How to Improve Work Environment for Employees
When you are running a business or are in senior position in a company you know that you have to take care of the employees and workforce under you if you expect them to work to their best of their abilities.
After all, they spend a large part of the day in the workplace and if they are unhappy or disgruntled or simply not comfortable, they will not work to their optimum and be as productive as you would like them to be.
If you want your employees to be more productive, stay healthy and happy and enjoy their work, you must provide a good work environment.
So how can you improve the work environment? There are many factors involved in the office. The actual space, the size of the complete office, the layout, the facilities offered and more all play an important role in the environment. Here are some factors you should keep in mind to offer a healthy work environment for your employees.
Safety in the Workplace
Of paramount importance is safety in the workplace. You don’t want to be in a position that the office is unsafe due to any reason. Don’t think that safety precautions have only to be taken in a factory or shop floor. The office of a white-collar worker has also to be safe.
To ensure that all electric fittings are of good quality so there is no risk of short circuits. See to it that wires and cables – used in many machines in the office – are out of the way, so there is no danger of tripping. All regularly used machines should be regularly serviced and maintained. These include computers, copiers, printers, data backup devices and others. You should also see that all software is up to date and you have a good anti-virus/internet security in place to avoid cyber attacks like ransomware, hacking and phishing.
Any hazardous and dangerous supplies should be kept in a safe place. Have a designated area for these products.
Most offices do not permit smoking, but you should have a fire drill in place in any case and check that fire norms are followed. Make sure all workplace and employee insurance policies are active so that you are never caught short if anything untoward happens.
If you have closed circuit cameras monitoring the workplace (and many offices now have them) make sure that they are in working condition and that the system is updated as required.
Ideally, your office space should be bright and open, even if it is small. Natural light and some kind of view give your office a more welcoming environment. However, if you are in a skyscraper in the city or even in a multi-storied building, in an enclosed space, you may not have this luxury.
You can bring the outdoors in by using plants and greenery at strategic places. Using wall art also helps particularly if the outside is depressing. Of course, the employee should have the freedom to decorate his or her workstation or desk as desired.
Make sure that each employee has his or her own space, even if it is small and part of a shared workplace. Some modern offices also have shared working spaces and an extremely casual working environment and when employees can work via their laptops, they can possibly work from other rooms and desks as well – whatever works for your company and the kind of work done.
Hygiene in the Office
Most large offices have a cleaning crew coming in after hours for cleaning the premises. This helps maintain hygiene and keeps the office clean. Having the office floors and desks and other surfaces cleaned regularly is essential for workplace health.
A few times a year, you should also see to it that upholstery if any is cleaned. Torn upholstery or ragged chairs can vitiate the office environment and give it a shabby appearance.
Toilets and office kitchens (or kitchenettes) should also be regularly cleaned and sanitized. At the same time ensure that your employees take care of their keyboards and computers if you do not trust the cleaning crew to do this work. Keyboards are known to harbor germs and will also need to be replaced often if they are not kept in good condition.
Lighting and Temperature
Most offices have lights that mimic daylight, so are quite brightly lit. Ensure that the lighting is adequate and additional lighting or lamps are available if required. Using blue light can help improve productivity.
The temperature of the office should be comfortable and not too hot or too cold. You can save on power bills if you reduce or increase the temperature as weather appropriate. You can always take a consensus from employees and if too many are uncomfortable you can adjust the temperature as necessary.
Desks and Sitting
As most employees are invariably sitting at the workplace unless they have to do specific work that involves standing, you have to see to it that the chairs are comfortable, height adjustable and easy to move. You can get a great many ergonomic chairs in the market now that help reduce back and neck strain.
Consider using sit-stand desks if possible. These are a healthier alternative to the traditional sitting desks. An employee who sits and stands alternately while working has fewer health issues as recent studies have shown. There is reduced risk of heart disease, obesity, diabetes and many other disorders.
An employee spends a large part of his day to day life in the workplace. If you want to increase productivity, you must offer positive motivation. For this, you should first know each employee personally as far as possible (in huge offices with thousands of employees this may not be possible) and learn his strengths and weaknesses.
If you know what kind of situations and circumstances they are best in, you can use their strengths to the advantage of your company.
