Creating a healthy work environment is about more than providing gym memberships and high-protein, low-calorie snack options for your employees. Sure these things are important, but all the healthy trail mix in the world won't make a difference if your work environment stifles development.
Great workplaces are defined more by their outstanding culture than the products or services they produce. When employees gush about how much they love going to work every day, they're most likely talking about how much they're valued and how excited they are to help further a company mission they believe in wholeheartedly.
If you're stuck thinking of what goes into a healthy office, here's some food for thought.
A steady diet of feedback
The quickest way to curtail negativity is with transparency. When people know how they're doing, they're more at ease and less likely to make assumptions. Open up lines of communication at your workplace and make sure they flow evenly in both directions -- the so-called "feedback loop."
Encourage your employees to be honest about all aspects of their work lives, from fellow team members to processes to your performance as a leader. If people are concerned about airing their grievances in public, you can always set up an anonymous survey to gauge satisfaction. Generally, though, you'll find more open communication will dissolve acute issues before they escalate into major problems, as you're better able to identify and respond to them quickly.
Culturally, an open communication policy goes much further than an open floor plan ever could. Above all, employees just want to know they're being heard -- so give everyone a voice and a seat at the table.
Exercise your power to recognize
For some employees, having a voice within the company is enough to make them feel acknowledged. Recognition, however, makes everyone feel valued and it makes for a thriving workplace. By regularly recognizing and rewarding your team members not only for the work they do, but for the contributions they make to your brand's vision, purpose and core values, the better the health of your organization will be.
You probably already have metrics that can be easily measured in a pass/fail sort of way -- either these numbers are hit or they aren't. But at any given time, you have people who are demonstrating a core value of your company, or assisting on projects outside of their normal department, or doing a whole host of other things that don't show up on the stat sheet, to borrow a phrase from the sports world. These are great opportunities for recognition.
A surprise all-hands meeting that turns into an impromptu awards ceremony can be motivating and memorable for your employees. Don't wait until bonus season to show your appreciation -- in fact, cash may not even be a motivator for your employees.
Tailor your rewards to each person individually based on what they truly value. That might be verbal recognition in front of their peers, paid time off, a fun activity outside of the office, or making a donation to an organization they care about.
Build mental health stamina
Companies are increasingly seeing the benefits of work/life balance (or integration) and instituting measures to make sure their employees are happy with both. You should absolutely establish a challenging environment (within reason) that inspires individuals to do their best. At the same time, you should also mandate that your employees take plenty of breaks to recharge, with the understanding that work is not the most important thing.
Becoming a champion for mental health --whether that's providing weekly yoga classes, the ability to work from home or spaces dedicated to meditation -- don't communicate that your company undervalues work. In fact, it conveys the opposite: you trust your employees to work hard, but equally value their wellbeing.
Take it outside (the office)
Every employee has an activity they've always wanted to try, a hobby they're passionate about, or that "thing" they would be doing if they weren't doing what they're doing now. When you encourage and support their personal endeavors, not only does it make employees feel valued, they also tend to bring back a positive attitude, and a unique set of skills and experiences to help diversify your culture.
Supporting outside pursuits and goals can be as simple as taking a genuine interest in their personal goals and interests, paying for a class they're interested in, sharing articles or other resources with them that align with an area of interest they have, and the list goes on. You might also help them document a personal goal and check in with them regularly to see if they're making progress.
This may go without saying, but encouraging employees to support each other is healthy for the company too. Many leaders recognize this, but don't implement the structure to facilitate it. When employees work together towards achieving a goal, particularly if it's something outside the day-to-day work, it strengthens bonds.
All that said, it still might be a smart idea to replace the candy machine with a fruit bowl, too. Brain food, does, after all, support mental health.