Measures that businesses can take to improve the working environment
investment will pay off as your employees health
Not a week goes by now without another story emerging about what a business is doing to please its employees. From concert tickets to holidays, these little perks have taken on a key role as companies compete for top talent and try to keep their employees loyal, but what about the simpler things that keep people happy day to day? At this level, you’d be surprised how many companies don’t even keep up with legal requirements.
Getting it right does take a bit of effort, but it doesn’t need to be expensive, and what investment you do make will pay off as your employees enjoy the kind of comfortable working experience that really makes a job feel like the right one.
Everybody wants to feel safe at work and, as a business owner, you really don’t want to bear the cost of compensation if you fail to do what the law requires. HSE rules aren’t just there to give you extra costs – they protect you as well as your employees, and they also provide a useful guide to further measures you can take to make the workplace secure. Regular testing is also important to make sure that your fire escape, sprinkler system and extinguishers are in good condition, and investing in fireproof doors and fireproof glass protects both staff and equipment.
While things such as fires present an obvious health and safety risk in the short term, it’s also important to design the workplace with the health of your employees in mind in the long term. The single biggest positive change that you can make in this regard is to provide proper seating. This reduces the risk of back problems and time off work, as well as making it easier for your employees to stay focused. Providing comfortable couches for break times is also good because it encourages people to move around and change position.
Chairs and desks at the right height are important to creating a comfortable working environment, but how well organised is the rest of your workplace? If people have to clamber around each other to reach printers or climb onto things to access shelves, they’re immediately facing an increased risk of accident, and they’re likely to experience some frustration. Talk to your staff about the things they need to access and the problems they face, and work out how you can do better.
More work, more play
Legally, most workers are entitled to a 20-minute continuous break during the working day, rising to 30 minutes if they are working for more than six hours in a row. This is usually used for eating lunch. Studies suggest, however, that providing a longer lunch break and two shorter breaks in an average nine-hour shift means that workers are less prone to fatigue and therefore more productive, easily making up for the time lost.
Workers are much more likely to return from lunch feeling alert and ready for the afternoon’s work if they’ve had a healthy meal, and this is also obviously better for them in the long term. Adding fresh fruit and vegetables to workplace canteen menus makes a big difference. Likewise, providing access to tea, coffee, cool water and, if possible, fresh fruit juice throughout the day helps fight fatigue and keep energy levels high.
Let there be light
Alongside food, the biggest factor in fighting fatigue during the working day is light. Inadequate lighting can have a soporific effect, and old, flickering strip lights can cause headaches and stress. Studies show that the most effective approach is to let as much natural light as possible into the workplace and provide adjustable illumination at each individual workstation.
Some managers feel that they have to compromise between letting in light and keeping out noise, especially if they’re based in busy locations. The Wholesale Glass Company sells soundproof glass, which creates the best of both worlds. Fitting carpets helps to control internal noise by reducing the amount that sound bounces around and reduces the risk of slipping. There are also wallpapers available that absorb sound in a similar way.
The scent of success
Although they often affect people subconsciously, and sometimes nobody wants to talk about them, unpleasant odours can be a real problem in a busy office. Adding artificial scents doesn’t always help and can cause problems for people with allergies. Increasingly, employers are turning to odour absorption technology, which can be freestanding or incorporated in air conditioning, to create a more pleasant environment.
Hot and cold
Comfort in the workplace also depends on temperature. Far too many offices, especially in older buildings, are overheated in winter and chilly in spring and autumn when the weather is turning. HSE recommends a minimum of 16ºC for most workplaces or 13ºC where vigorous physical work is being done. Government recommendations for domestic environments are 18ºC to 21ºC, however, and this can be more suitable for an office. People are less likely to feel either too cold or too hot if the air is dry, and this also reduces the risk of infections spreading.
The benefits of looking after your workforce
Creating a more relaxing environment for your workforce isn’t just about making people happy. It has also been shown to make them more productive. When you tackle all the little issues that cause stress, you make it easier for people to concentrate, and when people are at ease in the workplace, they’re more likely to be enthusiastic about the tasks before them. This contentment does a lot more to make people feel positive about their job than occasional treats, which are more likely to be seen as compensation for conditions that are less than ideal. Involving your workforce in planned improvements means your employees will also feel they are listened to and valued, guaranteeing you their ongoing loyalty.