It is no secret that employees are more productive in a positive work environment than they are in a negative work environment. It is therefore good business sense to do what you can to create a positive work environment for your employees. Fortunately, there are several no-cost and low-cost steps that you can take to improve the health of your small business’s work environment.

1. Develop Effective Leadership

One of the problems that can lead to a hostile work environment is ineffective leadership within an organization. Leaders that either are overly aggressive and critical of their staff or that are too permissive can produce a work environment that is plagued with productivity problems. Leaders that are overly aggressive and critical of staff can produce a hostile work environment in which there is a high turn-over rate, high rates of job dissatisfaction and a higher rate of employment practice lawsuits. On the other hand, a leader that is too permissive will have employees that are unmotivated to do their jobs and that will be more prone to abuse company resources.

To correct these problems, effective leadership is essential. Leaders need to set and enforce rules of conduct, and they need to be supportive of their staff’s efforts. Leadership development can occur through reading materials on effective leadership, as well as through participating in leadership seminars. What I’ve found to be effective with leading staff is to lead by example. If I am working hard, communicating effectively with my staff and acting professionally, then my staff will know what is expected of them and they will follow suit.

2. Focus on Motivating Employees

Motivation in a small business is also very important. Employees can be motivated by a number of things, including praise, chances for advancement and financial rewards. When developing a motivational system for your small business, make sure you understand what motivates your staff, as not every employee is motivated by the same things. Some will be motivated by money, while others will be more motivated by time off or verbal praise. When developing a motivation plan, I like to ask my employees what would motivate them to meet more aggressive production goals. This gives me an idea of how to craft the final motivation program.

3. Enhance the Health of Your Office

Another issue that can create a hostile work environment is the layout or physical characteristics of the environment. In most cases, the work environment can be redesigned to produce a more positive and healthful space for little cost to you. To start with, examine the flow of your office. If there are obstacles that pose tripping hazards or that prevent a natural flow from one work space to another, then rearrange things and de-clutter. If the air is stagnant or polluted with particulates, then install an air filtration system or a circulation system to enhance the healthfulness of your work space. Finally, brighten things up with colorful wall hangings, flowers and even a bowl of citrus fruit. All of these small changes can help keep your employees happy and healthy for very little money