We all know how important the work environment is in terms of productivity, creativity, and job satisfaction. All businesses strive, or should strive to achieve a healthy work environment for their employees. But what constitutes a healthy work environment? Is it literal health, as in good ventilation, natural lighting and lots of plants? Is it psychological health, as in job security and respect for employee values? Or is it supplying the means to get healthy, as in an onsite gym and a cafeteria with no fried foods?
Or is it all of the above?
You may have heard of “sick building syndrome", which is when employees experience a variety of ailments (symptoms resemble flu) at work, which generally ease when they go home. Poor ventilation is the main culprit, combined with chemical agents (bouquets of perfumes and deodorants, and cleaning agents), emissions from electrical appliances, and biological agents (mould growing in the air conditioning system).
Sick buildings can be treated. I will now alienate all smokers. Smoking should be banned from the building. Separate smoking rooms are all good and well, if the extractor fan is in good working order. But what is smoke other than burnt air? And what does air do best? It wafts of course.
Smoke does not come across a keyhole or crack in the door and stop. It wafts on, meandering through the building, into eyes and up assorted nostrils until finally it does settle, indiscriminately, in everyone's lungs. Designating a smoking area outside is a viable alternative, provided it's not right by the door, where air currents are ideal for wafting.
Optimise air flow by removing as many obstacles as possible. That means that partitions or cubicle should be raised slightly off the floor and occasionally rearranged to shift air flow. Keep ventilation systems in optimal working order, service them regularly and keep the filters clean.
Go green, literally, and invest in plants. Scientists at NASA have found that some plants (Bamboo Palm, Spider Plants) actually absorb harmful gases and chemicals. Placing a pot plant near your computer will protect your from its nasty emissions, it will also soothe your eyes when you look away from your screen (which you should do every 20 minutes), as well as liven up the office.
One of the most important indications of a psychologically healthy environment is laughter. Colleagues who laugh together work well together. Laughter is a sign of comfort within the work environment and should be encouraged. Occurrences of insane laughter in a corner, however, should be investigated, and the poor soul provided with help.
Open-door policies that encourage free sharing of ideas are an important element in employee health. Employees who are listened to feel valued, they also feel that they can make a tangible difference to the business, which enhances job satisfaction.
A growing trend these days is for companies to provide facilities for employees to optimise their physical health. Often this means that they install a gym on the premises for employees to work out before or after work, or even during lunch. An alternative for companies too small to install an entire gym is to conduct meetings on the move. Instead of sitting around a table in a stale room to discuss ideas in a stale, take the meeting for a walk in the (comparatively) fresh outdoors. A different physical point of view can stimulate metaphysical ones, not to mention the cardio benefit of walking and talking.
Just because competition is savage doesn't mean your environment has to be. A few simple measures can ensure the health and happiness of your employees and a happy employee is a productive one.
http://www.bingerop. co. za/healthy_environment.html
Sandra wrote this article for the online marketers Pitmans People temporary and casual labour opportunities one of the leading suppliers of temporary and casual labour to the UK workforce