Almost all organisations have experienced the phenomenon of worker ‘presenteeism’, whereby a worker is present at the workplace but not really fulfilling their role, as a result of illness or other factors.
In a similar way, the physical workplace can appear to be adequate, with standard facilities and functional requirements present, but still fail to optimally promote worker wellbeing and productivity.
Employers have the opportunity to objectively assess the attributes of workspaces for which they are responsible, and make improvements which can directly impact on worker wellbeing and performance.
Employers can directly impact on wellbeing and workplace performance by assessing the attributes of workspaces for which they are responsible and implementing improvements in some of the following areas:
- Air quality and ventilation – poor air quality will directly impact on worker health, and research has been conducted which suggests air quality also has a direct relationship with productivity. Actions can include removing pollutants from high VOC (Volatile Organic Compounds) furnishings, paints and cleaning chemicals etc., installing effective exhaust ventilation, and making use of indoor plants.
- Temperature – the perception of a comfortable temperature can vary widely between individuals, and therefore providing some modest degree of personal control over workspace temperature can have significant impact on wellbeing and performance. In most workspaces, it is not possible to provide individual thermostatically controlled spaces, however small modifications such as adjusting the venting, shifting workstations in relation to the vents or installing panels to redirect air flow. It may also be helpful to foster a culture of adopting dress standards suitable for the conditions (e.g. no ties or jacket suits required in warmer climates).
- Light – in an existing workspace, modifications to maximise daylight in the space may be difficult, but with potential impacts on health, mood, productivity and comfort, all available options should be considered. For example, installing adjustable blinds, redesigning office fit-outs to maximise access to windows, use of rippled glass or glass bricks in place of opaque walls and dividers etc.
- Views – in a world of ever-decreasing green space and increasing disconnection between humans and the natural world, it is becoming evident that wellbeing can be significantly enhanced by fostering a connection with outdoor spaces and nature. This can involve the provision of aesthetically pleasing views, especially natural ones. If the location doesn’t allow for this in reality, providing plants and images of nature in the workplace can assist.
- Noise – some individuals can tolerate high levels of noise without effect, however it is common for high noise levels and chaotic acoustics to cause poor morale, stress and poor productivity. Provision of activity-based workspaces and even PPE can assist. A reassessment of the workspace from an acoustic perspective will likely be more effective, and actions can include redesigning flat surfaces to increase sound refraction, utilising materials with sound absorption properties, or considering sound proofing of particularly noisy areas.
- Layout – optimal layout of workspaces will be different depending on the tasks to be completed, the culture of the workplace, and the preferences of the individual workers. Workstation density, the availability of task based spaces and breakout spaces, spaces where workers can relax and be social, and active design to support increased movement at work are all variables.
- Aesthetics – the overall look and feel of the workspace will also have an impact on worker wellbeing and workplace culture, supporting desired values and behaviour. Consideration should be given to the use of colour, shapes and space, the industrial design of functional requirements, and the use of art and/or craft products.
- Amenities – access to public transport, shops, green spaces, gyms etc. near the workplace will also impact worker wellbeing and can make the difference between keeping or losing high quality employees.
QRMC’s recent Safety Networking Group meeting hosted at Powerlink Queensland provided attendees with information regarding ways in which a number of these issues have been addressed within the design and functionality of the Powerlink Queensland offices at Virginia.
Please contact QRMC for more information.