A guest post by Meredith Wood, editor-in-chief at Fundera. 

A positive work environment is a safer, speedier, and more successful one. In fact, keeping employees in a perpetual pressure-cooker costs U.S. businesses $500 billion each year. A negative company culture doesn’t just make your employees cranky—it takes a toll on their physical health as well.

As a small business leader, you’re uniquely positioned to create a positive work culture. How you walk into work each day is one of the biggest determinations of the success of your business. If that sounds like a grave responsibility, it is!

That’s why we’ve put together four of the simplest ways to build and maintain a healthy, happy company culture while working in close quarters.

  1. Make Gratitude a Habit

How often do you thank the human beings on your team, beyond a quick “Thanks!” sign-off at the end of an email? A sincere, verbal “thank you” for a job well done is the simplest way to foster a culture of gratitude. Thank employees for their deliverables. Thank them as they leave the office after a hard day’s work. Thank them for their time and attention at the end of meetings. These tiny gestures cost you little but earn you so much.

Gratitude can manifest in larger, material ways as well. Reward employees with a treat, an afternoon off, a gift card, or an in-office celebration at the conclusion of a big project or launch. Bonuses and monetary gifts have obvious value, but these other gifts let your team know you appreciate them in more personal ways, beyond their ability to drive your bottom line.

  1. Champion Wellness

It’s not difficult to support wellness passively—no boss wants a slew of employees out sick. Actively championing their physical well-being, however, takes effort and intention. Long nights at the office may be inevitable in your industry, but praising—or even simply permitting—habitual overwork can do profound damage to the health of your team.

Championing wellness could mean encouraging your team to leave the office, or at least get outside, for lunch. It could mean adjusting the physical environment to better accommodate their needs, or even just their preferences—things like accessibility, sunlight, or furniture. It could mean re-examining how you communicate with employees when stressed, to see if you’re tacitly encouraging unhealthy work behaviors. Wellness culture will look different for every team, but the end result is the same: a thriving team that suffers from less burnout.

  1. Make Space to Be Social

Unscheduled social time will—and must—happen organically. As your team’s leader, you have the opportunity to make time for scheduled, optional social events as well. Whether it’s karaoke, kickball games, movie nights, or cocktail hours, these off-the-clock activities help build the kind of teams that go the extra mile for each other.

These spaces to be social don’t have to be physical spaces, either—they can be digital as well. (And if your team is partially or even fully remote, they have to be.) Set up a private company Facebook group, a GIFs-only Slack channel, or some other digital watercooler where employees can let their guard down.

Keep in mind that as the boss, you may need to keep a respectful distance from some of these spaces, depending on your team’s size and dynamic. The goal, after all, is to blow off steam.

  1. Publicize Your Core Values

How well does your team understand your company’s values? Would any team member, if asked, be able to articulate what you stand for?

Your company’s core values may live on your website, but that shouldn’t be the only place those values make themselves known. Make them a visible part of your workplace. Publicizing company values holds you, the boss, accountable for upholding them, too. It grants your team a glimpse at what drives company decision-making. It sets the tone for interactions with clients and customers, and it gives members of your team something positive to rally behind.

The example you set, behaviors you encourage, and policies you implement have a tremendous effect on the well-being of your team. Your employees also play an important role in maintaining this positive work culture. They’re rowing the boat, after all. But as the business owner, you have the responsibility—and the honor—of steering that ship.


Meredith Wood is Editor-in-Chief and VP of Marketing at Fundera, a marketplace for small business financial solutions. Specializing in financial advice for small business owners, Meredith is a current and past contributor to Yahoo!, Amex OPEN Forum, Fox Business, SCORE, AllBusiness and more.