What makes a great workplace?

You might love the ins and outs of your role, the nuts and bolts, and the everyday tasks. The aspects of the job itself might suit you down to the ground. But if your workplace isn’t right, it can completely spoil your enjoyment. 

So what, exactly, makes a great workplace? 

To some extent, it’s a personal thing. But most of us have similar core workplace aspirations. If an employer fulfils all the requirements below, they’ll probably have plenty of excited employees and potential job applicants. If they don’t offer any of this, they risk their best people leaving or might be unable to hire top talent in the first place.


If you’re an ambitious type but there’s nowhere to go, you can soon lose heart. The best workplaces are dynamic, where there’s potential for promotion or exciting sideways steps to take.


The social side of work is a big part of the enjoyment for many people. Working alone, separated from other people, can be a killer, although trying to work in an open-plan office where everyone’s shouting all the time can be equally soul-destroying.

A balance between professional and sociable often works best, and much of the time people find a natural balance on their own… when the workplace allows it.

A common goal

When you’re working shoulder to shoulder towards a common goal with a bunch of like-minded people, it can be a thrilling ride. The best workplaces are in a state of constant buzz.

No backbiting, bullying or gossip 

If you ever thought the workplace was similar to a school, you’re not alone. People bring their baggage to work, and their antics can be enormously disruptive.

Humans are happiest when they’re supported and appreciated, not alienated and put down. Just one ‘toxic’ employee can drive an entire company to desperation and change the workplace vibe beyond recognition.

Humanity and equality

Does your boss treat you like an equal or like a machine? If it’s the latter it’ll eventually chip away at your confidence, creativity and even your health. And if you’re in an unequal situation financially or for any other reason, you’ll find your enthusiasm waning even faster.

Work-life balance

If you’ve ever worked in a company where you stay late every night, you’ll know how much unnecessary pressure it puts on people. In Britain, we religiously work longer hours than many nations, without overtime pay, but at the same time, we’re less productive.

The ideal? An employer who’s a human being, who prefers their employees to leave work on time unless there’s an emergency, who appreciates there’s life outside work!

A place where it’s OK to fail

If your employer hits the roof when someone makes a mistake, the atmosphere can soon get pretty nasty. It’s much better working for someone who appreciates that we sometimes have to break eggs to make an omelette, someone who values initiative and creativity rather than killing it at birth just in case something goes wrong. As someone clever once said, failure is often the best route to success.

Being challenged without being overwhelmed 

Challenges are life-enhancing.  Overwhelming challenges have the opposite effect: stress, frustration and misery.


Having control over your destiny – in this case, your work – means you’ll invariably enjoy it more. If all of you have the right tools you need to do an excellent job, whether real physical tools or emotional/mental ones, even better.

Greenery and other physical comforts

NASA swears by it. Scientists have discovered humans are miserable without it. It’s the green stuff, and offices filled with plants are always much nicer to work in than sterile boxes without so much as a sniff of nature.

Much the same goes for fresh air and all the other essential creature comforts – enough space, a comfortable chair, a window for essential long views, the right temperature and so on all make a huge difference to the way you feel about your daily 9-5.

What makes a great workplace for you?

We would love to hear what you consider the most important elements to make a workplace great. (Take a look at our blog “A moment of honesty: Does your job fit with who you are?“)

Hayley Rose is a Director in the Legal division at Harvey John

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