- Human Resources
- Administrative Services
- PEO Blog
Every workplace has a unique environment, and naturally, physical surroundings are a significant part of that environment. Obviously, there are drastic variations in physical surroundings – just consider the differences among offices, warehouses, factories, classrooms, kitchens, hotels, and hospitals. But a workplace environment is much more than just its place and space.
"Coworkers and company culture contribute significantly to the workplace environment as well," said John Allen, President and COO, G&A Partners, a Houston-based Human Resource services firm.
One thing is certain, whether working in a corner office or a small cubicle, the environment in which we work can have a tremendous impact on how effective we are. In this issue of Spotlight, we look at some things that contribute to the workplace environment and offer some simples suggestions for improving your environment.
Those things that most dramatically impact our work environment fall into one of three categories: physical, social, or cultural. Our physical surroundings, the people we work with, and the company culture can either positively or negatively impact our work environments and ultimately how effective we are within that environment.
Our physical surroundings play a primary role in our environment and how effective we are throughout our workday. While we can control certain aspects of our surroundings (i.e. the mess on our desks), others we cannot. The nature of work may itself impose certain constraints and conditions - for example the layout of equipment, whether we sit or stand for long periods of time, or the materials we have to work with to conduct certain processes all contribute to the physical nature of our environment.
One modern day "environmental hazard" is the computer. While it has greatly improved the way we do business and compete in the marketplace, it has also changed the manner in which we work. People are spending long hours at computer terminals performing repetitive tasks. They are working in noisy, poorly lit offices, seated in a fixed position on chairs and at desks meant for other tasks. It is no wonder workers today are experiencing "ergonomic agitation."
"Managers should regularly evaluate the physical environments their companies are creating for employees," said Allen. "In some cases, rapid growth or reorganizations cause work stations to be squeezed in or moved around with little consideration for the awkward working conditions it creates. Comfortable desk chairs, appropriate lighting and softer wall colors can dramatically improve the environment."
When considering work environments, managers have to think about more than just the physical work site. Coworkers can have a tremendous impact on the environment as well.
Consider an employee in an adjacent cubicle who continually plays country music through their computer. While the music may help enhance that employee's environment, it could offend their coworker who prefers The Doors to The Dixie Chicks.
Allen advises that managers try to ensure that employees have adequate personal space to do their work and avoid overcrowding. In an attempt to further "personalize" their space, employees often bring knick-knacks, potpourri, radios, or desktop games to work. While this sort of personal expression needn't be discouraged, companies may have to institute guidelines. We have probably all seen examples of the "exploding cubicle" where one employee's personal effects are expanding beyond his own cubicle's borders and encroaching into the cubicles around him.
Some social issues are easy to mitigate by setting guidelines and ground rules. Too often, however, social issues become tricky or awkward. Consider these potential complaints:
- A coworker's perfume or cologne is offensive, or worse yet, he has body odor;
- A nearby coworker speaks too loudly on the phone, even when making personal calls to her new boyfriend; or
- The coworker in the next cubicle sings to himself while he works seemingly unconcerned that it is disruptive to everyone within earshot.
"When people are involved, managers should not hesitate to call in the experts," suggests Allen. "Human resource professionals are qualified to help deal with sensitive personnel is¨sues."
A company's culture can also significantly influence the work environment. Consider, for example, how clothing affects the way people feel, and in turn, how they work. A company dress code, be it traditional or casual, will change an office's environment beyond just the physical appearance of its workers. Some company's encourage birthday celebrations or stock the company kitchen with complimentary snacks and soft drinks while others offer nothing more than coffee and a Styrofoam cup.
"It is not that one way is right and the other wrong, but cultures and the environments they create affect how people work, as well as the attitudes they maintain toward their environment, and in turn, their company," said Allen.
Managers can inherit, create or remake a company's culture and environment, so they should try to determine what type of environment will allow their employees to work most effectively and efficiently, and then implement improvements to move their company in that direction.
If you have questions about how you can "save your environment," contact G&A Partners at 713-784-1181.