What Makes a Workplace “Ideal”?


“It’s just another manic Monday… wish it was Sunday,” sang The Bangles in their 1986 hit. The lyrics beg the question, are Mondays really all that bad? They don’t have to be, at least when you are employed in an ideal work environment. If you asked the average employer what the ideal work environment consists of, you may find that they focus on money and prestige. However, there’s more to consider when it comes to what keeps top employees motivated to come back to work on all those “manic Mondays.”

What Does an Ideal Work Environment Look Like?

Encourage Autonomy

According to this article by the Harvard Business Review, the most productive and professional environment where high-performing employees thrive is one in which “clear and specific expectations for what success looks like” are defined. To that end, leaders should consider the positives of giving their staff more autonomy to be successful. When someone is provided the freedom to decide how, when, and where they can best accomplish their responsibilities, they feel empowered and are more likely to give it their best efforts.

Coach, Don’t Micromanage

Managers in positive work environments are careful not to micromanage their staff, and instead operate as coaches. Good leaders have gotten to know their employees, and are skilled at keeping a pulse on the ebb and flow of the workday. When people are in the trenches of their work, they “don’t want to have the boss looking over their shoulder.” Crises are handled better when bosses focus on problem-solving as a team, rather than ‘Big Brother’ level supervision. In a positive work environment, people at all levels work effectively alongside each other without fear.

How to Create an Ideal Work Environment?

Trust Your People

So, how do companies challenge the tendency toward fear and intimidation to produce at a high level in the workplace? Trusting their employees. Forbes.com contributor David K. Williams explains that “as CEOs, we need to create an environment where employees are not constantly checking their rearview mirror, looking to be judged on their past speedbumps.” See this interesting article to learn more.

Treat Employees Like Family

Williams goes on to say that leaders should “include families in business,” and “treat employees like family.” What this means is that positive workplaces are understanding and creative in prioritizing work/life balance. If employees have sick children at home and ask to work remotely for some time, “give them the support to do that,” says Williams. In positive working environments, employees may become “like family” because of working closely together; however, managers shouldn’t fret if certain folks aren’t as close. As long as employees share respect and work well together, companies are poised for high productivity.

Encourage Positivity, But Don’t “Force” It

Sometimes, employers try too hard to create a warm and familial bond in the workplace by “mandating” positivity. This is a mistake. Organizational psychologist, Alicia Grandey, “has found that putting on an emotional mask at work… drains you of energy that can only be replenished if you then have an opportunity to be yourself.” Check out this article in The New Yorker. To create the best work environment, bosses cannot simply demand that people “play nice.” Innovation thrives in settings where people are already free of defensiveness and civility is an innate quality of the team, not something imposed from the top.

Offer Praise in Public, Give Constructive Feedback in Private

To maintain a workplace where employees consistently deliver their best work, managers must provide regular and valuable feedback. However, this should be done conscientiously. “There is nothing more demeaning and destructive… than being criticized in front of your peers,” said Chris Haroun, Founder and CEO of Haroun Education Ventures and Udemy instructor in this piece. Coaching employees is best done privately in an ideal work environment. The opposite is true when it comes to praise. Employees light up when celebrated in front of their peers. Recognizing a job well done in front of others not only raises the bar and inspires healthy competition; it also “increases confidence and encourages workers to support one another.”

The Culture Counts blog is a discussion of law firm culture and legal innovation, including topics such as effective leadership, employee engagement, workplace culture, ideal work environment, company core values, and workplace productivity.  

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