What It Looks Like When a Healthy Company Culture Steers the Ship
“I’m the kind of person who loves feeling restless at work, getting headaches, experiencing anxiety about the projects I’m working on, not having rich and engaging conversations with my coworkers and banging my head against the wall instead of bringing my ideas and concerns to the team,” said no one ever.
If your fellow employees are feeling like they’re under the gun at work, having a hard time owning the projects they’re working on, or feeling like their ideas and concerns are constantly being shoved under the rug, then it might be time to get under the hood of your company’s culture and make some upgrades to the system.
I’ll start off with a simple tip to improve company culture along with a story my friend shared with me about her experience at a company where she worked for many years. The company culture there was restrictive, rigid, and, while perhaps it was not intended to be, definitely appeared unfriendly to say the least.
#1 – Better Moods = Better Performance
First off, the better ya feel, the better ya do, right? One of the last things the company my friend worked for did to run their company culture into the ground was they revoked everyone’s rights to all streaming music services like Spotify, Pandora, YouTube — all of them. WTF?
I think at this point in human evolution everyone understands the diverse and positive effect music has on the brain. But in case you need a reminder, a 2012 New York Times article entitled, “The Power of Music, Trapped in a Cubicle,” explains how listening to music can make you feel as good as eating your favorite meal:
“In biological terms, melodious sounds help encourage the release of dopamine in the reward area of the brain, as would eating a delicacy, looking at something appealing or smelling a pleasant aroma… In one study involving information technology specialists, [it was found] that those who listened to music completed their tasks more quickly and came up with better ideas than those who didn’t, because the music improved their mood.”
Dopamine is a neurotransmitter, which means it is a chemical compound that transfers various impulses triggered by synaptic flash between your nerve fibers. In other words, dopamine is a carrier of rad vibes. It’s a cruel and antiquated approach to company culture to even consider depriving your team of the right to jam the tunes that make their blood pump. My friend knew that music kept her sane and focused while at work, and she felt the sting intensely when her right was, seemingly, arbitrarily revoked. It’s as if her bosses were acting as spiteful and malevolent prison wardens.
Blocking access to streaming music sites on company computers wasn’t enough though; workers at this company actually had no access to Wi-Fi while at the office — each computer was hardwired to the web via ethernet. And earlier when I said everyone had their rights to streaming music revoked, I meant everyone but the bosses. They still have access to streaming sites and have access to Wi-Fi. Jeeze, right?
What I gathered from this story is that the bosses at the top of the company were either delusional in thinking that blocking streaming sites would have no detrimental effect or they were completely clueless about it. Regardless, it reflects a clear breakdown in many aspects of the company’s culture. It’s evident in the way that employees didn’t feel like they could or should communicate their needs to the higher-ups and that the higher-ups shamelessly (or cluelessly) looked down upon their employees.
We’ve seen just about all of the ways listed below to boost company culture put into practice over here at Right Brain Media. I’ll tell you just how we did it and what it looks like when things are running smoothly.
#2 – Communicate and Be Transparent
Open up the windows and let some air in. Encourage everyone to breathe easy and to communicate freely. Encourage your team to stop asking, “Is it totally necessary to share this?” and instead to start asking, “Is it totally necessary to not share this?”
There’s hardly been a time when I went to a coworker I was working on a project with — or the project manager, for that matter — and had a bad experience in saying, “Hey, I’ve got this great idea about this aspect of the project.” Or, “Hey, I don’t quite understand what the goal is with this aspect of the project.”
Openly communicating your ideas and your frustrations can only improve a project. What stifles innovation and efficient progress is a breakdown in communication among teammates. Of course, everyone on the team needs to be able to carry their own weight and develop their own solutions as problems arise, but if your gut’s telling you to share your thoughts, share ’em.
