One of the duties of all employers is to ensure a positive work environment for their employees. A good working environment is vital to employees’ well-being.
The work environment is central to the employment relationship. It includes the working conditions of a particular job, like the work schedule, how the tasks of the job are organized, the training and professional development opportunities, and any health and safety hazards. Time spent working is an important part of employee well-being, such as how many hours of work are required and the provision of rest periods. Matters such as remuneration, the physical layout of the workplace, and the work-life balance are also included in the working conditions.
Read on to find out more about the benefits of a positive workplace environment — as well as the impact of poor working conditions and how to improve them.
Importance of Positive Working Conditions
The working conditions of a job have a major influence on employee productivity and morale. A healthy and safe workplace plays a crucial role in boosting employee retention and well-being, reducing absenteeism, and mitigating the risk of work injuries. This has beneficial financial implications, as improved productivity increases revenue, and reduced workplace incidents lead to a corresponding decrease in financial liability.
In contrast, poor workplace conditions can lead to unmotivated employees, poor productivity, and an increased risk of workplace incidents. Depending on how bad the conditions are, you may also be in violation of federal or state labor regulations, which could cause substantial legal issues.
Regulations Dealing With Working Conditions
Local, state, and federal laws govern working conditions. The U.S. Department of Labor has a range of regulations around ensuring a good work environment, and the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) covers safety issues. Some of the most important regulations enforce:
- Health and safety standards: Employers must provide a safe workplace for their workers and protect them against safety hazards. OSHA enforces this through regular workplace inspections and investigations.
- Minimum wage: The national minimum wage is $7.25 per hour, although 29 states and the District of Columbia have a higher minimum wage.
- Time on the job: Although the U.S. Department of Labor doesn’t impose a maximum number of working hours, several states mandate daily rest periods and at least one day off per week. Many states also mandate a meal break of at least 30 minutes after a specified number of hours. Also, overtime regulations state that many employees must receive 1.5 times their regular pay rate for every hour worked over 40 hours per week.
- Binding workplace contracts: Employers must provide workers with all the accommodations and work conditions specified in their employment contract. These agreements are binding, and failure to comply with the terms can result in lawsuits from employees.
The above list is not exhaustive. To know more about the safety laws and other regulations applicable to your organization, it might be useful to consult a lawyer.
Compliance with governmental regulations is ensured in several ways. OSHA conducts regular inspections and investigates any health and safety concerns raised by employees. If the working conditions are found to be poor or unsafe, the employer may have to pay a hefty fine. In addition, if an employer is not respecting its employees’ legal rights related to healthy and safe working conditions, it may face costly lawsuits, which could prove especially disastrous to small companies.
7 Examples of Poor Working Conditions (and How to Improve Them)
Here are some examples of poor working conditions that may affect your employees’ safety and well-being. If any of these apply to your organization, you probably need to make some changes.
1. Bad Lighting
Poor lighting conditions at work can cause a range of long-term problems for employees including eye strain, headaches, fatigue, and even anxiety. Bad lighting is also a safety hazard, as poor visibility can cause employees to trip and fall. This in turn can lead to both minor and major consequences, ranging from bruises to sprains to permanent spinal injuries.
While installing more lights can definitely help, the best solution to this problem is improving access to natural light. In fact, according to a report by Future Workplace, 70% of employees surveyed claimed that natural light makes them more productive.
2. Outdated Technology
Since most work includes some aspects of technology, it is an essential part of the employee experience. Slow, outdated, or ineffective technology is tedious to use and the increased effort and time it requires hurts productivity. Over time, the resulting frustration can stress out employees, reducing their satisfaction at work and maybe even causing them to quit.
The COVID-19 pandemic forced many workplace operations to move online, and better technology has now become a necessity. Invest in a technology upgrade at your workplace if it’s outdated, such as an update of your internal IT systems to a newer version, or maybe even a revamp of the computer systems to more modern ones. Better tech will increase productivity and reduce turnover, which will automatically help your bottom line.
