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Is a positive workplace culture important? An interview with HR Director, Alun Simpson

Alex | July 9, 2022

Many of us understand the many benefits of a positive work culture, and conversely the problems that can arise from an unhealthy and negative culture. A positive workplace culture can improve productivity, and teamwork, raise morale and efficiency. Overall it can enhance talent acquisition and retention and generally, people enjoy a greater level of job satisfaction. A negative culture on the other hand will cultivate low employee engagement, higher rates of absenteeism, a lack of loyalty and a high staff turnover.

In this blog, we sit down with FreshGround’s HR Director, Alun to discuss the importance of culture and the ways that businesses can embrace and improve their own.

Q. What does a positive workplace culture look like to you?

A. Firstly let’s fully understand what workplace culture means. Essentially, culture is the character and personality of your business. It’s what makes it unique and includes your values, beliefs, interactions, behaviours and attitudes in the workplace. Culture is quite literally the office environment that surrounds us all the time which is why it’s so critical to get right.

When I think of a positive culture, I think of happy people enjoying what they do. Of course, everyone will have bad days, challenges and obstacles to tackle in their day-to-day. But overall, we want a space where people feel comfortable, heard, respected and rewarded.

With the health and well-being of teams being increasingly important to businesses, a positive workplace environment can also help to reduce stress in employees. Stress can result in higher sickness absences, lower staff engagement and reduced productivity. According to the HSE, 17.9 million working days were lost to stress, anxiety or depression in 2019/20.

From a commercial perspective places with a thriving culture can improve business agility, drive organisational purpose and improve results and their bottom line. But it’s not all about that. In fact, too much of a profit focus creates a negative culture. That and along with factors such as micromanagement, bullying behaviour, inflexibility and poor communication are all contributing factors to an unhappy workplace.

Q. How would you describe the culture at FreshGround?

A. We have a positive culture here that we’ve worked hard to achieve and continuously strive to improve. We operate as a family in some ways where we’re supportive and work collaboratively. Our environment is vibrant and thriving and we do what we can to fulfil the potential of our team, our customers, ourselves and the business as a whole.

We invest in our team through a number of initiatives. Of course, financial reward is just one of those. We also provide team lunches, put on team-building events and naturally we offer fantastic coffee to everyone! We invest heavily in training and development and many of our team are actively studying for qualifications to further their careers.

We also recognise and reward achievements. Not being recognised for hard work makes people feel demotivated and less willing to stay in their roles. That’s why it’s important that we show genuine appreciation and celebrate our teams’ success.

Q. What recommendations would you make to improve workplace culture overall and at FreshGround?

A. There are always areas to improve which is why we believe in clear communication within the business. We send out a monthly ‘pulse survey’ in which we ask how our team are feeling and what we can do better. We’re pleased to say that this is largely positive but we continue to review our approach.

Overall we’d like to better improve communication and transparency to help the team understand why certain decisions are made. It can be challenging to keep every single employee happy but we do our best and welcome feedback.

Q. How did the pandemic affect workplace culture and do we need to do things differently now?

A. Like any business, we felt a major impact on our workplace culture during the pandemic. Having the whole team suddenly working from home represented some challenges. It was harder to keep those connections going within the team and we certainly missed the impromptu meetings and catch-ups that are so hard to replicate over Zoom.

A lot of our team prefer working in our bustling office with their colleagues. And now things are thankfully returning to normal, most of the team are back working full-time on-site. We operate openly and like I said, communication is key so if any of our team are ever worried about anything, they’re encouraged to talk to their managers or come to the HR department.

Q. Do you feel that workplace perks support workplace culture?

A. Office perks can certainly support your workplace culture and nurture engagement. And it’s positive both for the individual, the customers and the business. Richard Branson once put it perfectly, “If you take care of your employees, they will take care of your clients.”

There’s definitely a requirement for perks in today’s office. Interestingly, in a recent survey, 71% of UK workers said they value office drinks, travel schemes and flexi-hours over pensions. Other simple things like employee discounts and ensuring your team has access to a quality coffee experience at work are vital. They are simple initiatives but they show you care and appreciate the team which is vital for productivity and wellbeing.

There’s heaps of information online to help improve your workplace culture and remember that a lot of these are simple and affordable solutions that can make all the difference.

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Installing a premium coffee machine in your office kitchen, meeting rooms, or break-out areas, is just one way to bring people together and further build your culture. If you’d like more information about any of our bean-to-cup coffee machines, simply contact our team today.