The Wellness team’s office is on the 3rd floor of Reid Hall on the MSU Bozeman campus. Our office gets blistering hot in the summer and frigid in the winter, but is otherwise a great space. We have big windows that let in plenty of natural light, and these days, we have a perfect view of the owls that hang out during the day under the eves of neighboring Traphagen Hall.

We are also surrounded by really wonderful office neighbors, most of whom do nutrition and health-related work. I’ve known many of our 3rd-floor office-mates for years and have enjoyed getting to know them, and hearing about the work that they do. And yet, I will admit that all too often, I get into work-mode, close the door to keep out the sound of classes during the school year or construction during the summer, and only wave a brief hello when passing in the hallway.

So it was a pleasant opportunity this week when a few new employees on the 3rd floor of Reid arranged a “Meet and Treat” event. They provided fruit and coffee cake, and we spent some time getting to know one another or catching up. Despite it seeming a million degrees in the conference room, and having to use our plates as fans in an attempt to cool off, everyone stuck around for longer than I expected. I heard several people ask why we don’t do something like this more often, and at the end of the event, plans were tentatively made for another similar get-together (maybe outside in the shade next time!)

Coincidentally, I had spent time just that morning reading through responses to our latest One-Question Survey we recently asked through our Incentive Program, “What is one specific thing you could do to foster a more positive work culture or environment?” and one of the top responses was a variation of this: Interact more with my colleagues. Answers like these:

  • Consistently say good morning to co-workers every day!
  • Get to know new additions to the department
  • Encourage conversation
  • Make a visit to a different co-worker daily and say hi.
  • Ask the “How are you?” question in a way that gets beyond the reflexive “Fine” answer.
  • Ask two follow-up questions about how my colleagues are doing before sharing my own information.
  • Say hi to everyone I meet in the halls instead of keeping my head down.

No one is advocating here that we spend our time at work only socializing. Of course there’s work that needs to be done. We don’t even need to do formal get-togethers like the one that Reid Hall hosted this week, although many of you did say that more social functions, shared lunches, or team meetings would be helpful. But so many of you commented on what a difference it would make in creating a more positive work culture if we took just a moment to talk to coworkers, ask how they’re doing, greet others in our office, or simply smile.

Other top responses were similar, in that nearly all of the suggestions are (relatively) easy to do, require very little time, money, or effort, and yet can make an incredible difference in overall work culture. Here’s what you said:

  • Communicate. This includes actually listening to what others are saying. Listen to understand, instead of listening just to respond. Open communication. Don’t make assumptions.
  • Stop gossiping.
  • Complain less. Look for solutions instead of complaining. Help shut down complaining when it starts.
  • Acknowledge others’ jobs well done. Recognize and draw attention to specific achievements. Let coworkers know their work really DOES matter, more often. Show gratitude.
  • Be kind.
  • Keep a positive attitude. Look for the positive in every situation. When a challenge comes up, be the light that mentions what benefit the adversity will play for our department.

I think we can all agree that it’s much more pleasurable to work in an office where communication is open and encouraged, gossip is nonexistent, a positive attitude is the norm, hard work is recognized, and people are kind to one another. Doesn’t that sound nice? How about we collectively agree to work towards this? Even if your boss or supervisor doesn’t do much to foster a positive work environment, each individual’s attitude and actions makes a difference. A few extra minutes to actively listen, or to encourage a coworker, or to ask how someone is really doing can make work a happier, healthier place for everyone. 

I purposefully left one top response off the list above, but if all else fails, you can do what many of you also suggested and…bring donuts! (Which, ok, I get it, but as Nutrition Specialist for the MUS Wellness Program, may I kindly suggest bringing in healthy treats instead?! People like fresh fruit too!)

Be Well!


One thought on “Creating a Positive Work Environment

  1. Hi Cristin, Thanks for this very encouraging and uplifting message. Connie

    Connie Hitchcock Business Faculty Flathead Valley Community College 777 Grandview Drive, BSS 107 Kalispell, MT. 59901 (406) 756-4329

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