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Creating A Positive Workplace

What to Look For, and How to Contribute

By Natasja RosePublished about a year ago Updated about a year ago 10 min read
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Creating A Positive Workplace
Photo by Redd F on Unsplash

It's been three months since I started my new job, and I honestly don't recall the last time I was this happy, or felt so satisfied, in a workplace.

I won't say that there aren't downsides - I could do with a shorter morning commute, and full-time work is exhausting for someone with limited executive function - but overall, I'm loving this job.

It's challenging, but rewarding, and a lot of that is to do with the culture built within the company. The people are wonderful, and I don't feel like an Autistic Social Mistake will be a one-way trip back to unemployment. (Low bar, I know, but some businesses don't even manage that...)

So, with that quarter-year milestone behind me, and the initial training period done, I'm hopeful enough in my continued employment to segue over to my hobby-job, and write about it.

Any workplace culture is a collaborative effort between the company and the employees. Many companies put the onerous on their workers and demand that they just keep a positive attitude, how hard can it be to come to work with a smile? This attitude ignores that they also have a role: making the company somewhere people want to work. Whether that's through incentives, generous leave, regular pay reviews, employee bonuses or flexible work, if a company wants people to come in with a smile, they'd better make the job worth smiling about!

That said, a positive workplace culture isn't just on the employer. I'm a firm advocate of the principle that if you're miserable in your current position, it's time to start looking for a new one.

This is especially true for customer-facing roles, but generally true for everyone else. There are ways you can achieve a more positive mindset, but a bit of preparation when job-hunting goes a long way. Finding a job you think you won't hate, is always a good start

By Smartworks Coworking on Unsplash

Pre-Employment

This might sound silly when most people are desperately looking for any job they can get, but it pays to be selective with what you apply for.

In the latter half of last year, I was inundated with job offers for hospital nursing, aged care and disability carer positions. I could have taken nearly any of them, and the employers would have bent over backward to make themselves a desirable place to work. I might even have liked it.

But I'd worked hard to get qualified for a position in Administration, and after ten years as a Care Support Worker, looking for an alternative was starting to become a necessity. If I took any of those easy-to-find jobs, I'd be right back in the rut of being over-worked, under-paid, under-appreciated, and burnt out.

I turned them all down, and kept looking.

When you're job-hunting, it pays to use the filters. How far are you willing to commute in a day? What's your minimum wage expectation? How many hours do you want to work per week, and how flexible are you on that number? What amount of mandatory overtime is a deal-breaker? What kind of work are you looking for (casual, part time, full-time)?

Filter your job-search accordingly, and you'll save a lot of time not trawling through ads for jobs that you'll be miserable in before you've been there a month.

Also, be on the lookout for Weasel Words in the job ads. Phrases like "pay based on performance", "commission-based" and "no minimum hours" are glaring red flags that you definitely want to ask more about in the interview stage. Most companies will have a website, and it pays to look up their mission statement, reviews from customers, and what the staff have to say.

When applying for my current job, I had two other interviews around the same time. All three made me offers.

One was only a suburb or two away from my house, a small private hospital looking for an all-rounder admin. They were the first to respond, and offered me a job starting as soon as possible, but they couldn't really define what my role and responsibilities would be, and I had the feeling that a lot of the things I'd be asked to do would be things I wasn't necessarily trained on. Also, I have a certain amount of anxiety around hospitals, and I wasn't sure that working in one would be the best thing for me.

The second was an hour-long commute by car with no traffic, and two hours by public transport (a bus to the station, then a train). They were a busy eye-surgery in an affluent area, offering me (and several others) a five-day work trial, after which a job offer might follow. (Or might not...) The hours were more to my taste, shifts between 4 and 7 hours each, but the workload more than made up for that. Wearing sneakers on my first day turned out to have been an excellent idea.

