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Creating a safe and supportive work environment

By Claire Burke-Atcheson

With Hallmark Day (alternatively known as Valentine’s Day) recently passing, it started me thinking about how important it is to regularly show your team that you care and appreciate them, rather than just at end of year review time - Building and maintaining a caring and engaged team environment never goes out of season, but when you’re a business owner or manager distracted by a long list of tasks, deadlines and pressing concerns, how can you manage all that AND show your team you truly care?


It’s a challenge for most business owners and people leaders that I’ve spoken with and, as a manager myself, it’s a challenge I share. The key is to plan ahead and make a conscious effort every single day.

Here are my top five tips:

Schedule regular one-on-one time

Put time in your calendar to prioritise your team – and commit to it. Spend time once every fortnight with each team member for at least 15 minutes. If you’re not sure where to start, it could be as simple as asking them to share three things – something they’re proud of, something they need help with and something they want to achieve in the coming fortnight.

Listen to them - even when you have a lot to share

Allocate time for listening in each one-on-one. Often you can help take the pressure off simply by listening to their concerns and hear about what’s weighing them down.

Mix it up

Although it may be tempting to book the closest meeting room to your desk, grab a coffee or go for a walk and reconnect in a less formal setting. You will likely find both you and your team member are more productive and mentally alert after breaking away, plus you’re more likely to hear about important progress or challenges they’re experiencing. You’ll probably hear about important developments while you’re at it.

Ad-hoc check ins

Trust your instinct, if it feels like someone in your team isn’t their usual self, ask them straight away if they are okay. Don’t wait until your next scheduled one-on-one. It’s your responsibility to check in with them and see if you can help.

Do the little things

Whether it’s simply saying good morning when you arrive, wishing a team member happy birthday or asking about their sick pet; even the smallest gestures can demonstrate your care and help foster a positive environment. Best of all, this only takes a few seconds or minutes out of your busy day.

When you make the time and effort to engage with your team, everyone wins – your team, your business and you.


By Claire Burke-Atcheson, Manager of Digital Distribution, Sunsuper

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