Be it the shop floor, a retail store or a corporate office, our workplace environment greatly affects our eagerness and ability to do our job, as well as our overall attitude about work. When we perceive our workplace as a positive place, we to try harder and stay longer. According to Business Week, several large companies have begun to disregard the age-old belief in ROWE,or "results-only work environment" and allowing more workplace flexibility, with a positive impact on performance. Many factors influence workplace environment, making the difference between a hostile work environment and a workplace that allows employees to thrive.
A Hostile Workplace Environment
In a hostile work environment, employees feel insecure about their actions as a result of hostility from management or other co-workers. Such hostility may present itself in the form of harassment and/or discrimination, exploitation (feeling coerced to work more hours or do favors against one's will), blackmailing and threats. A hostile work environment can result in serious consequences for both employers and employees. Unresponsive management may face employee lawsuits, and employees found guilty of harassment will likely lose their jobs and face legal repercussions. Organizations can avoid unpleasant work experiences, legal problems and firings by securing a healthy work environment.
Employers Creating a Positive Workplace
Ensure that your staff feels comfortable and safe in the workspace, both physically and emotionally. Make yourself aware of any employee special needs, and meet these needs as best as possible. Encourage wellness through support for exercise, workplace hygiene and healthy food options. Support employees in their roles as parents or caretakers, and explore family-friendly workplace initiatives such as scheduling flexibility, telecommuting, child-care support and extended maternity/paternity leave. Use rewards and initiatives to encourage engagement and improvement, and don't forget to make the workplace fun when appropriate. Workplace celebrations and even contests and competitions can bring rewards for all.
Employers should assure that their employees clearly understand their roles and that, in the event of questions or concerns, they have direct communication with the appropriate supervisor. Mentoring and supporting employees encourages performance and increases confidence. Management should make clear the expectations of employees using goal-setting methods to achieve results together. Feedback plays an essential role in this process, and management should determine the most appropriate way to share feedback with the team. From an employer perspective, supporting employees results in greater productivity and longevity. A worker is more likely to stay and do her job well if understands why it matters.
Employees Creating a Positive Workplace Environment
Employers are not solely responsible for the quality of the workplace environment, and employees' behavior can greatly affect the environment in which they work. Avoiding negative workplace situations such as talking badly about co-workers or management may be hard to resist but really can make the difference between a toxic workplace and a healthy one. On the other hand, communicating as openly as possible with coworkers and management will help decrease tensions and misunderstandings. Always attempt to communicate in private, taking advantage of email when appropriate.
Above all, employers should communicate with employees about their workplace and make themselves available to employees' suggestions. Try installing a suggestion box in a private place. Make yourself accountable to those suggestions by posting news on a bulletin board regarding workplace changes initiated (anonymously) by employees. Ask your staff whether they like the idea of a party or would rather have an extra hour at lunch. Your responsiveness to staff needs will help assure the staff's interest in the company's needs.
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