Whether people realize it or not, the workplace environment can affect a lot of businesses and their overall performance. Internal factors (like stress) and external ones (like conflicts in the office) can affect negatively the company’s development. Workplace improvement is certainly worth investing in, both for the company as well as for the employees. So here are 7 easy practices on how to improve the environment in the workplace.
Why is Work Environment Important
Nowadays, people have been taken more and more into account that work environment matters. Having the very best specialists in the field is no good if they don’t feel motivated or comfortable in the workspace. And while everyone has to find internal motivation, improving the work environment is essential to make sure that your employees are not only happy and comfortable, but also able to give their best and to focus on doing their job.
Stress has become one of the biggest phenomenons of the modern era. It has been normalized to feel overwhelmed by work. In truth, this drains the employees’ productivity. The “Burn-out” Syndrome has become so common, that even the World Health Organization is going to embark on research about it. Extreme stress is not a healthy motivation. Even if we might initially feel a boost of energy thanks to it, it’s eventually destined to become a hindrance to the business’ development.
So what you can really do about it? Advice like “lower stress levels” is usually well-intentioned, but they are pretty much just empty words. After all, it’s unlikely that you can reduce the workload, even if you wish you could. You should definitely make sure that you’re not understaffed and that your employees have a workload that they can manage. And you should always strive to be organized so you can distribute work smartly. But let’s be real: work is many times stressful, even with fair workloads. So the real question is, what concrete steps you can actually take towards workplace improvement?
7 Easy practices to really achieve workplace improvement
Improve the physical environment
Even if you think it’s not important, the physical environment of a job can play a huge part in improving the workplace. It’s not enough to have practical necessities covered. Sure, not everyone can have Google offices, with sleeping pods and sliders. But something really simple can go a long way.
Making sure it’s a physically comfortable space to work in is vital. Things as small as making sure they have a good temperature, enough fresh air, that they have good furniture that will help them avoid neck and back pains in the long run, can make all the difference. Even something as small as having daylight or warm light instead of fluorescents can help fight back the stress.
A bad physical environment can make workers feel like they’re trapped. It’s important to recognize them as the humans they are, and not like working machines. A happy, welcoming environment can do wonders when boosting productivity.
Allow employees to make space their own
This point is directly related to the one before. Many companies focus on standardizing and regularizing every single aspect of work-life, but you might want to reconsider this. Allowing people to personalize their workspace allows them to have a sense of belonging. There’re few things as awful as feeling like you can be easily replaced. As long as it’s not distracting, making their workspace their own can go a long way for workplace improvement.
This also connects with the need of having resting and leisure spaces. Making a clear distinction between the space you work in vs space where you relax is vital for improving productivity. If those two are not clearly differentiated, it’s easier to become distracted at work. This is especially important for freelancers or people working remotely. Even if you might be working from your home, you should have a designated “workspace”. This doesn’t have to be as complex as it sounds. It can be whichever room you feel comfortable working in, or even just your desk. But it has to be designated as such. This way you’ll know that, when you’re sitting there, it is work time.
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.
Many companies end up making the mistake of having meetings only when something is going badly. While it’s vital to get together when something must be improved, it’s also 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”. But celebrating is recognizing that things are moving forward. Even if it’s just a small step on a long road, it’s still a step forward.
Celebrating small successes 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 this 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. Coworkers 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
Giving them responsibilities may seem counterproductive when trying to lower the stress levels. But in truth, encouraging employees to take responsibility for their tasks and their own work is a really strong motivator. Completely avoiding responsibility is not a shortcut to stop stress, it’s actually a shortcut to feeling alienated at work. When no decision rests upon your shoulders and you just follow other people’s orders, it’s easy for the work to turn tedious and perfunctory.
Being emotionally invested in the success of a project doesn’t have to be stressful if you know how to handle it. And, instead, having some responsibilities usually gives you something to be proud of when you’re finished. Giving your employees responsibilities is a way for them to own their own work. It’s part of feeling part of the business team, and how they add something to the company.
Embrace the unexpected
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. But changes should be approached like opportunities to improve. The company, as a whole, should work on welcoming changes (especially the positives ones) with excitement.
That’s why communication it’s also key. Employees should feel like part of a team and that the business is going to be facing the challenges together. And to be able to do this, everyone should know the company, what they’re striving for, and what they’re aspiring to achieve. With this in mind, it’ll be easier to feel like you’re all working together as a team. And therefore, less threatened by the inevitable changes ahead.
Do you still want to know more about workplace improvement?
There’s always more to learn. You can always go a step further. Even if you feel it’s not particularly big or significant, small changes can make all the difference. Baby step by baby step, you can make something really great.
So here are some more baby steps you can start with! TEDTalks’ playlist “The way we work” has 9 short videos concerning the human factor in the workplace. They all share some concrete, specific advice and experiences focused on workplace improvement. And the best thing is that none of them last longer than 6 minutes. If you have a free moment to see them, that can be a great inspiration to improve and move forward.
I especially recommend Patty McCord’s video, “8 lessons on building a company people enjoy working for”.
Patty McCord is a coach and advisor on topics like company culture and leadership. She has worked for Netflix for 14 as chief talent officer and help them create the Netflix Culture Deck. So if there is someone you could learn a thing or two from, it’s her!
To improve even more your business, you can also check out this article on how to make better, achievable goals for your workplace.
Read more: 24slides.com