In the last 35 years, both awareness and concern for our natural environment have become incorporated into our consciousness. Natural fibers, recycling, biodegradable goods, concern for natural habitats, the disappearing ozone layer, and second-hand smoke are all concepts that have filtered into our personal and business behaviors.
The result of this awareness is a pretty good understanding of the interdependence we have with our natural environments and reasons to respect them. I wonder - do we have a similar appreciation for the contribution of our working environments to our business success? Do we understand the relationship between the environment in which we work and our ability to be creative and productive while working? Do we understand the many ways in which we can create an environment that fosters important business qualities - loyalty, enthusiasm, desire to contribute, creativity and productivity - both for ourselves and, if we have them, our employees?
I'm sure we all remember the popular debate about nature vs. nurture - the impact of genetic heritage vs. the environment in shaping who we are, our values, behaviors and attitudes. Regardless of which feature wins in the end, environment has a huge impact on personal attributes.
We rarely think about this, I'm sure, yet we all inhabit a variety of "environments" affecting our business life. Some are obvious - we know that if we're cold, in the dark and hungry, work is not likely to be at the top of our priorities until those 'environments' are corrected. Some are not so obvious yet have considerable impact, just the same. And, if not consciously designed and nurtured, our working environments can have a major impact on business success, affecting a business' ability to attract and keep desirable employees, attendance, creativity, productivity, general work habits, team effectiveness, use of time, valuable communications; essentially all those qualities a business depends on to get the job done.
We can think about this another way. When developing products, don't we bend over backwards to give them all the support we can to ensure they'll succeed and thrive? We find funds to develop and promote them, we find champions who'll support their development, we find partners, test markets, affiliates and more. Just as you would provide a new product or service, every working person deserves all the support available to ensure success - for themselves and for the contribution they make to your business. Part of this support comes from the environments in which we all work.
Consider these and how they affect your business:
1. Relationships - Our colleagues, managers, employees, and associates. The people with whom we have regular contact create an environment of attitude, either supporting or defeating our efforts to complete tasks. Are you likely to try something new, submit a proposal, follow through on a pet project, volunteer your ideas if those around you are negative, denigrating, rude and unappreciative? Do you think similar attitudes affect the degree of interest your employees have in doing excellent work? In wanting to do more than the minimum required? You bet they do.
On the other hand, an environment of support, regular feedback, appreciation, ongoing communication, and encouragement for contribution can be created with little cost and huge payback for your business.
2. Networks - Our customers, partners, web relations, the '6-degree' circle of associates we all possess. What we know, who we know and how well we share our knowledge, contacts and tips create an environment of value. Possessing a mentality of abundance (a willingness to share, knowing that by giving you get in return, believing that others' success can be your success) creates a reputation for you of great value. A mentality of scarcity (believing that there's not enough to go around, that shortage creates value, that fear is a great motivator) is far less likely to reap you the true rewards of networking: being let into the enormous webs of valuable connections represented by all those business cards exchanged at monthly business meetings, luncheons and seminars.
3. Physical - The things with which we surround ourselves. Yes, as I pointed out above we don't work well in the cold or dark and who can concentrate over a grumbling tummy? Many of us use art, plants or favorite toys to liven up a work space. Just ask yourself this question: where are you when you're doing your best work? If it's your working space you're lucky. Wherever it is, what's in that space that's so supportive of your business activity? Colors you enjoy? Music that pleases you? Photos that evoke your personal life, hobbies or passions? Comfortable furniture? Access to others? Solitude?
If you know the things you have in your working space support your business activity, have you offered the same opportunity to your employees? If you do your best work when out of the office, how can you bring to your office those touches that embrace your work habits?
4. Our self - Health, personal gifts, values, energy, the attitude with which we face the world. We know that when we don't feel well, physically, we simply are less likely to produce our best work. We're easily defeated by a cold, summer or otherwise. The same can happen if we're doing work that doesn't take advantage of our personal skill set. I love to write and interact with people in business conversation; if I had a job that didn't allow me to do either I'd express far less passion for the work than if I could express myself through those activities I most enjoy. Or think how difficult it can be to produce quality work if we're in an environment that contradicts our values. If you (or your employees) have to check your sense of integrity at the door each morning, you're coming to work with an important component missing.
Take a look at your employees; is it possible they're simply not engaged in the best tasks they could be doing for you? Do you know what their true strengths are and are those gifts engaged in service to your business? Do you know specifically why they your employees work for you and whether you can enhance that reward for them with the right environment?
Bottom line: Does your place of business provide an environment in which employees are supported to do their best work for you? Are they encouraged to learn, read, maintain professional affiliations that will increase their effectiveness for your business?
Creating an environment that supports your business may be trickier than just providing the necessary physical tools and working space but it doesn't have to be costly. It calls for taking a look at the messages your employees get from all the environments in which they operate on your behalf and ensuring those messages say 'your work is valued and vital to the health of this business; how can we support you toward that goal?'
And, just as summer is the ideal time to start packing away supplies for the cold winter months ahead, it's also the ideal time to create working environments that will support all the work we do to create businesses that thrive. Because businesses that thrive create their own kind of 'green' - and you can take that to the bank.