Tips for creating a supportive work environment

Turning Point Winter Games 2015 - Team Iguanodon at Cornhole - photo by Jennifer Sultz

Workplaces that make employees feel valued, supported and empowered are worth their weight in gold. For many of us, job satisfaction is as important, if not more important, than our rate of financial compensation.  And studies show happy employees are more productive, and more resistant to burnout.

At Turning Point, it is imperative that we have a healthy, happy and resilient team of professionals able to fulfill our mission to provide solid support to clients during the most difficult period of their lives.

Here are a few ways that Turning Point fosters a supportive work environment.

  1. Recognition for a job well done

As our client base grows we continue to seek the best talent to provide compassionate and skilled counseling services, and to maintain a manageable workload for our current employees.  Sometimes special projects come up, which require extra effort. For projects like these, such as our transition to a new electronic medical records (EMR) system, we formed a project team and gave them extra support.

Chief Financial Officer Marsha Hahn said, “When you ask for more effort from people, you need to give them support. We created a dedicated team workspace with computers and plenty of wall space for big sheets of easel paper.  They had designated work times with ‘do not disturb’ instructions to the rest of the agency.  We tried very hard to help them offload other tasks and reduce client responsibilities.  And, maybe most important, we made sure they had plenty of snacks!”

Turning Point also has an annual holiday lunch where it recognizes outstanding employees for their special contribution or anniversary milestones.

  1. Relaxation and Recreation (R & R)

Maintaining a supportive work environment means making opportunities for R&R all year round – not just when the team needs to go the extra mile.  Socializing together allows employees to get to know one another, creates a sense of community, and fosters mutual support. Celebratory staff lunches for a company achievement, annual holiday cookie exchanges, and lunchtime concerts provide time to relax and enjoy their coworkers, and personal days off give staff members time to recharge and spend quality time with loved ones.

“We try to mix it up and be creative in what we do,” says Chief Executive Officer Ann Fisher Raney. “For the last few years, we sponsored a Staff Self Care Day at the agency. We spent the morning having conversation about community concerns or educational offerings. In the afternoon, our talented staff shared their skills, teaching knitting, providing direction for art projects, making vegan dishes, practicing yoga and meditation. We offered a healthy lunch and snacks, massages, acupuncture and Reiki sessions.

Raney says the board members hosted a Winter Games event for staff last December. More than 40 people attended, and in teams of four, enjoyed some friendly competition, team-building and lots of belly laughs.

Turning Point Winter Games 2015 - Team Sauropod - photo by Jennifer Sultz

Turning Point Board Member Michael Corr, Senior Vice President of Commercial Banking at First Bank & Trust, co-hosted the Winter Games event. “Offering staff this opportunity to let off some steam after work in the form of fun and games is a way of recognizing the hard work they do for the organization on a daily basis. And involving the board of directors in the Winter Games was a great way to form one-on-one connections between the staff and board, a relationship which can seem all too distant in many organizations.”

“I felt like I got to know many of my co-workers in a fun and exciting way during the winter games,” said Ashley Nelson, Medical Billing Associate at Turning Point. “Plus I think that events like these are important for relationship building between staff and board members.”

  1. Focus on the Mission and Empower Staff to Pursue It

It may be easy for the business owner or CEO to keep the big vision and mission in mind, but communicating the value of the work, and why we do it, makes a big difference to staff. Find opportunities to acknowledge each team member’s contribution, and why it is vital for the success of the organization. Share success stories with them, celebrate their accomplishments, and remind everyone, especially when times are tough, why sticking to the mission statement matters.

At Turning Point, every full-time staff person receives three Professional Development days as part of their benefits package. They are encouraged to find educational opportunities that will allow them to learn more about new interests or deepen their knowledge about others. Many staff share their new learning at all-staff gatherings.

Fostering a Supportive Work Environment: The Sequel!

What works for your office or nonprofit organization? We invite you to share your thoughts on this post, or email them to [email protected]. We will try to feature them in a follow up post on creating a supportive work environment.


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