How culture improves working environments and helps manage workplace stress

This video explores what human resource professionals say contribute to workplace stress and how culture can improve working conditions. I also explore how one multinational company lean into their culture to provide their employees with a great place to work in., I provide tips on how small businesses can nurture a caring culture where people want to work. 

As workplaces shift from the traditional office to a hybrid work environment, companies are leaning more and more into their culture to help them navigate these changes and the challenges that come with them. Companies with great cultures are reaping the benefits to make the shift while keeping employees happy and productive. 

How can culture improve working environments and manage workplace stress?  

What do HR professionals say about workplace stress and culture? 

Experts say that company culture, specifically bad company culture, is the leading cause of stress. While workplace stress is common, if left unchecked, it can impact good company culture. If leaders don’t work to manage workplace stress levels, it may erode or destroy a great culture. 

Experts also agree that there are hidden costs to stress and cutthroat work culture. Stress may cause employees to become disengaged, which would lead to increased absenteeism, work accidents, errors, and defects. These, in turn, impact productivity, job growth, and business profitability.  

Stress may lead to physical health problems, such as cardiovascular disease, or mental health issues like anxiety or depression. Employees who experience extreme stress may leave and resign, resulting in high rates of turnover. 

What experts are saying is that it’s a good business practice to manage stress in the workplace. One way to manage stress is to work towards nurturing good culture because the vital thing that sets companies with good culture apart from companies with not-so-great cultures is that they seem to be better at managing workplace stress. Employees are happier and are more productive. The other great thing about having great company culture? Great culture is what attracts great talent—and it’s what makes them stay. It’s what makes them want to get up every morning to work.  

What does good culture look like? 

Thoughtworks is a multinational technology consultancy with 48 offices in 17 countries. They describe their workplace culture in seven words: “We foster a home for all technologists.” Their culture is what brings them awards. They were voted Top 4 Best Workplaces in Australia in 2021. In 2017, they were named as one of the best places to work in Germany. 

They have a simple mandate: 

One, they want to make people feel that they belong. They are proactive about diversity and inclusion. They actively look for talented women technologists because they understand that women are underrepresented in their field. 

Next, employees come to work as themselves. This means that employees are free to develop their talent and pursue their passion within the boundaries of their roles. This comes as a result of their drive for diversity and inclusion. At the same time, they are encouraging employees to work as they promote active collaboration within the organisation. Active collaboration brings out the best in people and allows the company to provide their clients the best products and services. 

Employees are challenged by the work that they do. Being a tech leader means they evangelise the latest disruptive technology through open-source contributions, conferences and tech-community events that they organise. Employees are encouraged to voice their points of view and preferences, which allows them to support the development of tech products that ultimately benefit their customers. 

Why does the culture of Thoughtworks work? 

For this, we look into the self-determination theory in psychology. Studies have shown that intrinsic motivation is what drives employee productivity because they find work, in itself and by itself, fulfilling.  

The Thoughtworks culture works because the organisation meets the three psychological needs that form the basis of intrinsic motivation. 

First, by making people feel that they belong, they address the psychological need of relatedness. Employees feel that they belong, which makes them want to contribute positively to the team. 

Second, by encouraging employees to come to work as themselves, they address the psychological need of autonomy, which is the ability to make decisions and control one’s actions. Employees who are afforded workplace autonomy feel trusted—they feel that they can experiment, make mistakes, and most importantly, learn from their mistakes, which allows them to grow in their roles. 

Finally, by actively challenging their employees through work, Thoughtworks addresses the need for competence.  

What can small businesses do to follow the example of Thoughtworks? 

The Thoughtworks culture works because their culture reinforces the idea that they care for their people. People want to work for and work with people who care for them. Here are simple things that small businesses can start doing to drive intrinsic motivation. 

  • Be encouraging to team members. Openly praise excellent work—a simple acknowledgement can go a long way. Once team members see leaders publicly commend them for a job well done, the practice can spread and become the norm. And why not? People want to feel good about what they do—and people who feel good want to continue doing well. 
  • Check-in on each other. Business leaders can do this weekly. It can be as simple as asking how one of your team members are doing or asking them about challenges they are facing. You might be surprised at how this conversation can turn out. A simple conversation might lead you to solve problems in your team and find ways for you to help them succeed in their roles. 
  • Be more open to your team members, especially by listening to their suggestions.   




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