A few office plants, free drinks and a nice Friday afternoon get together once a month – that would be a good start. But a truly stimulating workplace requires a little bit more than that. Why?
Because work stress is the greatest occupational risk of the 21st century. Because of their smartphone, people have the feeling that they have to be available day and night and are quickly distracted by the large amount of e-mails and social media messages. Moreover, open workplaces with a lot of environmental noise and uninspiring office spaces are not conducive to productivity – resulting in extra stress and more working from home.
So, why create a happy workplace?
Although a lot of employees can now work anywhere they want thanks to the internet, cloud and smartphones, they still generally prefer the office as the favorite workplace. Therefore, the one important task for the employer is to create the most ideal working conditions.
This not only contributes to the good mood and health of their employees, but also helps the organization itself. The happier and healthier the employee, the lower the absenteeism due to illness and the higher the productivity. To achieve this, organizations need to let go of their outdated organizational structures. Only with a hybrid office can employers meet the specific wishes of each employee. What do work happiness, employee experience and employer branding have to do with tea bags? Without a good workplace (with teabags) you are nowhere as an employer.
There is no place like home?
Most people know the statement “there is no place like home”, but the starting point for an employer should be a different one: there is no place like the professional workplace. So no practical, impersonal spaces with suspended ceilings, without atmosphere and other options. That is at the expense of satisfaction, productivity and health. An investment in a well-designed, inspiring office environment is nothing less than an investment in the well-being and involvement of employees. Therefore, to remain attractive as an employer, organizations need to implement major changes. The current way of working is completely out of date.
Even with organizations that have once embraced “the new way of working”, there is hardly any freedom of choice. In practice, the new way of working means that you can only choose whether you work at home or in a boring office garden. That is very limited and not at all what people want. They prefer to be at the office, but a one-size-fits-all approach with fixed workplaces offers employees far too little freedom. Companies that do not understand this will lose the battle for top talent.
Make more human workplaces
Some experts have focused in recent years on “making the workplace more human.” They know how healthy office space and a healthy work culture can make employees flourish.
Where one coach specializes in stress to combat burnout, and the other focuses on work-life balance or more exercise, they prefer to look at the whole picture. What does it take to keep people working productively in a sustainable manner?
In this age of war for talent, people are gone after a year or two if they can’t be themselves in the workplace. That is a waste of the investment. People spend so much time at work. Why not make sure that everyone, male or female, of any cultural background, physically healthy or with disabilities, feels at home there?
“Feeling welcome” is the key concept for them. It sounds abstract, but starts very concretely with a healthy office where there is enough daylight, fresh air and plants – for extra oxygen. Also look at opportunities to move. A standing desk helps, and hold that meeting outside, where you can walk together. Because yes, your body also wants something to stay sharp.
Furthermore, calm colors such as blue and green help to focus. And if you are mad about noise in the office garden, then you should have the opportunity to work in a closed silent workplace or telephone room. People just need different types of spaces. Also to meditate, to pray, or to stay as a young mother. If people can’t be ‘human’ and have to put on a mask, it will cause more friction, stress and burnout.
You take your whole self with you in your work, and luckily so. If people can be themselves, you can see that in job satisfaction. Your employees are then your ambassadors, not your enemy.
For an employer, a positive corporate culture is something to keep in mind. It’s like a muscle, if you don’t train it, it becomes weak. “So give a compliment, and say you see how well someone is committed to you. Read here why this is so important.
Even help for financial resilience is part of it. People with problems or financial worries are more distracted and are more likely to get sick. It is not surprising at all to give workshops a few times a year on smart budgeting, or arranging a cheaper mortgage.
For employers it all seems like a tough job. But it is much simpler than that. Just listen to people. The one needs something different than the other. Let people create and organize what they need. Who knows, they might think of something more inclusive than the Friday afternoon drink or a game of table tennis: for example a quiz or games. Maybe someone is much more competitive than you thought. Then you get to know each other as a person. An employee is a person – with a job title. That’s what it’s about.
The employee experience
The solution lies in a workplace that puts power on the employee: the happy office. This is an environment that offers the same benefits as a “standard” office, such as the possibility of collaboration, contact with colleagues and excellent technological facilities, and at the same time feels like home. The big difference is that the organization does not determine where and how people should work, but only establishes an environment in which employees are given complete freedom and can make their own choices.
Depending on the task or time of day, the needs of an employee may differ. Whether someone wants to focus, brainstorm or just need a different atmosphere, you have to be able to offer all this in one place. Every day is different. Every activity is different. It is the task of the organization to create the ideal conditions for this. Only then will you keep employees engaged, productive and healthy. The degree of freedom of choice within the office has a strong, positive effect on their involvement.
My own experience
For two years I worked in an industrial environment as a commercial manager, a job with lots of stress. You would have thought that I had a quiet workplace with my staff. However, the office was cramped, next to the factory and only separated by a glass window. The noise from the operational area with all kinds of machines and hammering/sawing was sometimes ear splitting, such that a normal conversation or a telephone call were not possible. You will say to yourself that you will live through it or that there will be improvement, but hey, no such luck. At the end of those years, although I did not realize it, I was a complete nervous wreck and some of the others too. Yet,our bosses who had quiet offices themselves did not seem to care at all and just demanded the work be done. Suffice it to say that they did not get the best results.
I can tell you one thing: never under any circumstances let this happen to you, as your health is at stake. I know as it took me a couple of years to recover from all kinds of stress related illnesses.
Final thoughts plus recommendation
A welcoming working environment is essential for any employee and I would say for any employer with a good sense of business as well. When people can work as a team in a happy workplace, the results will be optimal, their work the best and the company happy as well. You will keep talented people easily.
On the other hand, when as in my case, the working environment is totally not suited for the work required, people will suffer, mistakes will be made, irritation and frustration will set in and health issues will eventually occur. This should be avoided at all times!
If it happens to you take action by leaving and if this is not easy for you, start preparing your escape route by creating income for your own. I have described here one of the best possibilities that currently exist.