What Are the Ingredients for a Truly Excellent Work Environment?

Choose a job you love, and you will never have to work a day in your life.”  ~Confucius
Confucius evidently was unaware how much easier said than done this is.  For an employee, finding a job that you enjoy getting out of bed and sitting in an hour of traffic for, one that you don’t need six cups of coffee and 3 Excedrin a day to endure, is a daunting task contingent on numerous things.  Of course, skill compatibility, workload, colleagues, and countless other factors contribute to this, but possibly one of the more crucial elements to enjoying where one spends more than a third of their day is the workplace culture and environment.  A vibrant work environment can turn a “9-5 job” to an “is-it-5-already-do-I-have-to-go-home-now?” job.
If you’re an employee about to cry mutiny and swear such a place does not exist, show this blog to your superiors.  Crain’s Chicago Business recently published an article highlighting the “Best Places to Work.”  Of the top 20 companies, ranked according to results from internal employee surveys, a pattern of qualities seemed to repeat itself amongst those companies that annexed the top honors.  Below are the qualities that the majority of employees believe make a company a truly great place to work.

-         Employee Recognition:  The occasional pat on the back or “atta boy” months after a project has concluded really doesn’t cut it.  Sincere, specific compliments and formal recognition can go a long way when it comes to making employees feel valuable and encouraging them to produce consistently high-quality work.
-         Encouraging Professional Development: For any organization aspiring to thrive and “outgrow its training wheels,” it is important that the employees that comprise it grow intellectually and professionally as well.  Investing in your employees’ professional development not only makes them feel like you consider them an asset to the company, it will reap benefits for the organization in the long run as well.  Encouraging attendance to industry seminars, allowing for education advancement and even offering tuition reimbursements are excellent ways to achieve this.
-         Understanding Work-Life Balance:  For some, work may be take the top spot in their life, but for many people, family, friends, and loved ones rank a little higher in their book than accounting reports and conference calls. It is important that employers are cognizant of this; if Joe wants to go watch his son play baseball, don’t pitch a fit if he leaves the office at 4.
-         Focusing on Employee Wellness:  Along with understanding that your employees have lives outside of their cubicles, looking out for their health and wellbeing is essential as well.  This can mean anything from teaming up with fitness centers to offer discounted memberships to employees, to ensuring you offer good benefits for health, dental, vision, etc.
-         Corporate Responsibility: Everyone gets that warm fuzzy feeling inside when they are part of something they feel is making a difference, and one’s workplace is no exception.  Company philanthropic initiatives, like adopting charities or participating in local events, rank high for employees happy with their jobs.  Green initiatives within the workplace like recycling and conserving energy are important as well. Employees are more content working for a company they are proud to be associated with.

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