Well, a happy employee is a better employee. A happy worker is a better worker. Of course, ultimately everyone is responsible for their own motivation and happiness, but the environment at the workplace can make or break that motivation and happiness, and thereby damage productivity, human interaction, and ultimately the quality of life of both employee/worker and employer alike.
All this may sound a little oogy-woogy and ‘modern’ to you, especially when you only see this as a result of looking at psychology at the workplace, motivational and inspirational angles, etc. However, there are a lot of practical situations where small changes in the right direction can make all the difference – and where changes in the wrong direction can lead to mental and physical breakdowns. Let’s have a look at possible changes, shall we?
Have you ever given thought to the way your office is organised? If someone is working in an office that does not allow to put things down and then find them in the same state again after an hour, a day or even a week, this will ultimately lead to a lot of frustration and loss of time. Either things will have to be put away completely and correctly every single time, or they will be lost under more recent papers. In both cases, time is spent identifying and extracting those papers again.
Ask yourself: if that person were to tell you about the lack of space, would you listen and try to find different options?
Imagine a situation where you have multiple people working in the same office, sharing resources to some degree, and their workspaces are arranged in a way that does not facilitate exchange. Maybe they are sitting with their backs to each other because the desks are arranged along the walls? Or they are separated by cupboards or shelving units? Or one person always has to navigate around someone else to get in or out?
Ask yourself: if either of them were to request the layout to be changed, would you listen and make adjustments?
There are endless opportunities to make small changes that will save time and limit the friction between collaborators. So why not actively ask feedback on those practicalities that affect each of them on a regular basis? Small changes can have huge effects on morale and ultimately increase productivity, workforce retention and engagement. Sometimes better lighting makes all the difference, and a touchscreen or a different chair can help solve health issues.
Besides all those practical, furniture-shifting, changes, there are other, less obvious, instances of situations that pull morale down. Many of these are linked to the way jobs and tasks are divided throughout your workforce. We all know how it goes: you start out with a (hopefully) well-designed workflow where ideally everyone involved does what they are best at, what they like doing and have a lot of experience with.
Sadly, this ideal picture is often far removed from the reality. Even if we start out with that ideal situation (and that is far from certain), new tasks come up regularly and have to be given to someone who looks likely to be able to finish them properly. Over time task that really belong together are separated across several people who were not the right people to do them in the first place, leading to poor quality, an increased need to check and communicate (time loss alert!) and a certain level of discontent about the state of affairs.
What is needed here is a detailed assessment of tasks and capabilities of everyone involved to ensure that not only what belongs together stays together (and saving time in the process), but also to ensure that the majority of tasks assigned to each person are tasks they like to do and are good at doing. What happens over time is that very often tasks become so fragmented that every single person in the office is involved in finishing almost every task. This way, nobody feels really responsible, nobody gets a sense of achievement, pride and – dare I say it – joy of completion. Everything feels disjointed: a veritable conveyer belt of tasks where each task is meaningless without all the others that we know nothing about.
Ask yourself: if someone pointed a situation like this out to you, maybe even with a possible solution, would you listen and consider to reorganise?
This last example also brings up another issue: are you ready to listen at all, or would you argue that – as long as the tasks get done – you couldn’t care less? Be honest now! Most likely this is true to some (small?) degree and of course there is good reason to not follow up on any complaint or request that comes your way. Nevertheless: it pays to stay open to suggestions and actually considering them rather than dismiss them out of hand.
Any one of these suggestions might just save you a lot of time and money, and increase general happiness in your company. And if they do pan out, don’t forget to be generous with praise and name the person who came up with it. They will be happier, more loyal and more productive because of it, and others might be more inclined to look for better ways of doing things as well.
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Hi, my name is Tilo Flache. My current mission: help my clients declutter mind and space.
This blog contains pointers for your journey towards a happier living experience.