My current job is a combination Front Desk/Admin job in a small office at an Australia/NZ Fit-For-Work company. The commute was about 40 minutes by car or 90 minutes by public transport, and while it was full-time, they also paid public holidays and the company reviews were promising. The work sounded interesting, not beyond my skill-set, and varied enough that I wouldn't get bored.

By Headway on Unsplash

The Interview

In an interview, it's important to sell yourself as the best candidate for the job, but it's also important to ask questions, and to realize that it's not just the official interview that you'll be judged on.

A common tactic is to present you with a small inconvenience and see how you respond to it. "The person interviewing you is just finishing up a call/meeting/consultation, they'll be a few minutes" is a common one. Do you get huffy or short with the staff member, or reassure them that these things happen? Were you engaging with the staff you talked to while waiting, or curt and dismissive? Did you complain about your time being wasted, or pull out a book because you know that delays happen, especially in places suffering from understaffing?

How you react and treat your potential future co-workers tells the prospective employers a lot about you, and how you'll fit in.

At the end of the interview, you'll have the opportunity to ask your own questions, which is where researching companies in advance comes in handy. A question I like to ask is "Can you describe what an average day will look like?"

This gives you an idea of how much the interviewer knows about the rest of the company, as well as what you can expect if you're successful.

My other question is "What is the Starting Pay?". Often, this will have been listed on the advertisement itself, but in a "$X - $Y pa" or "from $Z p/h" in regards to the average employee pay, which is less than informative about what I, specifically, will be making. I may be new to the Medical Administration field, but I'm still doing skilled work, so anywhere offering barely minimum wage is somewhere that's planning to under-pay me.

As an Aged/Disability Care Support Worker, I made between $26 and $29 per hour, plus penalties. As a new starter in a skilled job, I won't take less than $25 per hour, pre-tax.

Some places will offer a slightly lower base-rate of pay, because it will be topped up with penalty rates for weekends, public holidays, early- and late-shifts. This works out to a higher rate of overall pay, in exchange for a non-standard schedule. Others will offer a lower payrate during the initial training/probation period, with an increase once you pass that, and regular pay reviews and performance bonuses.

Know your value, and figure out how much wiggle room you have, without letting your employer under-value you.

On-The-Job

Something that my new job does that I really like is actively working to foster a positive and connected environment.

Rather than communication being all emails, each department and each office has a Microsoft Teams Chat. Aside from far fewer emails cluttering up your inbox, especially when you're expecting a bunch of important responses, you can send a one-line message, tag someone if it's urgent, or video-call if you need to share your screen or would rather not spend half an hour typing out the details.

It's also a less formal option than emails, allowing for more relaxed and informal communication.

When some anonymous member of staff neglected to replace a toilet roll, Mathew took to the Sydney Teams Chat to threaten us all with a power-point presentation on the correct way to replace a roll. Several other staff members chimed in with diagrams, screenshots of the original toilet roll patent, and memes. Everyone got a good laugh.

The entire Bookings Chat chimed in to sympathise with Chloe, who got a flat tire on the way to work and wound up coming in late. Everyone shares the occasional self-deprecating moment for giggles and "yeah, I've done that, too". If someone can't find one of the Phone Script documents, or isn't sure which Radiology form to use, they don't have to type up several different emails asking individuals, but can post in the group chat and get a response from whoever answers first.

Another thing I like about my company is the Daily Positives, an email sent out each morning with the previous day's wins. Every employee is expected to find something nice to say about another employee, at least once per week. Often, this is as simple as "thanks for helping with X situation" or "good job fitting in those urgent bookings". Sometimes it's "thanks for letting us know about the affiliate's changed open hours" or "I appreciate the support when i was having a tough day".

Everyone likes to feel appreciated now and then, and this is one way of not only letting people know when they're doing a good job, but feeling a stronger sense of friendship and connection, even if you're in different states. It's far better than only hearing from your co-workers when you mess up.

