10 Ways to Grow Workplace Culture | Heather Chastain Interview

Heather Chastain Cocktail Garden

The culture of your workplace is a make-or-break experience for employees, now more than ever. Your effort to create a safe, productive and inclusive work environment will not go unnoticed by your employees.

You do not need to be in a position of leadership in order to create positive change in the culture of your workplace. In fact, that’s a great place to start; every individual involved in a working environment has a voice that deserves to be acknowledged.

This week, we talk about 10 ways to grow workplace culture with the inimitable leader, Heather Chastain who is part of the Gardenuity Advisory Board.

Growth Starts Anywhere

Heather Chastain is a leader who is unique in her position; she has truly climbed the ladder to her current position as the Global Chief of Strategy at Shackley. This position was not handed to her, rather she worked for it, stopping at every opportunity along the way to learn and grow with the others on her various teams.

Heather describes her experience in working a variety of roles as “getting all the pieces of the pie in place”. She tells us that she has always considered the question, “What are all the disciplines you need to understand and know at a visceral level to be a great leader?”

In order to get to the bottom of this question, Heather actively strives to experience and understand what it is that every member on her team is responsible for. In this way, she leads through knowledge, empathy and experience. Not to mention, the skill set required to operate a forklift!

Leading with Compassion

“No one person in the function is any more important than another person in the function,” Heather explains, “If we can all embrace that, then the work just gets so much better.”

Chastain stresses the importance of a work environment being united by a common goal and focus. She states that she likes to encourage her team to “keep the focus on the goal, not on themselves”. This promotes the teamwork and group-oriented approach to solving problems and completing tasks, which is remarkably beneficial to your company’s culture as a whole.

10 Ways to Grow Workplace Culture from Heather Chastain

Cocktail garden heather

Remember the Golden Rule

“This is an oldie, but a goodie,” Heather says. The golden rule is, “Treat everyone, all the time, in all ways, as you want them to treat you; it’s so simple, and so easy.” This is a rule that passes the test of time, and always proves to positively benefit your working environment. Despite being difficult to practice at times, prioritizing this ideal helps your team to focus on the experience of others, as well as their own. With compassion, you will see happier employees, as well as increased productivity.


“Talk.  A lot,” Heather states. She explains how communicating clearly and often is fundamental to creating a great work environment. “In this brave new world of exceptional distance, over-communicating is the one thing, that’s not a thing.”  

Heather recommends to “share what your goals are, where the company is going, what is working, what isn’t. The successes, the challenges, the triumphs and the failures. Be open and honest and real.”

Find New Ways to Stay Connected

“Your team wants to feel part of something, and they need to know that the work they do everyday matters,” Chastain explains. “Implement weekly updates, connections, and touchpoints; virtual, digital, e-mail, Slack, Zoom, Teams, or good old-fashioned phone calls.”  

Heather shares that ensuring face-to-face moments with each person on your team is imperative to keeping communication fresh and productive. She recommends having these moments at least once a week, so that every team member has the information they need in order to contribute to the well-oiled machine.

Celebrate each other

“Celebrate each other often; for things great and small,” Chastain says. “Culture is about belonging.” 

Heather recommends to “implement an internal recognition system– the simpler the better, so everyone can get in on it.” This could look like something as simple as a #shoutouts channel on Slack, or a weekly Kudos Call with your staff. These efforts to make people feel recognized and celebrated will do wonders for morale. This will also help you recognize the people on your team that you may not have had the chance to interact with otherwise. 

Prioritize Taking Breaks

“The pressure on workers are different than they have ever been,” Heather explains, “Resolving conflict, debating tough issues and pushing through to solutions without the benefit of body language and in-person exchanges is incredibly difficult.” 

Chastain describes how patience can be short when employees are expected to run on full-cylinders at all times. As a leader or a mindful team member, it is imperative to prioritize taking a break throughout your day. Remember, spending a couple moments in your garden is a great way to cool off and regroup during a stressful day. Don’t be afraid to remind your team to take a break; normalize suggesting a break to refresh focus and regroup after. 

Take a Deep Breath

Heather emphasizes how important it is to “make time to breathe, and make sure your team knows they have permission to do the same.” Giving your team the space to take a deep breath and truly process their thoughts and emotions creates room for intentionality in communication; when there is less stress involved in your team as a whole, the ability to communicate clearly and calmly is increased drastically. 

A great way to give your team time to take a deep breath is to call a five-minute break. Even better, have your team engage in breathing exercises together to create a sense of embodied unity. Take a look at this article by The Business Insider for 3 Breathing Exercises That Will Help You Feel Better At Work.  

Get Your Body Moving

“Encourage exercise as a core value and a critical part of company culture,” Heather recommends. She explains, “Getting fresh air, moving around and staying active is so important to overall health and wellness.” Not to mention, your employees will appreciate the opportunity to stretch out; not only does keeping active create a healthier and happier team, it also increases overall productivity and morale. 

“One way to implement this value is by sending out a ‘Take a Walk’ company-wide meeting invite,” Chastain suggests, “This truly sends the message that you encourage these breaks, and value everyone’s physical and mental wellness.”  

Promote Nutrition

Heather emphasizes good nutrition and healthy eating habits. “Culture is about caring,” she says, “Caring for the total person, mind and body.” She explains that focusing on educating your team about healthy eating habits will send a message of overall wellness that they will value.  

You can promote healthy habits for your team by providing information regarding how food affects the functioning of the mind and body.

To learn more about how food affects the body, take a look at our informative and exciting interview with culinary medicine expert, Brooklynne Palmer!

Have fun together!

Making time to socialize is vital– whatever that looks like right now. Heather tells us that “having simple monthly get-togethers can help build and maintain the connections that make up the fiber of a company’s culture.”

Heather suggests events like Virtual Cocktail Hours or monthly “Funniest Look Caught on Teams” contests. She also recommends “more planned events, like a Gardenuity Planting Party, or a Company-Wide Zoom Talent Show”.  Creating activities that are engaging for your team members is a great way to foster relationships and friendships in your working environment.

Encourage Giving Back

“Create a culture of serving others by providing paid time off for team members to volunteer at their favorite charity,” Heather states. She says it is important to “offer matching donations as prizes for recognition”.

One way Heather encourages giving back is to organize donation events or collection drives to unite the community, “celebrate the world we live in”.   In doing so, you create the opportunity to celebrate the impact that you are making as a team. Heather tells us, “Your team will recognize that individually, they can make a difference.  But together, you are unstoppable.”

Start Your Growth

Create a special space within your workplace by lifting up your team, and providing thoughtful options for enhancing your team’s experience. Even if this is as simple as taking a five-minute break to take a deep breath and regroup, your team will thank you for starting down the road to growing a healthier culture. 

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