From Policies to Perks: How to Create a Family-Like Work Environment

CEO Insights

Creating a Family-like Work Environment

Growing up in a farm-family culture I never felt comfortable working in big-firm culture where terms like employee and employer were common, and you were reminded of it as corporate priority were aggressively pursuing revenue and profits. I always felt much better with terminology like teams, team members, and family. It fit the culture of my past upbringing as employer/employee terms always felt like you were in control or being controlled.

I know there’s criticism of companies like ours that say we encourage a “family” work environment. Some might say it creates unhealthy boundaries and unrealistic expectations that work against creating a collaborative and supportive environment. The debate will likely continue, but we are finding a lot of success in helping to build a positive, productive, and caring culture. We care about the wellbeing of all of the families who are part of our team, regardless of background, culture, physical location, etc. There is much more to each team member than what they do to generate revenue for our organization.  When one team member is down, there are multiple other team members reaching out to pick them up. It’s like the Farmer’s Mentality I was accustomed to growing up. If there was a crisis or tragedy in the neighborhood, everyone put titles and egos aside, rolled up their sleeves, pitched in, and got the job done.

Family-Like vs. Like a Family

It always feels great when you hear people talking about their workplace as family. Some people even joke about how their work team pitches in much like a family would do when they have a task at hand. The word family means something different to everyone. Some might suggest avoiding creating a work culture that too closely resembles family dynamics, as not all family relationships are favorable.

Some of the things that are beneficial to organizations desiring a “family-like” work environment that should be considered:

  1. Boundaries. A major challenge in creating a “family” work environment is the potential for blurred lines between personal and professional boundaries. In a family-like work environment, you can create a culture that emphasizes mutual respect, support, and connection without crossing over into private family territory.
  2. Expectations. Family members often have expectations that the people you work with don’t. For instance, in some families’ parents will show unconditional support for their family members, but as managers you are expected to provide team members with constructive feedback that holds a team member accountable.
  3. Legal and human resources. Attempting to create work environments that mirror a personal family can create conditions where harassment or discrimination are tolerated, making it difficult to enforce policies and maintain workplace harmony.

However, creating a family-like environment can be a powerful way to build a positive workplace culture. There is a balance that must be established to avoid the potential drawbacks that come with creating a workplace too much like a family. The balance is between your connected work culture and professionalism. With good balance you can create a healthy and productive place of business.

Here’s how to do it.

Foster Trust and Open Communication Among Team Members

Understand the value of building and sustaining trust. Trust is a powerful force that builds loyalty, increases engagement, and supports effective communication.

Open communication is at the heart of building trust among team members. It creates a workplace environment of transparency and honesty where team members feel safe expressing their ideas, concerns, and feedback. It also helps prevent misunderstandings and conflicts caused by a lack of clarity.

When people feel comfortable freely sharing opinions without fear of judgment, it fosters trust in their colleagues and leaders. By promoting clear and straightforward communication, your organization can reduce the likelihood of workplace tensions and create a more positive and collaborative work culture.

Effective communication involves:

  • Sharing information
  • Actively listening
  • Respecting others’ perspectives
  • Being Observant
  • Leading by example

Having regular all-team meetings where you are open about your organization’s results  and expectations and having clearly defined WIG’S (Wildly Important Goals) that everyone is working toward and benefits from is one example. Other examples of open communication policies include regular individual conversations between team members and leaders, where team members are asked to lead the conversation and leaders ask team members individually questions like, “what do you need from me?” and “how can I help you?”  Company-issued newsletters or announcements through video conferencing, email, and chat.

Embrace Work-Life Integration to Foster Balance and Flexibility

Do your team members live to work or work to live? This was an area I struggled with early in my career as I was pursuing corporate advancement.  It is important to help team members achieve a good work-life integration that complements their specific preferences, expectations, and personalities as all team members’ circumstances are different. Note the use of “integration” here instead of the typical “work-life balance” terminology.  I use “integration” because there is no perfect balance of work and life, but rather an integration of the one with the other.  It is also important for team members to understand that work-life integration may look different for them at different times in their lives as they experience changes in their personal and professional lives.

As an organization you are not responsible for providing a 100% work-life integration but there are some steps you can take to help people find and maintain a balance that’s right for them.

  1. Recognize and celebrate achievements and milestones together. Workplace celebrations build momentum, boost morale, and make any struggle seem worthwhile. While companies used to believe that celebrating small wins would invite complacency, studies show that people who feel recognized at work are two-and-a-half times more likely to offer new and innovative ideas.
  2. Encourage team members to share about their families. Make sure to include personal families in company events and communications. Get to know extended families. Learn about their successes and things they like to do.
  3. Invest in employee development and growth opportunities. Most people want to gain new skills and competencies in their chosen profession. Team member training and development is a strategic tool your organization can use to foster growth and attract and retain top talent. It also helps you remain competitive, deal with ongoing skills shortages, and create a culture of learning. There is so much divine greatness instilled in each team member. Help them to explore and challenge them to expand.
  4. Nurture a positive and supportive work environment. Keep the main things the main thing: faith, family and business in that order, and respect each team member’s personal beliefs. Great organizations want what’s best for their team members. They know that happy and engaged team members are what drives a company’s growth and success. Developing a healthy workplace culture where team members feel motivated to put their best foot forward where some common elements include establishing a strong code of ethics, always doing the right thing, optimizing onboarding, creating comfortable working situations, and encouraging time off.
  5. Encourage and invest in personal development programs. It is important to not only support new skills but also invest in and encourage programs around physical, mental and emotional wellbeing. To have team members at their best they need personal balance in life. Team members at different times may need reminders to focus on personal development, as intellectual talent with deficiencies in other areas like soft skills is not a formula for success.
  6. Engage in community involvement. Encourage by leading as a company family in programs by donating time, money, and talents in community, church, and/or civic opportunities. Nothing is more fulfilling than giving.. This is a great way to engage not only team members but their families to build greater bonds while serving others.

Foster balance and flexibility in work-life integration, recognizing that work and personal lives are closely entwined. When team members learn to blend the two, it improves their overall well-being, gives them a sense of control, and makes it less likely that they’ll experience burnout or stress.

When you help your people manage their workloads more effectively and give them more flexibility, you acknowledge that they have unique needs and responsibilities in and outside of the workplace. This approach can have an enormous impact on team member recruitment, retention, and productivity.

Building a Family-Like Work Environment That Makes an Impact

Some say the jury is still out on whether having a workplace culture that feels like a family is healthy, but for Choice Solutions we cherish and are proud of our Choice Family and never want to take them for granted. One thing that will always be true is that, just like families, no two organizations are alike.

It’s up to leadership to discover which family-like dynamics will create a healthy and supportive environment in their organization. You can start by considering what most people seek in any healthy relationship, including commitment, caring, communication, and acceptance. Promoting these goals can lead to a culture of understanding, collaboration, belonging, and shared values. And it helps your business build a productive environment where team members feel valued, engaged, and empowered, resulting in overall organizational success.

Preserving Business Continuity:

Our Business Continuity Plan is designed to keep business up and running during any crisis.

Contact Us