#3 – Communication and Collaboration Tools That Get It Done
Our office has a pretty open layout. Getting in touch with just about anyone is as easy as poking your head around your second monitor or peeking over a cubicle divider. Our office has about a half dozen cubicles along with a large communal desk arrangement and a comfy lounge area with couches, coffee table, bar table and TVs. However, we’ve got digital assets to share with each other like code, graphic assets, written pieces, URLs, you name it.
For all that stuff we use Slack. Slack, for sure, is like the glue to all our communication — both work related and non. Slack allows us to chat directly with one another privately, chat in group “channels” created specifically for certain projects and chat about random, sometimes goofy, non-work related topics. If you don’t know about Slack, just go to their website, check out the intro video, and you’ll want to get everyone in your office set up with it.
There are a ton of tools out there to help keep you on task and in perfect communication with your team and clients. Here are some of the more notable ones we’ve used.
Slack – The people who send rovers to Mars use Slack. That means NASA uses Slack and Slack has been to space.
Basecamp – Killer tool for keeping your clients and project teams all on the same page.
HipChat – It might be the alternative to Slack you’ve been looking for.
Jira – Used by coders and software developers to track progress and get updates.
Asana – Another great tool for tracking your team’s progress.
Trello – Team collaboration tool.
#4 – Cultivate Strong Coworker Relationships
If your team is as diverse in skill as ours, you’ve got a ton of opportunities to build strong coworker relationships and even enhance the skill sets of everyone on your team. There’s a lot of crossover between the positions over here. For instance, our social media strategists will often end up designing their own graphics via Canva or other means, if our graphic designers have their hands full. To help the social media team further their burgeoning design skills, one of our graphic designers is now teaching a series of mini-classes in the office on the basics of using Photoshop for any employees eager to learn.
Likewise, since many of our team members are multi-talented in creating websites and landing pages, one of our coworkers who is a targeted landing pages expert gave a presentation to the rest of us on optimizing for conversions, attribution and SEO.
Presentations, activities and events like these bring your team together and empower everyone to take initiative and wholly own the work they do.
PRO TIP: You may be able to turn the content from presentations like these into valuable assets to share with your audience as part of a larger content marketing strategy. 😉
#5 – Embrace and Inspire Employee Autonomy, And Be Flexible
Embrace team members’ autonomy. This will allow them to make the challenging, but incredibly rewarding leap from being merely held accountable to their responsibilities, to assuming accountability as they lead and own initiatives.
This means don’t chain employees to their desks. Let them get work done in various locations and don’t rely on a time clock.
Working from Home
For some people, stepping out of the office and working from a park bench is a perfect break from the monotony of the air conditioned office. For others, the ability to occasionally work from home is a godsend. About the benefits of working from home, one of my coworkers says:
“[When I work from home] I don’t lose momentum on either end of the day. The morning hours are when I’m sharpest. When I’m heading in to work I lose my brain’s ‘prime time’ which could be utilized for tasks that require high creativity or ingenuity. [When it comes time to head home at the end of the day] this causes a break in my concentration, and it’s all the harder to continue working from home, if I need to get something done. Between prepping for work [and] leaving work, I lose an average of an hour on either side of the day, both mentally and physically.
I can do both personal and professional multi-tasking. I can allow service technicians to head to my home, schedule packages, make important calls that can only be made during the week (doctors, etc.). I hate to use my lunch break to make private calls as I prefer the privacy of my home for that.
I get to remove the distractions of the workplace. When you sit in proximity to your coworkers, you become available to them.”
And when you kick the time clock to the curb, you start to find that how much time employees put in is less important than how quality the work is that they turn out. It doesn’t matter when you put the work in. What matters is whether or not you got what needed to get done done by the end of the week.
Now, you’ve got the couches and TV set up in the lounge area, stocked the fridge with snacks, got a pizza party planned, been running around high-fiving all your teammates and all that. So, great job. Smile. I hope you’re feeling chilled out, inspired and full of new ideas you can’t wait to share with the team. I’m happy for you. Now, get back to work!