A healthy and happy work environment is essential to the success of your business; building a strong sense of community is even more important. This is the perfect time to it’s a terrific opportunity to take a look at company’s culture and see if there are opportunities to cultivate a more positive workplace culture. Here are six steps to consider if your company culture needs to move to the next level.

Establish trust

Trust is essential in all relationships, both personal and professional. The best way to build trust is through active listening and open communication. But you have to truly listen, be willing to let your guard down, and really listen. Allow your team members to speak their minds without fear of reprisal. Do this and chances are that others will reciprocate.

Get to know your employees as individuals

No one wants to be treated as “just” an employee. If you treat your team as “just” employees, that is likely what you will get back in performance. Instead, ask and learn about their hobbies, families, and backgrounds.” Consider 2017 an opportunity to create deeper, more productive relationships with your work team. Trust and respect will ensue.

Foster mutual respect

Speaking of respect, we hope you treating your employees and their input and ideas and that they respect yours. Mutual respect is necessary for collaboration, and the growing success will be dependent upon collaboration.

Some of that collaboration may not even include you. That’s why it is equally important that you build a workplace environment in which employees like and respect each other as well. They need to feel respected by their colleagues and supported by you. If you can achieve this, you can expect increased productivity and success.

Show appreciation

Everyone wants to feel appreciated. So when someone does something well, offer a sincere compliment to show your gratitude. Doing so will lead to stronger relationships, and encourages continued productivity. Most people, after all, are wired to respond to incentives. Financial rewards are one well-known incentive. Simple and genuine appreciation is another—often underrated—incentive.

Positive Work Environment

Studies have shown that a positive work environment affects the brain, increases employee engagement. Is it not obvious that people will be generally happier while at work if the work environment is positive?  Shawn Achor, author of The Happiness Advantage: The Seven Principles of Positive Psychology That Fuel Success and Performance at Work and a positive psychology expert, says that “when we are positive, our brains become more engaged, creative, motivated, energetic, resilient, and productive at work.” Isn’t that exactly what you want from and for your team?

And while you are at it, don’t underestimate the importance of fun in the workplace. Leaders who share laughter with staff members and team members who genuinely enjoy their work are simply more pleasant to be around. Are you the kind of boss you would like to work for? What would including fun in the workplace look like for your business? It might be as simple as a surprise pizza party, office Olympics, or sports team appreciation days. Better yet, why not ask your team what that fun would like to them?

Clear Goals and Regular, Timely Feedback

People like—no, people need—to know where they stand, how their performance stacks up, and how their contributions impact the whole. Achievable goals are the first part of the equation, and if you and your employees work together to set the goals, there can be no question about what is expected. (Do both of you a favor, and include measurable steps or milestones in your planning so that progress and performance can routinely be assessed.) Provide consistent encouragement and feedback in support of the achievement of agreed upon goals.

Speaking of feedback, to most impactful, feedback should be timely. You don’t want to wait until an annual or semi-annual review to discuss that your employee is struggling. That’s too long for changes or improvements to be made. On the other hand, recognizing a significant contribution as soon as it happens (rather than waiting for any period of time) will have a more positive impact on the individual. And success begets success.



I love apps that make my life easier. But you know what? They do truly need to make my life easier. They need to be more than sleek, or well designed, or cool looking. They need to have a purpose and they need to be user friendly and they need to earn their keep. That said, there are several productivity apps out there that fit the bill. Give these a try, let us know what you think of them, and let us know if you have any favorites that didn’t make this list.

PLANET SOHO is an online invoicing app that is great for smaller service providers. (SOHO stands for Small Office/Home Office.) Use Planet SOHO to send out invoices, accept Paypal payments directly through the app, manage inventory in real time and track contacts and sales calls. Planet Soho also offers design templates, everything you need to send professional documents. Plans start at $8.95/month with a 14-day free trial.

1PASSWORD offers a powerful and secure password manager and digital wallet in a sharp-looking package. It’s flexible, easy to use, works seamlessly in just about every web browser, and packs in the same features that you’ve come to expect from a premium password manager and secure document storage tool. The digital wallet allows you to securely store bank account/credit card information and payment info. Free.

IFTTT is a free web-based service that allows users to create chains of simple conditional statements, called “applets”, which are triggered based on changes to other web services such as Gmail, Facebook, Instagram, and Pinterest. Examples include: tell Alexa to lock up at night, get tomorrow’s forecast at 10 pm each night, program your coffee maker to automatically start brewing at 6 am, save text of all bills signed by POTUS to your iOS reading list … the list of automated tasks IFTTT can perform for you is virtually limitless.

HIPCHAT is a team chat that’s built for business and that runs on any operating system AND as a web app (for those reluctant to download one more app). As well as a one-on-one and group/topic chat, it also features cloud-based file storage (which integrates nicely for group/topic chat), video calling, searchable message-history and inline-image wing. The app is free with in-app purchases and upgrades.

BLOOM is more of a personal achievement app than a business app, one that basically makes achieving what might be usually considered an ordinary thing quite an extraordinary digital experience. It’s a free app that gives users a real kickstart in doing what really matters in everyday life. It offers a fun and simple way to transform photos and music into a private or shared digital inspiration. You can set reminders that will notify you when it’s time to “Bloom” your goals (or tasks) – and those reminders can be randomized or set for particular dates and times. You can associate different images from your iPhone with each Bloom, and do the same with music from your iTunes library. Each Bloom comes with imagery attached already, so you can choose to go with those defaults or pick photos from your own library that fit the Bloom best. Blooms might include: take your dog for a walk, call your mom, shift gears after work-schedule a bloom with your favorite song and family photos, or psych yourself up for your workout. You can also share Blooms with anyone who has a Bloom account.

POCKET is an appl and service for managing a reading list of articles (videos too!) from the Internet. It’s built for desktop, mobile and as a web app. Its best feature might be that you can access and read saved materials OFFLINE. Plus the interface is a clean, easy-to-view layout that’s free of distractions, and you can customize Pocket to match your reading style. It includes unlimited storage, the ability to add tags to help find content quickly, and the ability to your articles with Text-to-Speech (potential game changer!). Free with in-app purchases.

GOOGLE DRIVE For a really long I resisted getting Gmail and Google Suite. I have no idea why. And now I don’t know how I’d live without it, and especially Google Drive. It is really ridiculously convenient for someone who works off of multiple computers and mobile drives. Seriously, probably the most useful app I’ve ever used.

GOOGLE KEEP was launched few years ago as, basically, a competitor to Evernote.  PC Magazine called it “the best free program you’re not using and perhaps never knew existed in the first place.” A note-taking app, Keep syncs between mobile and your computer’s web browser. Highlights include: search functions, conversion of voice recorded notes to text, and can “read” and transcribe text in photos. FREE.

EXPENSIFY is a convenient little app for small companies and people who work billable hours. Go paperless with Expensify for all your receipt and expense management needs – the first mobile expense reporting solution designed with both the user and accountant in mind. It allows you to track expenses, miles traveled and time worked on a project.  One of my two favorite Expensify features is the OCR intelligent scanning that pulls information from photos of your receipts and automatically records them in the appropriate text fields. My other favorite is that this app allows you to use the GPS technology in your mobile device to track the miles traveled during your business trip. These miles are recorded in a format that is acceptable for reporting to the IRS when you are ready to file your taxes so you can take advantage of deductions from your work-related travels.