What Is Work Culture?

By Indeed Editorial Team

February 22, 2021

When deciding where to apply for jobs, most people look for an atmosphere that affirms their goals and values through a healthy work culture. Every workplace has a unique culture that forms over time through the interactions of the people who work there. Work culture can influence individuals and vice versa, so it is important to seek out a workplace where you see the potential for growth. In this article, we provide an overview of the elements of work culture and explain the importance of a healthy culture in the workplace.

Read more: How to Create a Company Culture: Examples and Tips

What is work culture?

Work culture is a collection of attitudes, beliefs and behaviors that make up the regular atmosphere in a work environment. Healthy workplace cultures align employee behaviors and company policies with the overall goals of the company, while also considering the well-being of individuals. Work culture determines how well a person fits into their environment at a new job and their ability to build professional relationships with colleagues. Your attitude, work-life balance, growth opportunities and job satisfaction all depend on the culture of your workplace.

What impacts work culture?

Work culture evolves based on the behaviors of the people within the organization, from management to entry-level employees. Company leadership sets the tone for company culture through their policies, benefits and mission. Managers shape company culture from their hiring practices, where they can select applicants whose personal vision aligns with a healthy work culture. The physical environment of a workplace also influences culture, with many offices opting for an open floor plan, natural lighting and the inclusion of perks such as in-office gyms and break room amenities.

Related: 7 Ways Organizational Culture and Leadership Are Connected

Elements of a healthy work culture

Culture is a complex concept that constantly evolves in the workplace based on many elements. While some people may value a more traditional work culture and others want something more modern and fun, all healthy work cultures have many traits in common. Look for these signs of a prospering work culture when considering possible employers:

  • Accountability

  • Equity

  • Expression

  • Communication

  • Recognition

Accountability

When each person who works at a company is accountable for their behavior, that indicates a healthy work environment. A balanced workplace enables people to feel comfortable enough to take credit for their ideas and their mistakes. Open accountability allows each employee to learn from challenges instead of avoiding them. Accountability fosters a work culture based on teamwork, open communication, trustworthiness and responsibility.

Equity

Companies that treat all of their employees equally often have healthy workplace cultures. Every position within an organization has value, and giving everyone opportunities boosts employee morale. Favoritism in the workplace is a sign of a toxic work culture and can cause feelings of distrust and resentment between coworkers, making an equitable workplace environment essential for any positive work culture.

Expression

People are generally happier, more productive and more focused when they feel able to express themselves in the workplace. If employees have some freedom in their personal style and how they decorate their workspace, that indicates a level of comfort within their work culture.

Communication

Open communication is critical for a productive workplace environment. Everyone within an organization must understand how to give and receive feedback, share ideas, collaborate and solve problems. All teams have interpersonal conflicts sometimes, but a functional work culture will allow them to resolve issues and work as a team despite any challenges. Avoid organizations with a work culture where people feel unable to speak up about conflicts or concerns, because there will not be much room for growth.

Related: 14 Communication Strategies to Overcome Communication Barriers in the Workplace

Recognition

Thriving work cultures recognize employee successes and reward people when they do well. Management in a healthy workplace environment will look for positive attributes of everyone on the team and encourage use of their talents. Employee recognition ranging from regular verbal praise to competitive salaries can build a work culture of appreciation and mutual respect.

Importance of a positive work culture

People need healthy environments to thrive, and this is especially true in the workplace. The attitudes and behaviors that you interact with every day have an impact on how you feel both in the workplace and at home. A flourishing work culture influences all aspects of a business and the people within it.

Here are reasons why a healthy workplace culture is important:

  • Better hiring choices

  • Employee happiness

  • Employee retention

  • Performance quality

  • Reputation

Better hiring choices

Managers at an organization with a successful work culture know how to attract and select new employees who share their vision. You will likely be drawn to companies that share your values and the type of culture that you feel comfortable with. Healthy work cultures have like-minded professionals who are compatible with each other and work together toward shared goals.

Employee happiness

Your satisfaction with the culture at work directly impacts your happiness with your job. Thriving workplace cultures help everyone find meaning and pride in their work, while a toxic workplace culture could make even the most passionate employee unhappy at work. One of the most important elements of a strong work culture is the balance between your career and personal life, and companies can contribute to the happiness of their employees by respecting their lives as a whole.

Employee retention

Good work cultures provide stability for talented employees and allow them to grow within a company, instead of limiting them to a particular role or success level. Happy employees typically want to stay at their jobs, making work culture the key to reducing employee turnover and connecting qualified candidates with long-term careers.

Performance quality

Employees who enjoy coming to work due to a positive culture will generally be more productive and produce high-quality work. The work atmosphere is a great motivator that encourages everyone to invest in their work, especially because prospering workplace environments recognize and celebrate hard work and success.

Reputation

Having a healthy workplace culture creates a positive, prestigious reputation for a company and the people who work there. An enjoyable workplace environment is an important asset for attracting talented people. Companies that have an uplifting mission that empowers their employees can create positive community relationships through them.

Browse more articles