Worried about what Improvements are being made in the Workplace?
Why is Work Environment Important? 7 steps to achieve improvements within the workplace
- The physical environment
- Allowing Employees to create their space of comfort & security
- Encourage socialization
- Communication is key
- Employees to take ownership & responsibility
- Keep an open mind and embrace the unforeseen
Whether people realise it or not, the workplace environment is drastically going to change due to the COID-19 Global Pandemic which no doubt is going to affect a lot of businesses and their overall performance.
A huge concern is going to be around the implementation of social distancing- the Internal factors of stress and anxiety amongst employees. This can also have external factors such as conflicts within the office that can affect negatively on company’s productivity and development. What is certainly essential here is to invest in Workplace Improvements for both the employees and the company.
I’d like to offer you some tips that you as a business owner can take to make positive improvements within the workplace environment.
Why is Work Environment Important?
More and more people are beginning to realise and take into account the importance of the work environment and how much it matters. Especially, now where employees are going to have to feel safer, comfortable and motivated. Although everyone has to find their own internal motivation, improving the workplace environment can boost morale and productivity. It is essential, and the responsibility of the leaders to make sure that your employees are happy, comfortable and valued where they are able to be and do their best.
With stress and anxiety being one of the biggest phenomena of the twenty-first century, I cannot comprehend how this has been normalised to feel overwhelmed by work. That it’s part of the job role.
Research shows that this is far from it. In truth, it drains the employees’ productivity. The “Burn-out” Syndrome has become so common, that even the WHO( World Health Organization) is going to embark on research about it. Extreme stress is not a healthy motivation but can lead to detrimental health conditions and illnesses. Although we might initially feel a boost of energy thanks to it, it will eventually become a hindrance to the business’ development.
After being in lockdown for so many months with post restrictions ahead there is no doubt going to be a lot of stress and anxiety amongst many.
So, first of all what can you really do to help?
Yes, we can “lower stress levels” through all the tools and techniques at hand, usually well-intentioned, but they are pretty much just empty words is changes in employees’ routines and workloads are not made.
The truth is that as Leaders you may not be able to reduce the workload, even if you wish you could but what can be done is to ensure that work is distributed or delegated equally amongst employees and to make sure that you’re not understaffed so that your employees can manage effectively and efficiently.
Leaders will need to strive in being organised as much as possible. But let’s be honest, work will still be stressful on many occasions so the question you need to ask yourself is: “what solid/concrete steps you can actually take towards workplace improvement?”
7 steps to achieve improvements within the workplace
Improve the physical environment
Some may disagree with this but right now this couldn’t be more important to consider because of the global pandemic- COVID-19. And it’s not going away anytime soon. So, what can be done? Action has to be taken for employees to be able to return to work feeling confident but more importantly safe! Even if you think it’s not important, the physical environment of a job plays a huge part in improving the workplace- a massive impact. Even before this unfortunate pandemic, however, without a choice in matter, this has now forced the hands of Leaders/ companies to reconsider how the workplace environment must be improved. It’s not enough to have practical necessities covered. Sure, not everyone can have Google offices, with sleeping pods, sliders, sofas, all you can snack and drink. But the smallest amount of change can really can go a long way- it’s a start.
A poor physical environment can make employees feel like they are not valued, trapped but also unsafe. It’s important for Leaders to recognise humans as humans and not machines. Research shows that a welcoming environment can do absolute wonders for boosting productivity.
Making sure it’s a physically safe and comfortable space to work in is vital for productivity. Simple things such as making sure they have a good temperature; enough fresh air/ ventilation; something as small as having daylight or warm light instead of fluorescent (helps fight back the stress); appropriate furniture that will prevent neck and back pains and other conditions in the long run, can all make a huge difference.
Allow employees to make space their own
This point reflects directly on the one information on ‘Improving the physical environment’. Simply allowing some flexibility for people to personalise their workspace allows them to have a greater sense of belonging. A lot of it refers back to a term called the ‘Comfort Zone. In this sense, it’s about feeling safe and confident to carry out one’s job role without fears. This increases productivity and efficiency. Of course, as long as it’s not distracting themselves and others, making their workspace their own space can go a long way for improving the workplace environment.
Leaders need to start taking a step back and taking a good hard look at how they can refocus and arrange the work environment. Many companies still focus on standardising and regularising every single aspect of work-life to have a sense of control. Here it is important for Leaders to allow and enable their employees to take some ownership and accountability without taking the micky!
I know this is not always easy but consideration also connects with the need of having relaxing and leisure spaces. Making a clear distinction between the space you workspace vs where you relax (take time-out) is and needs to be distinctive as it is vital for improving productivity but more importantly the mental health and wellbeing of the employees. If these two environments are not clearly differentiated, it’s easier to become distracted where the boundaries cross. Leaders need to know that this is especially important for freelancers or people working remotely. With Freelancers and remote workers, there is so much also to consider, especially due to COVID-19 and the changes in working routines. Even if you might be working from your home, you should have a designated “workspace”. So no matter where you are there needs to be a distinctive ambiance created. This doesn’t have to be as complex just simple adjustments. This way, you’ll know and feel that when you are sitting there, you will automatically fall into the right state and frame of mind for work.
