5 Simple Ways to Create a Pleasant Work Environment

by Leslie Gilbert

January 4, 2017

As an early childhood program leader, you already know that having consistent teaching staff is important for young children and families. Research from the Association for Childhood Educational International indicates that teacher turnover affects child outcomes. Turnover is associated with three basic causes; low compensation, high teacher-child ratios, and difficult working conditions. Let’s explore five ways to combat the latter.

    1. Order materials that have been requested and approved. A common practice in early care and education programs is for teaching staff to submit their lesson plan for the month with a list of needed supplies. Creating a basic materials request form can make this an easy process for teachers. Routinely ordering supplies needed for lesson plans (i.e., making sure teachers have enough red paint and Q-tips to add to the art table) is a real way to show how much you appreciate teachers following procedures and implementing great activities for children.leslie-blog-1
    2. Use individualized professional development plans. Here is an example of a form used in the Illinois professional development system. Individualized professional development plans can include educational goals, areas, or topics a teacher wishes to learn more about. When you and teachers meet to discuss goals collaboratively, it lets teachers know their interests and learning goals are appreciated and promotes a norm of professional growth.
    3. Be aware of individual needs. Consider small changes in your routines to show teachers how much you appreciate them. For example, teachers may be in the classroom for many hours before they are able to use the washroom or get a drink of water. Schedule a few moments during your day to offer teachers an unscheduled break. Another example is recognizing that transition times can be difficult for some staff. Offering extra support by being on hand during transitions lets staff know you are aware and supportive of their individual needs. There may be times during the day when five minutes of your help can make a big difference.
    4. Acknowledge skills. Consider the skills that convinced you to hire a teacher. If a teacher is great at reading and telling stories to children, he could model those skills by being a guest reader in another classroom. This is a free and easy way to highlight a teacher’s skill as well as giving other staff some examples of fun storytelling. Putting notes of appreciation on paychecks or sticky notes with “I noticed…” statements can also reinforce the positive things you are seeing.
    5. Involve staff and be bold with appreciation. Instead of quietly saying thank you and giving a thumbs-up, create a bulletin board with easy access to writing materials so everyone can get in on saying, “I’m glad you work with me!” Encourage co-workers to celebrate with each other on special days by keeping your staff roster current with birthdays and work anniversary dates.



These are all simple and free ways to create a positive work environment. When program leaders model these practices, their staff may, in turn, be motivated to demonstrate behaviors that encourage efficacy, collaboration, professional growth, supporting colleagues, getting to know one another, and demonstrating appreciation of co-workers.

If you’re looking for more resources on this topic, here are some suggestions:

What are some simple ways you create a pleasant work environment? Share your ideas in the comment section below.

Leslie Gilbert is a Leadership Specialist Trainer at McCormick Center for Early Childhood Leadership at National Louis University. She has been in the early childhood field over 20 years, serving as a classroom teacher, a center director, and a technical assistance specialist with child care resource and referral agencies in Illinois and Indiana.

6 Responses to “5 Simple Ways to Create a Pleasant Work Environment”

  1. Jack Wright says:

    Great article. I would add that as a Mental Health Consultant in a tribal Head Start/Early Head Start agency, I found it best not to directly confront needs for improvement if the issue could wait for a less personal training time. The old four to one ratio of complements to criticism didn’t work for me in that context. I’m a retired psychologist who was new at consulting. Maybe I’m preaching to the choir.

  2. Elysia Aufmuth says:

    Hey Leslie – These are great suggestions for program administrators to reflect on that don’t necessarily cost above and beyond the usual budget. They also suggest some great systems of intentionally managing programs and supervising staff. What you are suggesting are great parallels to how we hope teaching staff work with their children: intentionally, preventatively, individually, reflectively, supportively. When administrators can give their teachers these supports, then teachers can provide quality, positive caregiving. Thanks for this!!

    (My next question is, who is giving administrators this support so they can give it to their teachers? )

  3. lgilbert says:

    Thanks, Jack, for adding your experiences to the conversation. I look forward to hearing more of your insights at your session at Leadership Connections conference in May!

    Thanks, Elysia, for your thoughts. It is true that administrators need support in making it part of their practice to encourage collegiality. At the McCormick Center, one of our goals is to support program leaders through leadership cohort opportunities like Taking Charge of Change and Taking the Lead. I look forward to your session, too, at Leadership Connections this year!

    – Leslie

  4. Barb Volpe says:

    Thanks, Leslie, these are really good ideas to help directors develop a positive work environment for their staff. I especially like your idea of ordering materials that have been requested and approved. When I was a director, I would ask staff for their “What do I need?” and “What do I want?” lists. Their “need items” would be purchased first and when we had extra money, I would purchase items from their “Want” list. The staff felt listened to and appreciated; this also made my job easier with a list already prepared when I needed to purchase materials or supplies.

  5. Vickie says:

    This is an awesome article that will affect the environment positively with raising moral, creativity, communication, teamwork, including giving parents an opportunity of join in if displayed openly. I like this and will implement this idea at my center.

    Thanks for sharing.
    Feeling hopeful,

  6. […] of how a positive work environment had a great effect on nurses in this academic paper, and another paper on how one can easily set up a work environment that employees have deemed to be […]