Leave is another thing to consider. A company that whines and asks if you're SURE you can't come in when you call in sick is not somewhere you want to stay for long. If it's always the same people getting first choice of leave, or the same people always being denied leave, that's a red flag. When I had to take a half-day due to an injury requiring a visit to my General Practitioner, I got two concerned emails from my superiors asking if I was all right, and to let my supervisor know when I arrived in the office so they could organize the appropriate amount of leave.

For someone fresh off several years of being made to feel guilty every time I called in sick, this was a refreshing change.

Annual leave can vary with the company and national labor laws. Australia has four weeks of annual leave as the minimum, and most companies have the option to take leave without pay, or purchase additional paid leave by working unpaid overtime. High-Stress jobs like nursing may offer additional annual leave to prevent burnout. Some countries have no minimum standard, or link the amount of paid leave to the number of hours worked.

Whether you save up your leave for a holiday, or give yourself a mental health day every month, don't be afraid to actually use your leave, and never let people make you feel guilty for taking it.

By Christina @ wocintechchat.com on Unsplash

Pacing Yourself

While some things have to be done on a timeframe, or be completed as quickly as possible, most of the time it's far more efficient to pace yourself. Set a routine. Organise your day in whatever way works for you.

When I arrive in the morning, I clock on, put my lunch in the fridge, check teams for my daily bookings allocation, check my emails, and check when the first consult of the day is due to arrive.

Next, I'll get started on the bookings at one particular affiliate that doesn't do over-the-phone bookings. Once those booking emails are sent, I'll start on the other locations while waiting for them to respond. My lunch breaks are timed around whenever there's enough of a gap that I probably won't be interrupted halfway through by someone walking in and needing my attention. Whenever that happens to be, I aim to have seven bookings (and the associated paperwork) done by then.

Inevitably, there will interruptions in the form of applicants who need help filling out forms, urgent bookings that need to be done immediately, requests to look something up, and other office-based minute. Variety is the spice of (work)life, but it stops me from staring at a screen for 8 hours at a stretch.

By Mimi Thian on Unsplash

Off-Hours

I mentioned a long commute to work being a thing to watch out for, but in my case, it's a good thing.

I'm one of those people who takes a while to get functioning in the morning, so the 90-ish minutes it takes to get to work allows me to wake up in the morning, and de-compress on the way home. It also allows me to get in some exercise walking between the bus stop and work.

So, yes, I do have to wake up, throw on my uniform, and be out the door before 7:00 AM, but I then have the next hour and a half to read, type up an article on Vocal, embroider, and otherwise do my own thing before I have to be a functional adult for the day. Likewise, I get to relax on the way home, rather than gritting my teeth as I fume through peak-hour traffic.

At home, I eat dinner while watching Netflix or YouTube, then read fanfiction or work on a craft project. Spend your weekends on the beach, if that's your thing. Cycle or play sport, if you prefer that. Set aside a day to hang out with friends. Find something relaxing to do when you're not at work, and actually do it.

Your stress levels will thank you.

By Smartworks Coworking on Unsplash

If you liked this story, leave a heart, a comment or a tip and share it around, and check out my other work on Medium and Amazon.

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About the Creator

Natasja Rose

I've been writing since I learned how, but those have been lost and will never see daylight (I hope).

I'm an Indie Author, with 30+ books published.

I live in Sydney, Australia

Follow me on Facebook or Medium if you like my work!

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Comments (6)

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  • HandsomelouiiThePoet (Lonzo ward)about a year ago

    Nice 💯❤️📝

  • Judey Kalchik about a year ago

    This was such an interesting piece- valuable information and action points combined with a look at your own work life. Well done!

  • Mariann Carrollabout a year ago

    Congratulations on getting a job you love. I love the part where you get mental health day, don’t feel guilty taking it. 🥰

  • Excellent article & advice. Thank you for sharing this with us.

  • Babs Iversonabout a year ago

    Wonderful & informative!!! Loved it!!💖💖💕

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