Building a Positive Work Environment Matters — Here’s How to Do It

Your team might be ready to jump ship. But a happy workplace can keep them on board and keep business smooth sailing.
Building a Positive Work Environment Matters — Here’s How to Do It

From the tech boom to industry woes, we’ve been navigating choppy waters over these last few years. And to weather today’s economic storm — you need to keep your crew happy, engaged, and motivated.

While we’re all about hiring talented people here at Otta, we know that keeping your best people matters.

So we sat down with Tom Boal (Chief Culture Officer and Head of Operations at what3words), Matt Doe (Head of Talent and Community at hyperexponential), and our People Director, Ozzie Clarke-Binns.

Here’s what they said:

To build a positive environment, everything counts.

Creating a positive environment is an all-hands-on-deck job. You can’t choose one thing to fix or improve — you need to look at a series of factors to build a great workplace.

“In a way, it’s quite simple,” says Tom from what3words. “You need to do a lot of things very well.” For example, his list focuses on a culture of openness and transparency, building excellent People teams, focusing ruthlessly on clear internal comms, offering mental health benefits and much more.

So, how do you know which factors to prioritise? Listen to your employees.

“People have to feel like their voice is both heard and valued,” says Ozzie, Otta’s People Director. “If they don’t feel valued or unheard, they become disengaged.”

So he suggests to:

Embrace open communication, top to bottom
Survey your employees on a semi-regular basis to take the pulse of your team. Acknowledge their experiences and pinpoint what you’re doing well (and where you need to improve).
• Then, when you’ve committed to changing or improving something, keep your promises.

Let’s jump in. These 5 areas could be your business’ lifeboat.


1. Don't just talk about employee well-being — invest in it

We’re more exhausted than ever. While we’ve been treading these pandemic waters for three years now, we’ve become acutely aware of the importance of self-care. More people are open to talking about it in the workplace. But it’s one thing to talk about it — action is better.

Here’s how:

Offer a Wellness Budget
At Otta, every member has a £500 yearly wellness budget. Wellness looks different for each individual, spanning from mental to physical. From gym memberships to coffee subscriptions and massages, our team has the chance to build a well-being program that reflects their needs.

Provide Access to Wellness Platforms
“We are incredibly focused on mental health and wellbeing. Working in a high-growth fintech is hard, and when you factor in world events over the last few years, it could be easy to miss the pressures your team may be under." says Matt Doe, hx.

"We focus on prevention over cure here and offer our team unlimited access to some great well-being platforms/services such as Oliva and Juno. This allows us time to focus purely on ourselves, and we encourage all team members to make full use of these regardless of whether or not they show signs of needing support. We will also always push ourselves to achieve more when it comes to this topic and we talk about it at a company-wide level on a regular basis in order to encourage open discussion and create further initiatives to support our team.” 

Create A Safe Space
what3words has created a space that promotes the importance of mental health, offering their own health initiative called Take3 — “a well-being program which includes a worker listening team and access to professional medical cover.”

2. Check your biases at the front door

"How do you define your best people?” asks Ozzie. “Many preconceptions and judgements come into how we look at people… and many companies lose their best people simply because they don’t look like them, or they’re too quiet, or they don’t crack the same jokes, and they end up feeling sidelined.”

So if you want to keep your best people, you need to recognise their qualities beyond the surface. And if you’re committed to diversity, you’re more likely to identify each individual's unique needs, perspectives and potential. Ozzie suggests to:

Embed equitable outcomes into your People processes to reduce groupthink in hiring decisions and company culture
• Work harder to overcome personal privileges and biases when appraising performance
Challenge your decision-making and, where possible, let data inform your actions.

3. Give your mission meaning


“People are happier, more innovative, and more productive if they feel they understand the company strategy and are bought into the values and purpose,” says Tom Boal.

So how do you keep people engaged with the mission?
Matt Doe says, “By keeping our mission and values at the forefront of everything we do and by regularly discussing them at company all-hands meetings - as well as ensuring all new hxers go through a thorough onboarding that focuses heavily on these - we strive to always keep people engaged with our mission.

“Our CEO/Co-founder, Amrit, sets a good standard in how to maintain this engagement by hosting regular skip level 1:1 meetings with hxers across the business to check in on them, discuss the company mission and listen to their feedback. And we’ve implemented a whole host of other initiatives in a similar vein to this!”

4. Keep work flexible


Flexibility matters more than ever, and if you’re not offering it, someone else will. (In fact, companies with “remote” mentioned in their benefits get 27% more applications per job on Otta.)

As Tom explains, it’s important to recognise that “the world of work has changed” and that you now need to combine the best bits of the pre and post-pandemic worlds.

“Everyone attends the what3words office for a minimum of two days per week, ever since the end of lockdowns, but we’re very open to feedback about what’s working and what’s not.” They also “understand the ever-changing jobs market and adapt to it with initiatives like a six-week ‘Work-From Anywhere’ policy."

5. Create paths for learning and growth.


A great work environment fosters growth and progression. According to Matt Doe from hx, they seek out teammates who are passionate about learning. And similarly, they see it as their responsibility to give everyone the tools and the space to learn and grow.

hx does this best by:

Creating an annual training and development budget. “Every hxer receives unlimited access to Udemy as well as a £5k annual training & development budget - and we task ourselves with making sure they spend it!”

Building a ladder for success “We also have very clear lines of progression that cater to an array of career ambitions, and we encourage all team members, together with their manager, to map their own paths and plan how to achieve them in an agreed timeframe.”

Keeping your best people matters

“Like anything in life, the more you put in, the more you get out,” says Tom Boal from what3words. “Don’t make culture and people a second-tier company objective. It should be up there with your main strategy.”

It’s up to you and your team to maintain staff engagement, defend them from being poached, and enhance their experience through growth and development.

And if you can create an environment that’s fair, upbeat, and rewarding, they’ll continue voyaging with you. Rough seas or not.

How are you building the best environment for your team? Learn how Otta can help — starting with hiring.