Developing Your Workplace Culture: Hours, Language, and Alcohol

Developing Your Workplace Culture: Hours, Language, and Alcohol

Between Mad Men and their booze-fueled workdays, Google with their indoor food trucks and adult jungle gyms or whatever, or watching Office Space for the fiftieth time and cringing once again at their nightmarish depiction of cubicle land, managers and bosses across the board are looking more purposefully at the workplace culture that exists, or doesn’t, in their organizations. In a marketplace for hiring and keeping talent that is growing increasingly more competitive for smaller outfits across any number of fields, business leaders are realizing the importance of developing and shaping the atmosphere their employees inhabit day in and day out and what effects that environment has on productivity, attitude, and effectiveness. Happy people do better work. Successful companies have dynamic cultures. By taking this aspect of the work environment into your hands you can showcase what values are important to your company and share them more effectively with and amongst the worker bees.

Take an active role in shaping the culture of your workplace. Rest assured it will shape itself otherwise one way or another and quickly spin out of your hands.

Strike a Balance

Attracting the talent and retaining the individuals your operation needs is paramount. Having an attractive work environment and atmosphere matters more than most people realize. That being said, it’s essential to find the sweet spot between a workplace that’s all fun and games aimed at pleasing the team and ensuring that the culture encourages everyone to work and interact in a way that embodies the mission of the company. Be attentive to the setting people are working in and where that guides them. Adjust the hierarchy of your company to suit the culture you want and establish the shared goals, values, and attitudes that you see as the foundation of the office atmosphere.

Set Your Expectations and Keep Things Clear

Clarity is the key to establishing a beneficial culture in and around your place of business. When implementing your ideas, it’s vital to make the expectations of you and your organization clear lest any gray areas are co-opted with negative results. Whether you’re talking about less rigid lunch times, a bottle of beer on Friday afternoons, or more casual language than normal in the office, you will be best served by maintaining the same standards for everyone involved. Employees notice when favorites are being played or when it’s okay for one person to behave a certain way but implied that that isn’t necessarily applicable to everyone else. Beyond that, it’s important that the managers don’t just talk the talk, but walk the walk. Leading by example, demonstrating what’s appropriate and what’s not, and participating and working within that workplace atmosphere all help develop trust and establish a level of comfort with the environment you’ve established.

Another thing to bear in mind is that the workplace culture extends beyond the normal perks like casual Fridays or flex time. The real culture that will affect how your operation functions is found primarily in how your employees interact. Those relationships extend beyond the walls and hours of your business, but the tone is set by the management. Your workplace atmosphere isn’t a Ronnie Ronco oven to simply set and forget. Just as you need to scale up your business when you’ve outgrown a space or update your equipment as needed, the culture that develops shouldn’t go unnoticed or untended. A guiding hand, a tweak or adjustment here or there, or introducing or removing certain aspects may all be appropriate at different times to enhance its effect.

To Booze or Not to Booze? 

This question is coming up more and more often in workplaces of increasingly disparate vibes. For those wondering if keeping a fridge full of beer in the break room or passing around a bottle of scotch as the weekend draws near there are a few points to keep in mind. Employees have always gathered around the proverbial water cooler to socialize with one another and take their minds off the pressures of the moment. Today that water cooler is more and more often being replaced with a beer tap. Allowing employees access to alcohol helps reduce stress and increase comradery in many cases. It’s said that productivity and creativity come in fits and starts rather than on a strictly hourly basis and adding a reasonable level of openness regarding alcohol could contribute to a more amenable and less high strung group of workers who feel like they’re being treated like adults rather than supervised like children. America is playing catch up in this aspect when compared to other like-minded nations across Europe, parts of Asia, and Australia. Of course, it’s of the utmost importance not to encourage or tolerate any type of peer pressure or sense of exclusivity, but when addressing the question of alcohol’s pros and cons it’s important to remember that attracting the best talent merits some risks or rule relaxing with work culture in mind.

The Question of Language and Dress

Sure, Mark Zuckerberg may have made the workplace hoodie a staple of today’s professional environment, but outside of Google, Facebook, or the engineering and programming departments is the age of business-appropriate dress dead and gone? In short, no. Professionalism isn’t simply a state of mind but an approach towards how things are done and that approach is noticed in the way someone presents themselves as well as the work they do. Dressing for success is still a thing despite what your newsfeed might imply. As far as language in the workplace goes, this depends largely on reading the room, so to speak, and gauging how things are meant and how they’ll be taken. A certain level of informality can go a long way in creating a comfortable work environment but when push comes to shove you’re probably not doing anybody any favors by condoning the casual use of vulgar or openly profane language.

Everything In Moderation

Tying all these aspects together with the aim of building a convivial and encouraging work culture is a give and take proposition. Rather than simply letting the cows out of the barn and turning your employees loose to do as they will as long as the work gets done would be asking for trouble in a big way. Keep a light hand on the tiller and choose where and how you’d like to grow the work environment and to what extent. If you treat your people like adults generally that’s who you’ll have working for you just as treating them like children will result in a workplace more reminiscent of a junior high classroom than a professional setting. Have reasonable expectations for yourself and your staff and as a team you’ll have the best success building the atmosphere that works best.

About author

Philip Barry
Philip Barry 18 posts

Philip Barry is a featured contributor to AgeOfTheSmallBusiness.com. After graduating from Fairfield University with a B.A. in French and International Studies he lived in Bordeaux, France for four years before serving with the U.S. Peace Corps in Ethiopia.

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