Improving safety and comfort in the workplace takes time and commitment for the company and its employees. The results, however, are worth it. Improved working conditions lead to better employee performance, increased employee retention, higher productivity — the formula that drives success.
So, what are some of the ways that a company can improve workplace safety and comfort? Let’s define these terms first.
“Workplace safety” pertains to reducing or removing potentially harmful elements in shared and individual spaces within a workplace. The outcome of precautions, company policies, and individual and group behaviors aims to prevent accidents and other negative occurrences in work areas.
“Workplace comfort” has both concrete and abstract dimensions to it. Research in the environmental psychology of workspace uses a pyramidal model of comfort to categorize employees’ experience of their workspaces.
At the bottom of the pyramid is physical comfort. This refers to the basic requirements that make a workspace habitable. At the very least, a workspace must be clean, safe, and accessible to be at this bottom level of environmental comfort.
The middle level is functional comfort, the degree to which a workspace enables employees to do their work. The better equipped a workspace is with the tools and spatial elements that people’s tasks require, the higher its functional comfort level.
At the top of the pyramid is psychological comfort. This is not as concrete or easily measured as the first two levels, but it may be the most important in ensuring employee productivity, satisfaction, and retention.
Psychological comfort refers to employees’ sense of belonging in their workplace, and their sense of ownership and control over their designated workspaces.
There is a close link between safety and comfort in people’s workplace experience. When people know that their company is committed to their safety and health, they feel more secure and, therefore, more comfortable.
Here are five ways your company can achieve its safety and comfort goals.
1. Start with consultations.
Improvement begins with knowing what needs improving in the first place.
Get health and safety professionals to do a safety check of the workplace. Meet with employees to know their comfort and safety needs and get their feedback on existing conditions in their work areas.
Work with design professionals to create or redesign workspaces.
Involve employees in discussions and decisions related to the design and use of their workspaces. Involvement in these processes and a reasonable degree of autonomy over individual and collaborative spaces allow people to develop a sense of territory. They feel “at home” in the workplace, and their psychological comfort levels go up.
Based on inputs from employees and the safety and design professionals, draw up a workplace and workspace improvement plan, and allocate resources for it.
2. Establish and maintain a safety culture.
Conduct orientations on workplace safety and standards of cleanliness for all new hires. Ensure that everyone in the workplace has access to safety and cleanliness information. This can be in the form of listed guidelines, infographics, signage — whatever modes of information dissemination are appropriate.
All safety information should be made available in the language(s) spoken by the company’s employees. It should also be disseminated in other forms accessible to those with visual or auditory disabilities. Access to and clarity of information are essential to maintaining safety in the workplace.
Organize regular workplace safety training for all members of the workforce. These should be conducted by health and safety professionals and should be differentiated according to the work environment. Office workers, factory workers, and creatives will likely require different types of safety training because of the nature of their jobs and because the places where they work are different.
Reinforce what people learn from their safety training. Integrate the new knowledge into the company’s day-to-day life.
Hold regular meetings and establish open direct and remote communication lines to update workers on safety-related policy changes and address their safety concerns. The pandemic has created new workplace challenges to meet. For instance, how will safety measures related to vaccination, mask wearing, and/or physical distancing be implemented?
Hold regular workplace safety inspections and investigate any safety-related incidents to prevent them from occurring again.
Furnish office spaces with ergonomically correct desks, chairs, and keyboards to help people maintain good posture and avoid potentially harmful physical positions or movements. Provide protective equipment for all workers in physically risky environments like factories or construction sites. Ensure that all tools and machinery are in perfect working condition.
Make sure furnishings, tools, and equipment are well-designed and meticulously maintained to guard against injuries and accidents.
Especially in the context of pandemic and post-pandemic precautions, consider offering employees hybrid or work-from-home arrangements if their work does not require constant on-site presence.
Consider offering incentives, monetary or otherwise, for safe behavior or health and safety initiatives.
3. Promote an employee well-being culture.
In addition to a safety culture, promote an employee well-being culture as well. Consider inviting experts to orient all company members on stress, burnout, anxiety, and other mental health concerns that may impact their work. These orientations can teach the company’s leaders and employees to sense and properly respond to signs of stress or mental strain in themselves or others.
The pandemic has taught us that empathy must become part of company culture. Companies that value their people’s mental and emotional well-being are more likely to attract and retain the best talent.
4. Design or redesign workspaces to allow for movement.
Encourage stretching and other types of motion breaks to counter the ill effects of sitting or standing too long or doing repetitive tasks.
5. Complement well-designed workspaces with well-designed non workspaces.
Employees need short rest breaks to calm down on a stressful day or recharge spent energy. Areas with both calming décor and color schemes and comfortable furniture can significantly raise people’s psychological comfort levels.
Workplace safety and comfort are essential elements to a company’s success. The company needs an improvement plan based on expert inputs and employee feedback to achieve these. It must then commit time and resources to implement this plan. Success in this endeavor will lead to success overall.