5 Things You Can Do to Make Your Workplace a More Nurturing Environment   

Let’s face it, advertising isn’t the most ‘nurturing’ environment. Even putting aside Mad Men-era clichés of whiskey-drinking ad-bros quipping (or worse) about women in the office, agencies today are still susceptible to adopting implicitly male attitudes that can make for a stagnant, or even hostile, work environment.

But by fostering a more nurturing workplace, where values like openness, empathy and understanding play an important role, agencies can not only attract valuable, diverse talent but also raise the quality and effectiveness of their work.

Developing a nurturing work environment is no easy task; it’s an ongoing, dynamic process that requires focus and creativity. But if it can be done at a global agency like my own, where we have a female managing director leading every office and 68%-women work force, it can be done throughout the industry.

Below are five important tips that can help you build the kind of nurturing environment that can open pathways to greater growth, enhanced collaboration and higher employee retention.

1. Inspire balance – As a managing director and working mom, I’ve seen how making balance a value—and demonstrating the importance of that value in my decision-making—has helped create a culture of understanding, empathy and acceptance.

For example, showing openness to flexibility in employees’ schedules helps people feel more comfortable and confident at work, which in turn boosts their ability to engage in creative and strategic thinking.

At the heart of demonstrating balance is an embrace of the fullness of each of our team members, who aren’t “sharks” or “machines” or “killers,” but people who work hard to give their all to their jobs while maintaining a healthy home life. Be a part of facilitating or even encouraging that balance and you will have happy, empowered and confident team members around you.

2. Move toward an open-door culture – Obviously, having people rush into your office with every new piece of copy or art isn’t going to work. But by putting some simple guidelines in place—for example, “anytime in the afternoon, unless I’m on the phone or in a meeting”— and making them known can help you move toward a more open-door culture in the office.

The simple awareness that members of your team have someone to turn to with issues, bring new creative ideas to, or discuss opportunities with will give them a sense of belonging, togetherness and loyalty that’s hard to replicate.

3. Create a clear and open process – It’s all too easy for the words “nurturing work environment” to conjure up images of managers whispering soothing words as they rub the backs of misty-eyed employees. But, in fact, a nurturing environment is about removing obstacles that create inefficiencies, stifle creativity and cause growth to stall.

As I worked to foster a more nurturing work environment at my own agency, I knew it was up to me to articulate everything from goals to stumbling blocks. But, just as importantly, I had to bring people into the conversation in order to give them an opportunity to voice their support, ideas, suggestions and, of course, their skepticism.

4. Empower Women, Include Men – Change is never easy, which is why every serious effort to bring it about starts with a core group of supporters. As you begin developing a more nurturing work environment, you’ll find a pool of natural allies in the women at your workplace.

Even if they’re more senior or junior than you, or work in different departments or divisions, these women very likely share your desire for a different kind of workplace, and face many of the same issues you face. So, even if some of their ideas differ from yours, empower these women. Bring them into the process and let them inform it and steer it.

But this is not to say you can leave men out of the process, since doing so will only generate divisiveness and resentment. Instead, it’s important that you include men every step of the way so they not only have a hand in bringing about changes but benefit from them too.

5. Break Emotional Barriers – Part of achieving work-life balance is letting the two intertwine and comingle. For industry veterans, this doesn’t always come easy. But as you share (without over-sharing) your home with colleagues at work, people will start to feel more comfortable about doing the same.

Don’t be embarrassed to bring a kid or two into the office so they can see where mommy works–and so your colleagues can see those bright young faces. My daughter, Pilar, makes regular appearances at our New York City headquarters.

You’ll find that with a bit more of a window into that “other” you, people will be more able to appreciate your ideas and relate to the kind of thinking you bring to your work.

Those barriers that we erect at work are, in many cases, built too high. So do what you can to lower them, even if it’s just a little.

About Author, Sabrina Yu, Select World
Sabrina Yu is Managing Director, New York, of Select World, a global full-service advertising agency with a boutique mindset headquartered in New York City.