3 Steps To Supporting A Positive Work Environment

“Management’s overall aim should be to create a system in which everybody may take joy in his work” – Dr. Edwards Deming.

The day-to-day demands faced by clinical leaders can make it difficult to focus on promoting joy in the workplace when faced other priorities like addressing low engagement scores or improvement. For at least the past decade, nursing shortages and the sky-high turnover rates of bedside nurses have posed significant problems to nurse leaders. It is no secret that nurse attrition can impact everything from quality of care and team morale to the department’s net operating budget, seeing as staff nurses are generally the single largest line item on the budget. 

However, recent studies have shown that increasing joy in the workplace also addresses key components of improving work environment which can translate to higher organizational performance. Below is a list of 4 steps clinical leaders can take to improve joy in the workplace.    

1. Promote positive energy within the workplace.

Have you ever entered a room and felt tense energy from your surroundings? Clearly, that kind of energy can take a toll on employees or anyone for that matter when faced with such an environment on a day-to-day basis. That is why it is so important for clinical leaders to be conscious of the kind of energy they bring when they show up. After all, every interaction is an energy exchange.

Below are several questions leaders can ask themselves to get a sense of how they can best support a positive and joyful work environment. Do you:

  • Come to work with a positive attitude that is contagious (and by contagious, I mean genuine)?
  • Check in and interact with team members in a supportive way? A sincere “How are you today?” can be a good start.
  • Treat each member of your team with equal respect?
  • Recognize team members for their contributions and show that you value them and their unique strengths?
  • Focus on what’s right in others, more than what’s wrong?
  • Celebrate your team’s successes with them?1

2. Support strong relationships.

Strong workplace relationships are crucial for teams to be able to trust each other and effectively collaborate. Clinical leaders can use surveys to gain a better understanding of the underlying attitudes and priorities. Below are several questions that are supported by the IHI Framework for Improving Joy in Work:

  • What matters most to you at work?
  • What makes a good day for you?
  • What makes you proud to work here?
  • What does it look like when are we at our best?1

3. Nurture a sense of meaning.

As hospitals face continuous pressure to increase patient throughput, nurses are also finding themselves under more pressure to treat more patients in a short amount of time. The caveat is that increased throughput may detract from a nurse’s ability to provide quality bedside care depending on the work environment. While nurses may face increased workloads caused by a variety of factors ranging from staffing shortages to organizational pressures to increased patient volumes, it can be easy to lose sight of the fact that those who go into nursing do so because of a desire to care for and connect with others, rather than just complete tasks and move on to the next.

Of course, there will always be variation between how one manager or director runs a department compared to another. However, when attracting and retaining talent, nurses thrive in hospital systems that place a strong emphasis on maintaining a culture of care which then permeates into the work environment at every level. By valuing people over profit, leaders are able to create a culture of safety that promotes taking adequate break times, voicing unpopular opinions in order to advocate for patients when necessary, and build strong connections with colleagues that promote trust and respect amongst the team.

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Sources: 1Bendaly, N. (April 22, 2019) Want Happier Employees? Four Things Leaders Can Do


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