Give Your Employees an Enabling Work Environment
A typical day of an employee in the workplace starts with him swiping his card at the door at around 9.30 am. He then makes himself comfortable at his desk and puts on his computer to start working. Most of the days, he skips breakfast and nibbles on the occasional snack at work – biscuits, poha, vada pav…whatever he gets his hands on quickly.
On some days, he has to get up from his desk for meetings; on other days, he’s more or less working by himself. At lunchtime, he picks up his dabba (tiffin box) from the counter and takes it to the cafeteria. Sometimes, he eats at his desk. There are days when he’s joined by colleagues, and then there are days when the workload is so heavy that he eats by himself in order to finish fast… Lunch breaks tend to be short – there’s not much time to step down for a walk, or even get personal chores done.
The next break is at tea-time. He takes his cup and goes to the vending machine. Here he bumps into a colleague, they share a few laughs, talk a little, and get back to their seats.
Cut to 6.30 pm… If he is lucky he starts packing his bag and gets ready to leave. He swipes his card out again, says bye to the receptionist…only to come back the next day to repeat the same drill!
Yes, work can become a monotonous routine, if not checked…
Employees spend a minimum of eight hours a day, sometimes six days a week, at their workplaces. They spend more time in their offices than in their homes. It is imperative then for leaders and managements to create an environment that is conducive to their emotional, physical and mental well-being.
Organisations tend to leave this job to HR or admin departments, but it is, in fact, the job of everyone in the organisation – from top leadership to junior employees – to ensure that the workplace culture and environment is a positive and happy one. This effort has to be collaborative, where each one does their bit to grow themselves and the organisation.
A happy employee – or a motivated employee – is a productive employee, here’s why…
Diane Lang, psychotherapist, author and positive living speaker, said in a blog: ‘Happiness increases our levels of dopamine, which…helps us learn better and more efficiently.’
Research also shows that, though money is important, it was rated as the fifth most important reason why people enjoy their work… Appreciation from peers and seniors is valued more.
Thus, happiness and appreciation will go a longer way than a bonus, incentive or salary increment… Of course, those help too, but only temporarily.
So, how do you create an enabling and encouraging workplace environment…one that fosters productivity and positivity? Focus on the following three key areas:
1) Workplace Culture
Many organisations have a predetermined workplace culture. This allows them to set the tone for values and appropriate behaviour in the organisation. For example, some companies consciously eliminate extra office gossip by clarifying issues early and nipping them in the bud. This results in less rumour-mongering and bad vibes. Politics can also be checked by maintaining a clear organisation structure that avoids any over-stepping of authority.
Dress codes (formal or informal), alcohol consumption policies, even the use of mobile phones during office hours or meetings are some codes of conduct customised and followed by companies.
Communication, as touched upon in the last blog, should be frequent and open. Employees should feel free to air their grievances without being judged. For instance, they should be allowed to state any professional or personal crisis, like stress, and request for time and help in resolving these.
Management should not be indifferent and dismiss their issues, but provide adequate support to help them deal with the particular crisis. For example, in France, employees are allowed to donate their holiday leaves to a colleague with a critically ill child (source)… A practice that brings out a greater sense of compassion in the company.
It also becomes important to consciously weed out negative and toxic individuals from an organisation, because one toxic person can pollute the entire environment. Some people are threatened and don’t allow others to grow in their jobs…the organisation should monitor any unnatural behaviour of both the subordinate or boss, and check it before the conflict escalates.
Teams should also be given time to bond… Free time together in a different environment helps employees unwind, and form deeper relationships. Meetings can also start by asking questions about their life like interesting activities participated in, or any personal milestones accomplished. This will help employees open up, and management will also be viewed as more approachable and friendly.
2) Physical Comfort
This largely constitutes the infrastructure and other amenities in an organisation. It includes correct lighting that doesn’t strain the eyes, good ventilation to avoid fatigue, sanitation in the entire office – especially washrooms, and ergonomic seating and keyboards to avoid muscle strain. Personalisation of individual workspaces and large open areas for discussions and brainstorming can also be factored in.
For bright lighting, ensure bulbs and tube lights are new and power efficient… If possible allow for as much natural light to enter… This is good for the eyes and prevents employees from feeling boxed-in. Regular servicing of computers and electronic devices, and checking the speed of internet connectivity prevent any disruptions in the workday.
When shifting your office to a new location, it may be a good idea to get inputs from the staff as to what their space requirements are. You may think the world is going digital and you don’t need too much storage space for files, but ask your accounts or creative team…they may just tell you otherwise.
Most importantly, take the time out to run safety drills to ensure all employees are well aware and equipped to take action in case of any emergency such as a fire or medical emergency.
3) Healthy Lifestyle
To ensure the good health, longevity and performance levels of your employees, it is essential that you pay attention to their physical health too. Healthy food, clean water, opportunities to exercise and de-stress, regular health check-ups and medical insurance are some ways to do this.
You can facilitate the procurement of healthy snacks and meals by tying up with certified and quality vendors. You can also replace aerated beverages with natural juices or nimbu pani.
Occasional sessions of yoga, a gym ball in the office, or a massage chair, all help employees de-stress. You could also consider a tie-up with a gym nearby and get bulk discounts for your employees. This will incentivize them to exercise before or after work.
An important factor to consider is to give employees some time off during their workday to schedule doctors’ check-ups or other personal care appointments. Employees should get enough flexibility to manage their workday, and juggle appointments and work. As long as they deliver on time, going out occasionally should not be curbed… This will empower employees and help them manage their work better too.
An enabling work environment includes a combination of the above elements. At Yellow Spark, we encourage organisations to create one custodian in the company – you could call him/her a ‘workplace environmentalist’ – to take care of the finer dynamics of an ideal workplace. If you would like to know more about the ‘workplace environmentalist’ concept, reach out to us on: firstname.lastname@example.org
Author Profile: Ritika Bajaj is a prolific writer and editor, focusing on people, startups, and the finer nuances of life. She is currently a content consultant, generating ideas and providing solutions for online and offline mediums. This article is conceptualised by Yellow Spark and written by Ritika.