3. Poor Workplace Hygiene
An unclean work environment can reduce people’s ability to concentrate on their work. A dirty or cluttered workplace can also increase anxiety levels, affect work relationships, and generally harm productivity, according to Harvard Business Review. And an unclean or messy office tends to put off potential clients and hires as well. No one wants to work or do business in an unhygienic environment, after all.
The pandemic has further highlighted the importance of workspace hygiene to prevent the spread of germs, especially in shared office facilities. So it’s crucial that your workplace is clean and tidy, and that you establish a routine to ensure it stays that way.
4. Uncomfortable Work Environment
It’s hard for employees to be productive when the working conditions are unpleasant or if they feel unsafe. Issues like uncomfortable temperatures, broken chairs, wobbly desks, noisy surroundings, and more can become big distractions and have an adverse impact on productivity. Discomfort at work can also hurt morale and reduce employee satisfaction.
The best way to fix this is to create a simple, accessible way for employees to lodge complaints or service requests, such as a mobile app or online portal. Then be sure to address any complaints as quickly as possible.
5. Poor Employee Benefits
In addition to an appropriate salary, employee benefits such as health insurance, disability protection, parental leave, day care, education support, and a commuter benefits program are crucial in motivating employees. A poor benefits package greatly reduces morale and may cause employees to quit in favor of companies that offer better benefits.
If your employee benefits are lacking, it’s a good idea for your human resources team to talk to employees to figure out what they would most benefit from before implementing a better benefits package.
6. Lack of Flexibility and Balance
A healthy work-life balance and some flexibility at work are considered essential among skilled workers nowadays. In fact, according to a recent report by Gallup, 51% of employees said they would change jobs to have a more flexible work schedule, and 53% said that work-life balance is very important to them. COVID-19 has contributed at least partly to the increased demand for flexibility, since millions of employees across the world started working remotely due to the pandemic.
One of the best ways to reduce turnover and improve conditions is to give employees choices. An option to work remotely, either full time or part time, may especially appeal to employees who commute long distances. Encouraging employees to use their time off and helping them manage their workloads may also help.
7. Poor Workplace Culture
A poor workplace culture can include a lack of healthy competition (or a lack of motivation), lots of workplace politics, harassment by coworkers or clients, unusually high stress, lack of recognition for achievements, or discrimination (based on ethnicity, gender, and more). If employees feel unsafe or uncomfortable, this can lead to reduced morale and productivity — and ultimately to employee resignations or lawsuits filed against the workplace.
Improving the workplace culture is an ongoing process, especially if it has been poor for a while. Some measures that might help include:
- Encouraging healthy competition by introducing performance-based rewards
- Tackling politics at the management level
- Introducing initiatives to help workers manage stress
- Implementing strong policies to prevent harassment and discrimination
- Creating a simple process for employees to express concerns and file complaints about any issues
It’s important to remember that any efforts to improve your workplace culture starts with the leadership team. A strong set of company values and a clear vision help employees feel a part of the bigger picture. So, the organization’s leadership team should first establish these and then model and communicate them to the rest of the organization.
Use Automation to Improve Working Conditions
When it comes to working conditions, your company can always improve. Thinking about how to make your work environment better may be overwhelming at first, especially since there’s so much to consider. Even something like increasing natural light in the office may require a major revamp. The above list can help you become aware of possible problems, but implementing changes may take a while.
Working on such complex issues involve coordinating many moving parts, like involving various internal departments, devising checklists and other tools to measure the effectiveness of any changes, and more. If you try to do this manually, the process might get tedious and you may end up missing something important.
But Pulpstream’s platform can help. You can automate communications, create a complaints portal for employees, improve processes and workflows, and keep track of goals related to employee well-being, all with a single, intuitive digital solution.
Leverage the power of automation to ease your transition to a healthier and safer workplace. Book a free demo with Pulpstream today!