Even if you don’t want your employees to get distracted, socialization is a vital part of workplace improvement. Humans are naturally social creatures, and feeling isolated in a place where they spend 40 hours a week is destined to affect their productivity. Knowing their coworkers and interacting with them is essential to their mental well-being.
Even if they don’t work directly together, there should still be a team spirit within members of the same company. The feeling that they are all pulling in the same direction, and each doing their best to improve the business and make it work can really motivate people and increase their productivity. To feel that you’re working with a team and not with strangers is an incredibly powerful driving force.
Celebrating and recognition is a key part in keeping employees motivated, inspired but more importantly knowing that they are valued for the work they do. So, when should a celebration take place for rewarding and acknowledging their employees? Many companies often end up making the mistake of having meetings only when something is going or is going wrong. It is so easily done to focus on the not-so-great, whilst the greatest accomplishments happen when there is a celebration! While it’s vital to get together when something is to be improved, it’s also very necessary to celebrate when things are going well. Sometimes it’s easy to leave those things aside because “it’s not an important milestone” or “there’s still a long way to go, simply because the company/Leaders are solely focused on the end result, the end goal, the end score. But that is not Leadership or a great environment to be in. Celebrating is recognises that things are moving forward and at that successfully, giving a greater insight. Even if it’s just a small step on a long road, it’s still a step forward.
Celebrating the smallest of successes is vital. It is also a way to give credit where credit is due. A common mistake in big companies is that many times employees feel like they are not being seen, or their work not taken into account, no matter how hard they work. Over time, this will not only spoil their motivation but even make them feel alienated from work. It doesn’t have to be big celebrations, but saying “good work” and recognizing someone’s effort is a great step towards workplace improvement.
Work on communication
You’ve probably heard these thousands of times, but it’s so important that it’s worth saying it one more time. Feedback is a must! Many people do feedback, but they do it just as something to get out of the way. You need to be able to actually learn and grow for it, otherwise, it’s as good as nothing.
Knowing that you have to give and receive feedback is not enough. You should really encourage your employees to give honest feedback. Communication is important in a company because it’s the only way of improving as a team. Co-workers should feel free to speak up if something is bothering them. Whether it’s for personal traits such as shyness, or for fear of the consequences, it’s very common that employees don’t really say what they think. As a part of workplace improvement, it’s important to create safe spaces where people can leave this behind and speak freely.
Encourage them to take responsibility
Everyone wants to feel self-worth and valued and a great way for leaders to improve the workplace is by giving them responsibilities. Now is not a greater time to really look at this as many companies may have their employees working remotely and will have no choice but to allow for staff to take ownership. It may seem counterproductive when trying to lower
stress levels. In truth, encouraging employees to take responsibility for their tasks and their own work is a really strong motivator. It also builds a stronger relationship of trust! Completely avoiding responsibility is not a shortcut to stop stress, it’s actually a shortcut to feeling alienated at work. Knowing that when no decision rests solely upon your shoulders and you just follow other people’s orders, it’s easy for the work to turn tedious and pointless.
Remember, being emotionally invested in the success of a project doesn’t have to be stressful if you know how to handle it. By that I mean is that Leaders need to have tools, strategies, resources, etc… at hand. Also, instead, having some responsibilities usually gives one something to be proud of when the task/project is completed. Giving your employees responsibilities is a way for them to take ownership of their work. Most people want to feel part of the team, and this is one way how they can add something to the company.
Embrace the unexpected
We only know what we know. What we don’t know we find out and take action! And once that is done then changes can be made. The only thing in life that is a complete certainty is that changes are inevitable. Changes, however, might be a stress factor for many people. After all, we all like some stability in our work and life. Changes should be approached like opportunities to improve, and it is up to the Leaders to allow and enable their employees to have these opportunities. This also enables Growth internally and externally.
The company, as a whole, should work on welcoming changes (especially the positive ones) with excitement. How boring would it be not to have changed?
That’s why communication it’s also key. But with communication comes listening and it’s a two-way street. Employees should feel that they are part of a team and know that the business would face the challenges together. To be able to do this, everyone should know the company in and out, what they’re striving for, the core values, and what they’re aspiring to achieve.
With this in mind, it’ll be easier to feel like you’re all working as a team feeling gratitude and valuable. Which will result in employees feeling less threatened by the inevitable changes ahead. And right now, the global pandemic- COVID-19 is one that is leaving many uncertain and fearful of what lies ahead. How can you as a Leader, Owner, Manager, or CEO improve this notion of ‘Embracing the Unexpected?’
If you still want to know more about how I can help support workplace improvement around building a positive mindset, resilience, and understanding, in order to reduce the stress and anxiety levels?
There’s always more remove for GROWTH and learning by going a step further you enrich not only yourself but the lives of others. Sometimes you may feel that it’s not particularly big or significant, but the smallest changes can make the biggest difference.
Watch a Baby for instance how their steps grow and develop. Their tiny steps become Baby steps and Baby steps become greater steps; which you can then begin to make something really truly great.
image credit Little Steps Quotes
Final thought, ‘What kind of environment would you want to work in? and why?’ So, as a Leader, I’m sure you’d want the same for your employees.