When they do well offer praise and gratitude and you will be rewarded many times over. When they are not working well, you can encourage them to do so and be supportive. This creates a healthy workplace environment.
Building Team Spirit and Group Activities
Team building exercises and various group activities foster a more positive working spirit. These enable workers to get to know one another better and on a more personal level. If need be, get some corporate or personal coaches in to bolster the confidence of your employees.
If you have space in your office, offer some recreational activity for some time out. Some offices have ping pong, foosball, gaming balls and even board games available. These can provide a welcome break in a stressful office environment. Or you may have a company sponsored sports team. These, too, help with company loyalty and keep workers happy.
Group activities like going for short trips or conferences or even weekends together also help in building team spirit and makes the workplace more exciting and happy. It gives employees something to look forward to apart from the work itself.
If nothing else, going out for a short while after work, whether for drinks or food can bolster team spirit, encourage bonding with other employees and increase personal interaction. As a boss, you can take your employees out on special occasions or celebrate any positive landmarks or even small victories.
Performance Appraisals for Good Work
Employees look forward to their appraisals and hope they do well. This can result in higher pay, promotion or other perks. If this is not viable financially, then at least praise the employee’s performance – this helps in employee retention as well.
Having a reasonably open door policy is a good idea. If your employee has some interesting ideas or ways to improve different aspects of the company or has some grouses or complaints, offer a listening ear. Often you will find some things are viable and some complaints are valid. If not, you have to deal with them in a compassionate manner.
Increasingly companies are offering flexible work timings. This can help improve the work environment for employees as it gives them greater flexibility as long as they put in the required hours and are available for team activities that require them to interact with colleagues and co-workers.
If your employees spend less time commuting, they will be more productive when they are in office. Flexi-time helps them beat the traffic and also helps them achieve a better work-life balance. Depending on their personal situation, employees can then choose to work longer on some days and fewer hours on others or take time off if necessary. Of course, this depends entirely on the kind of work done and the requirements of the employers.
Food and Diet
Your office is likely to have a coffee machine and perhaps a microwave, both of which are convenient and heavily used. If you have a canteen or catering service as well do see that healthy meal options are available. In case you have a vending machine on the premises, you would do well to see that employees have a choice of snacks at all times.
Ensure that clean drinking water is always available and encourage your workers to stay hydrated at all times. Drinking water helps clear toxins from the body and refreshes the body and the mind, enabling the worker to be more productive and healthier.
Exercise at the Workplace
Recognizing the importance of exercise and fitness many employers now offer a small dedicated space for a gym or to exercise. Or they offer subsidized gym memberships. If you have a small office and are short of space this may not be possible.
In that case, encourage workers to do some sitting and stretching exercises at the desks. Every little bit helps keep workers energized and active. When an employee is healthy is less likely to be depressed or de-motivated and more likely to be more productive.
While large offices may have doctors who come to the premises on a regular basis, others may send their employees for check-ups to specific doctors. Some employers will encourage employees to visit their own doctors for an annual checkup if nothing else.
Regular medical monitoring will help keep the workforce disease free and healthy. Any incipient problems can be caught and nipped in the bud or the appropriate steps taken to mitigate the problems.
Apart from physical health, eye check-ups and dental care should also be encouraged.
Setting an Example
Leaders must lead and set an example. Unless the boss is hard-working and meticulous, the employees will not be. So you have set an example by coming on time, working hard and being there for your workers.
If you have a formal and rigid office set-up regarding timings, officewear, and other schedules, your workers will have to follow the same rules. If you have a relaxed office environment, on the other hand, you can ask your employees to follow the drill and be comfortable.
When a boss or manager and his team gel well, the work environment improves and employees are healthy and motivated to do their best. They are less likely to slack off and take sick days or make excuses for work not done or delayed.
Like any other relationship, the employer-employee relationship too requires work and needs to be refreshed from time to time. This keeps the employees from becoming complacent and jaded and enables them to bring their best to the table.
If you provide a healthy work environment for your workers, they are going to be healthier, happier, positive and more productive. The employees are more likely to stick around so you won’t lose out on the skills that they have developed or waste time and money training new employees. This will benefit you and the company for a long time and increase customer satisfaction as well.
As your company grows, so will your bottom line and it will be a win-win situation for you and your employees.