Creating a healthy work environment is a hot topic for leaders today. More than just the right thing to do for employees and the patients they serve, studies show that creating a healthy work environment increases retention, saves organizations money, and protects patients’ lives.
Trust me. Creating a healthy work environment isn’t just a warm and fuzzy initiative dreamed up by a bunch of right-brained humans; it’s a logical and profitable strategy, especially in healthcare.
So how do you know if your organization provides a safe, healthy environment for employees? Here are a few signs to look for.
Employees Laugh Often
Generally, humor is a sign of comfort. According to Daniel Goleman, workplace jokes and laughter improve communication and trust. Employees who feel comfortable kidding around with co-workers will exhibit creativity and productivity throughout the day. And, we all know that laughter is a stress reducer. Got burnout? Start laughing!
Employees Freely Share Their Ideas
Does management truly have an open-door policy? Employees need a safe environment to share their ideas. Most employees have an opinion about how to make things better. Lack of unsolicited feedback from staff may indicate that they do not feel safe in presenting their opinions. If you’re going to “open” the door, make sure it’s OPEN!
Employee Values and Expectations Are Clear
Staff must know what is expected from them. Codes of conduct, expectations of behavior on the job, and professional values must be more than just words on a piece of paper. They must be living and breathing documents, embedded into the culture of the organization.
Employees Have Strong Connections With Others
A link to the community is a sign of caring. Encourage and reward staff who volunteer outside of work. Have a special event that the organization supports as a whole. Create a brag board to showcase how staff are committed to their community AND to each other.
Creating a healthy work environment IS possible. But it takes leaders who value the environment as much as the budget.
First, make having a healthy work environment a priority. Then, look for the above indicators. Some areas you have control over, others you do not. Take a look at the above indicators…what one thing do all the above have in common? Communication.
What does communication have to do with a healthy work environment?
Communication is a foundation of teamwork and quality patient care. We can all improve workplace communication by striving to be as proficient in communication skills as we are in clinical skills. (AACN 2005).
When The Joint Commission (TJC) analyzed the root cause of sentinel events (death or permanent loss of function to a patient, TJC 2012) from 2004 through 2011, communication was the second highest root cause in hospitals.
Here are six quick communication strategies you can start using today!
Listen and repeat
If an employer or coworker says something, listen and then repeat what they just said back to them. This allows them the chance to correct any misinterpretation and also lets them know what they are saying is in fact being heard and processed.
Positive leaders are perceived as more effective and more likely to persuade their staff to do what they want them to do than negative leaders. Why? Because positive emotions are more contagious than negative ones. No matter what the topic of conversation, topics should be spun with a positive tone. Remember, one will always catch more flies with honey than vinegar. Therefore, encourage, recognize, and reward employees in order to create a positive workplace environment.
Allow for question-and-answer opportunities
Q & A opportunities can take many forms, including: one-on-one meetings, staff meetings (with varying participants), suggestion boxes (with appropriate follow-up), employee representative panels, graffiti walls or posters, e-mail communication and bulletin boards. By offering multiple ways to communication, you help ensure that all employees have an opportunity to ask questions in a way that suits their communication style.
Provide speedy and complete information
Timely responses to inquiries can mean a lot to your employees and will help to bolster their trust in you. The second half of the equation is knowing the most effective ways to share the information; always consider the type of information, its relevance to your staff and their preferred method of communication.
Be honest to build trust
If you don’t know the answer, say so. If you have a tough question, ask it. If you think employees are mulling a question that they’re unsure of how to raise, bring it up yourself. If you say you’re going to do something, do it, or provide an update as to why the schedule has changed.
Keep information flowing
Use multiple avenues of communication to help keep people informed. Don’t assume that everyone knows what’s going on, even in a small group. Also, remember that not everyone processes information the same way, so face-to-face, electronic, print and other formats allow more people to really tune in to your message. For example, follow up memos with a check-in voicemail message, open discussions at staff meetings or during one-on-one meetings. Don’t assume that just because an email has gone out that it’s been understood and accepted—instead ask questions to confirm understanding.
Creating a healthy work environment by improving the way leaders and staff communicate with each other is possible and essential in today’s complex healthcare world. As leaders, we need to devote our time, energy, and resources to ensure our teams are communicating in a way that supports the standards for establishing and maintaining a healthy work environment. Like the late Jim Rohn said, “If you just communicate, you can get by. But if you communicate skillfully, you can work miracles.”
Let’s make miracles!
Thanks so much for reading!
Take care. Be kind. Stay connected.
American Association of Critical-Care Nurses. (2012). AACN Standards for Establishing and sustaining healthy work environments: A journey to excellence. Retrieved from http://www.aacn.org/WD/HWE/Content/hwehome.content?menu=hwe