Improve the Bottom Line with Workplace Improvements
Where and how you and your employees work can dramatically impact your bottom line. In most businesses, the cost of labor is the largest expense so why not improve productivity and morale by making the workplace as efficient and appealing as possible? Surveys show that an employee's place of work (the physical space, not the company itself) directly affects individual performance and team performance and has a major impact on overall job satisfaction.
Safety should be your most important consideration keeping your employees safe and healthy is your responsibility. Safety hazards not only put your employees at risk but also show you are not concerned about the health of your employees. Before you do anything else, eliminate all safety hazards and make sure you comply with all OSHA safety requirements. Injuries not only harm your employees; they also affect your bottom line.
Ergonomic concerns are not just confined to manufacturing jobs and tasks requiring physical labor. Office employees are particularly susceptible to back stress and strain and long-term issues like carpal tunnel syndrome. Make sure office furniture, chairs, and workstations are designed with ergonomic considerations in mind. If you need help, most large office supply companies have ergonomic experts on staff; if you can't find an expert in your area, talk to an office furniture manufacturer and ask for guidance.
Comfort and Appeal
Comfortable employees are happier employees, and happier employees tend to be more productive. Are employee work areas clean, well lit, and appealing? Workspaces don't have to be plush, but they should create a sense of action and motivation.
If your employees are more focused on how cold they are than on their jobs, productivity will definitely suffer. Focus on these basic areas:
- Temperature. What is the right temperature? The answer depends on the nature of work performed. If your employees are engaged in physical tasks, cooler temperatures make sense. If employees work in an office environment, the temperature may need to be higher. Just make sure the air temperature is relatively consistent across the work area as employees near a heat source may be comfortable while employees at the other end of the room might be shivering. If you can, let employees control the temperature themselves; that way you know they'll be comfortable.
- Light. As an experiment, ask your employees if they feel the lighting in their area is sufficient. Many will say it is not. Natural light "feels" good, but if natural light is not available, make sure the area is bright and well lit. Also focus on ensuring that light is appropriate for the tasks performed. Harsh lighting that creates a glare on computer monitors can be irritating and can impact employee morale and performance.
- Noise. Noise has become a major irritant for today's employees. The trend to open workstations with more occupants, larger computer monitors that reflect noise and greater use of speakerphones and conferencing equipment has exacerbated the noise issue, and experts predict it will only grow worse as voice-activated computer technology moves into the workplace. Maximize necessary "noise" like employee communication, and minimize unnecessary noise your employees will be happier and more productive.
Once you've taken care of the basics, it's time to optimize the work area for productivity and efficiency. Here are a few simple changes you can make to the workspace:
- Relocate equipment and storage. Walking from place to place is inefficient; move equipment and supplies to locations where employee "travel" is as short as possible. You can also eliminate equipment altogether; for example, consider eliminating the fax machine and installing fax software on each employee's computer. In terms of storage, consider creating "mini-warehouses" near clusters of employees and periodically re-stocking those areas from central storage.
- Eliminate clutter. Items employees "might need someday" tend to get in the way today. Store the things you need to keep in an out-of-the-way place, and get rid of the things you don't need to keep.
- Improve process flow. Do things like products, supplies, or paperwork travel through your facility in a predictable fashion? If so, reorganize the workspace to enhance that flow. If paperwork goes in and out of the administrative area several times as a job moves through your facility, consider placing the admin area in a central location. Shift customer-liaison employees closer to production employees so communication is enhanced. In short, think about how your ideal process should flow and make the workspace reflect that vision.
The key is to ensure the workspace is designed to optimize the functions an employee performs. A workspace should not reflect an employee's position it should reflect his or her needs and role in the organization. For example, say you run a call center and a supervisor is often needed to assist with customer problems. Instead of placing the supervisor in an office at one end of the room (because that's where supervisors have traditionally been located), consider moving their workspace to the center of the room so they are readily available to employees in need.
In short, focus on function and not position. Your workspace should be safe, comfortable, and appealing, and as efficient and productive as possible.