Giving managers training to spot the signs of poor mental wellbeing, stress and burnout as well as the tools to talk with them about it can have a massively positive impact here. It will give them and their team the confidence they need to give the right level of support, in the right way, at the right time. 

When you support your employees, keep them informed, and treat them with respect, they will feel appreciated and their trust and loyalty to the company will grow.


6. Involve your employees in any changes that affect them

Employee involvement is a critical factor in achieving successful change. – and obviously essential for high engagement.  When people lack the ability to influence a change, the likelihood that they will resist it increases. 

By involving your employees in a change that directly affects them, you will give them a greater sense of control, strengthen their commitment to the change, and reduce the likelihood of rebellion.

Create a strategy for involving people , as early in the change process as possible for the best results.

7. Improve your employees’ work environment

One of the most important factors influencing employee motivation and happiness, as well as how productive and efficient they can be, is their working environment. 

According to 33% of employees, environmental factors have a negative impact on their productivity and engagement levels. Granted, this becomes more complex with the growth in ‘work from home’ and remote positions. But that doesn’t mean you can ignore it. 

Just as you should in the main office, you need to help create a safe and comfortable environment for your employees who work remotely.

When developing work-from-home support programs, make sure to ask what they really want and need before making assumptions –  listen to their feedback, what are their pain points? Make sure your employees have a sufficient budget for things like an ergonomic chair, a sit-stand desk, and any other essentials that would make their work-from-home experience more comfortable. And, where possible, try to contribute to the additional utility bills they will incur when working from home.

These things aren’t an added extra anymore; employees expect these sorts of allowances to form part of the total remuneration package. This leads us nicely on to…

8. Reward employees beyond money

Rewarding employees for their efforts is an excellent way to keep them engaged and motivated, especially during busy periods.

Contrary to popular belief, not all rewards must be monetary. A valuable gift you can give your employees is the opportunity to learn new skills. Establish a professional development budget for educational resources such as online courses, conferences, and workshops, as well as any other activity that allows your employees to grow – this could be personally or professionally.

You could also consider things like flexible working hours, trial the 4 day week, offer time off for volunteering and give shorter working hours during summer. The list goes on. As always ask, listen and then act.

But saying all of this, the simplest, cost-free reward you can give is to recognise and praise their efforts, especially in hectic and uncertain times. Acknowledge their effort, thank them for input, and make them feel appreciated.

Create a healthy work environment today

If you are looking to create a healthy work environment that supports engagement and employee well-being I am here to help.

I’m Katie, owner of KDP Coaching & Consulting. a Burnout Expert, Mental Health First Aider, and ICF approved Coach. I help businesses to create environments that nurture well-being, increase engagement and boost the bottom line.

For 16 years, I’ve helped leaders in international organisations,  across governments, corporate and start-ups, to find better ways of working. 

Book a free consultation to find out how I can help you. 


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