This post is part of our series on The 5 Evidence-based Foundations of a Mentally Healthy Workplace.
What do ethos and environment mean in a workplace context?
Ethos and environment are broad terms though can be boiled down in a professional context to workplace culture. Workplace ethos, environment and culture refer to the overarching values, beliefs, expectations and practices of a workplace. Workplace culture is often developed slowly through unwritten rules which influence views and actions within the workplace and interactions between workers.
Why is workplace ethos and environment important?
Workplace ethos and environment work hand-in-hand. Workplace ethos (that is, the characteristic values and practices of the workplace) begins to form the environment of the workplace (that is, the way workers interact with situations presented to them and with one another). The developing environment atmosphere then feeds back into the workplace ethos, feeding back into the environment, and so continues to cycle.
Workplace ethos and environment have the ability to affect worker productivity, retention and overall health, particularly mental health. If the workplace ethos and environment produces a negative culture, worker mental health is likely to reduce, impacting not only their individual wellbeing but also their ability to perform at their best in their job.
Workplaces with negative cultures do not often have a strong supportive structure in place, or leaders equipped with appropriate empowering education to support worker mental health. This can lead to a perpetuating cycle of stress, performance reduction and employee turnover across the organisation. Such workplace stressors have been related to clinically diagnosed mental and physical health conditions such as depression and heart disease.
What does a positive workplace ethos and environment look like?
As a negative workplace ethos and environment can create a toxic organisational culture, a positive workplace ethos and environment can create a flourishing organisational culture with a multitude of benefits for the business and the workers within it.
A Positive workplace ethos and environment should endorse healthy professional relationships and positive mental health. Workplaces which foster desirable core values such as trustworthiness, genuineness and integrity have been linked to stronger protection of worker mental health. Practically, positive workplace ethos and environment might look like incentive programs encouraging healthy behaviour benefiting both the business and worker day-to-day.
How is a positive workplace ethos and environment created?
Positive workplace ethos, environment and culture can only be truly achieved when interconnected with all 5 factors of a mentally healthy workplace: strengths-based management, community mindset, supportive structure, and empowering education. To borrow from the boss of Mr. Incredible:
“A company is like an enormous clock – it only works if all the little cogs mesh together.”
While Mr. Huph may not have created a positive ethos and environment in his workplace, his sentiment is still sound. A mentally healthy workplace cannot be achieved if some facets are working against others.