It’s the little things that count

Seven healthy workplace habits to practice this year.

While the peak season for traditional goal setting, resolutions and fresh starts has been and gone – reconsidering the behaviours you adopt to achieve these professional ambitions and milestone targets has a big impact on progress.

Changing your habits, guilty-pleasures and indulgences are often de-prioritised over big-picture ambitions, but they can often be the driving force behind the strength of your workplace culture and your business’ ultimate pathway to success.

Lead by example with these seven healthy habits to start implementing this year.

1. Recognise star performers

Make it a habit to acknowledge those that have performed exceptionally well – this could be through a weekly company-wide newsletter, or a simple Slack-chat shoutout. It lets employees know that their work is valued and has a lasting impact on morale, often leading to increased employee performance, reduction in staff turnover and a supportive working environment. Although, before you call out someone’s stellar performance, be sure to check their preferred method of receiving praise, whether that’s public or private to avoid making anyone uncomfortable.

2. Practice advocacy

Gather your most positive workplace culture influencers and ask them to discuss what they love about their job – then share it via social media, LinkedIn or a blog to entice prospective talent and strengthen your employer value proposition. An inspiring company culture is something to be proud of, so celebrate it by creating cheerleaders in your workforce.

“For a start-up with limited resources, there are many avenues to expand your learning that are still cost effective.”

Go a step further if you have the resources by videoing a testimonial of a team member on why they joined your amazing organisation, highlighting what they enjoy about their role and your company. If you’re trying to attract talent, people love videos and a real story rather than the usual ‘we’re hiring’ post on LinkedIn.

3. Leave loudly

With the rise of flex-work options catering to the needs of a diverse range of workers, the notion of “leaving loudly” can normalise a unique arrangement, or even let employees know that it’s ok to clock off at a reasonable hour. There’s a long-held sense of shame with leaving before the boss does, so it’s up to senior leaders to leave loudly and encourage their staff to do the same.

Set an example of yourself by letting people know why you are leaving; it could be to pick up the kids or to catch a class at the gym. By doing this you are giving yourself – and others – permission to enjoy the perks of flexible work that support your life outside of work.

If you have a regular weekly commitment such as drop offs or sports coaching, put it in your calendar so people can see it. This not only sets a good example, but it again gives people permission to follow your lead and make sure they prioritise the important family, fitness or creative commitments they have. A happy, engaged workforce is a more productive one where you will retain your employees.

4. Listen, understand, don’t react

Strive to become a better listener. While it might seem simple, listening to understand rather than react can be quite challenging. Get into the habit of pausing before responding, or saving comments or questions for another time – this will help you absorb information more effectively and foster a greater sense of understanding between you and your peers. Gently remind yourself to be fully present in meetings – this will get you into the rhythm of listening to understand, as you’ll become more attuned to how you react.

5. Talk to the quietest person in the room

As a leader, it’s important to recognise those that struggle to be heard in a group dynamic. Making someone feel valued can be as simple as directly asking for their opinion, advice or feedback – allowing them the space to practice using their voice in meetings. Everyone has a different approach to preparing for a meeting, however, making sure you’ve briefed your team on the agenda at least a few hours in advance can give shy personalities an opportunity to develop their contribution. Making small changes such as these can have a big impact on a quiet contributor’s confidence levels.

6. Take time out

Team building goes hand-in-hand with fostering a healthy workplace culture. At least once a month, set aside time for a lunch, morning tea or after-work catch up outside of the office to give your team an opportunity to bond over non-work-related hobbies or interests.

We don’t all have the budgets to provide a monthly lunch and often employees may not be able to afford to cover themselves. In these cases, use it as a ‘bring your own’ team lunch. In summer, head to a nice outdoor space; in winter, sit in the kitchen together. These get-togethers can also be used as career development opportunities by asking a leading subject matter expert to speak, or by simply having a chat about learnings.

The more comfortable your employees feel around each other, the more likely they are to think like a team, lean on one-another for help when needed, and share ideas – which all helps when building a workplace culture to be proud of.

7. Don’t stop learning

Make sure you don’t allow your own education and professional development to fall to the wayside in favour of supporting your teams’. In order to progress and become a better manager, you must continue to upskill and stay-in-touch with what’s happening in your industry – finding a relevant news outlet, or discovering popular authors in your chosen field are simple ways to keep your mind alert to new research, opinions and practices. Interactive, digital learning software can be an excellent investment, as it allows you to map out a learning pathway, and track your progress clearly.

For a start-up with limited resources, there are many avenues to expand your learning that are still cost effective. A few ideas include joining a meet-up, as they will have topics and groups of interest to learn from; following brands or influencers on LinkedIn that will add to your daily feed with useful research or articles; and finding a mentor. Programs such as Mentorloop make it easy by connecting mentees with suitable mentors, and allow you to track real-time program engagement to ensure you, and your mentor, are getting the most out of your relationship.

Alex Hattingh, Chief People Officer, Employment Hero

This story first appeared in issue 28 of the Inside Small Business quarterly magazine