If you didn’t think Olympians were exceptional people, Rio 2016 should be enough to change your mind.
From unfinished athletes’ accommodations to pool water turning green – this year’s Games have forced athletes to deal with a number of unusual obstacles and conditions. Amazingly, very few have been impacted as of yet, but it does raise a key point about the importance of working conditions and productivity.
What can you do to provide a work environment that is both comfortable and inspiring?
Whether you’re managing teams from a factory floor or looking to motivate your office workers, there are ways that you can create a positive working space that improves staff performance and job satisfaction.
Here are five simply ways to create a better working environment for your employees.
Talk to your people
It’s easy to follow the latest trends in office culture: getting more plants, planning social events, changing layouts, etc. But which one is right for your company? The changes you need to make are often clear, but sometimes you need a point in the right direction. After all, you can’t be everywhere at once. Ask you employees for feedback and input. This is especially important if you notice performance or morale is wavering in a specific department (or across the board). What do they think of their office space? Is there anything that frustrates them or impedes their work? What can you do to improve things? Not only will this give you a good sense of the changes you need to make, it will also make your employees feel like their voices are being heard.
Start with the basics
What do you like in a workspace? Chances are, your answers won’t stray far from that of your employees. First and foremost, you need to ensure that people are safe, all day, every day. Check that your office is adhering to building codes and fire regulations, and make sure all smoke detectors and alarms are working properly. It’s also important to equip the office with a fire extinguisher and first aid kit. Offering CPR training to staff is another great idea to ensure safety in the event of an accident.
Once you’ve covered the safety basics, work on comfort. Are restrooms, lounge areas, and workstations clean? Is there sufficient ventilation? Does the air conditioning (or heating) work? Is there access to a kitchen area? These may seem like trivial matters, but imagine working without them? Pay attention to the details and make sure all the basics have been covered.
Encourage healthy habits
In the UK, research by the Confederation of British Industry (CBI) showed that back pain was one of the leading reasons people weren’t showing up to work. This may be a symptom of our reliance on the seated position, but it’s also related to bad posture and badly set up workstations. To counteract this, share resources with staff on how to prevent injuries at a computer workstation, and consider setting up a workshop with a professional ergonomist.
It may also be a good idea to offer your employees the option of a standing desk. While not everyone’s cup of tea, standing desks have been shown to offer certain health and productivity benefits. More importantly, by giving your employees the option, you are showing them that you care about their health and comfort on the job.
A 2012 study found that 39% North American works ate lunch at their desks. Research by the Chartered Society of Physiotherapy, meanwhile, suggests that only one in four workers takes regular breaks at all – which increases the risk of chronic musculoskeletal disorders, depression, and other stress-related illnesses that can cause long-term absenteeism. It can be equally disastrous on productivity; working through the day to get everything done on time isn’t necessarily going to mean that everything is being done right. So what do you do?
Encourage your employees to take real breaks. A walk outside can do wonders for morale and creativity, but it doesn’t have to stop at a stroll. Is there a park nearby? Why not organize a lunchtime game of soccer? If it’s winter, what about setting up a weekly yoga class? Apart from improving camaraderie among coworkers, ideas like this also reinforce the notion that you expect your employees to take full, regular breaks.
Have a space to relax
Since you never really know what your employees may be dealing with outside of work (or even at work) it’s a great idea to have a space where they can take a breather. Provide them with a quiet, comfortable place where they can take a moment to regroup if there’s been a stressful situation, or simply lie down if they have a headache. Office space may be at a premium, but giving employees the ability to disconnect, even for a few minutes, can be invaluable for both your work environment and your staff’s well-being.