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The changing impact of today’s workplace environment

What are the secret ingredients for a great workplace? This is a question that many employers struggle to answer. PHS CEO, Gareth Rhys Williams, discusses the company’s recent research
on wellbeing in the workplace

wellbeing-1It is becoming increasingly important that we look to tomorrow’s workplace and identify what is required to get the best out of our staff and ensure their happiness and wellbeing.

Producing some very interesting findings, the PHS Workplace Wellbeing Survey revealed that the standard of a workplace affects employees and businesses on many different levels.

One of the most notable factors is productivity, with 88 per cent of respondents citing that their productivity is influenced by the workplace. Other factors affected by the workplace include job satisfaction (84 per cent) and colleague relationships (69 per cent).

With over one in ten respondents indicating that office zones rather than an open plan office space would make the biggest positive difference to their working environment, it could be argued that employees are yearning for a more social and collaborative environment. With a quarter of people wanting a casual breakout area, do we need to look more at the needs of today’s changing workforce demographic?

An interesting notion discussed in a recent Barclays report, is the development of the multi-generation workplace. For the first time, organisations and HR teams have the challenge of managing a workforce spanning five different generations namely: Maturists, Baby Boomers and Generations X, Y and Z. These generations not only have differing expectations of the workplace, but also different values, drivers and needs. For example Generation Y expects a workplace where they can not only interact socially but also work collaboratively. On the other hand, Baby Boomers are more accustomed to the cubicle-style workspace where communication is made via formal meetings arranged in advance.

The PHS Workplace Wellbeing survey also revealed that 79 per cent of respondents believe that there is a strong relationship between a good workplace and career progression. For younger generations such as Generation Y (those born from 1981 – 1995), career progression is critical and even deemed as more important than financial opportunities. Therefore it is key for organisations to not only provide career progression opportunities, but to foster a workplace environment that promotes and enables this.

A lack of career progression can be disheartening or demoralising for employees and may ultimately lead to high employee turnover. An Oxford Economic report reveals that the total average cost of hiring a new employee amounts to a substantial £30K. Consequently, talent retention should be a main priority within organisations and all contributing factors, including the workplace environment, should be taken into consideration.

The PHS survey results also identified that career progression is not the only factor affected by the standard of workplace. Eighty-seven per cent of respondents stated that they feel a strong relationship between their workplace and the salary they are paid. This may be due to employees struggling to perform at their optimum level in such environments, resulting in poor performance and ultimately lower rewards.

According to some experts, salary has grown to be the top motivator and contributor to employee satisfaction. A survey conducted by the Society for Human Resource Management saw 60 per cent of respondents ranking salary as their first priority – the first time since the Great Recession. This is no surprise considering the recent recession of 2009 has generated a more money-conscious generation.

But clearly salary is not the biggest motivator for all employees. Some members of the workforce may argue that a positive workplace environment is more valued than a high salary, as a comfortable workplace environment encourages hard work and productivity.

The PHS Workplace Wellbeing Survey reveals that organisations need to take more notice of employee satisfaction. Despite 68 per cent of respondents stating that regular wellbeing surveys are carried out, only 35 per cent stated that their organisation monitored employee satisfaction. This is particularly surprising as employee satisfaction has a positive correlation with psychological wellbeing.

Wellbeing surveys are important for modern organisations, many of which are becoming increasingly flatter in structure. As mentioned earlier, organisations are also experiencing a multi-generation workforce and the differing values and expectations of these generations is likely to be testing for HR managers. It is therefore more crucial than ever to monitor the wellbeing of employees.

Wellbeing surveys provide managers with information on how employees respond to a range of issues and can improve problems such as employee productivity, sickness absence and staff turnover. According to the Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development (CIPD), wellbeing involves four factors: physical, emotional, personal development and values. It is interesting to note that ‘emotional’ falls under ‘wellbeing’, yet the PHS Workplace Wellbeing Survey results show only 25 per cent of respondents were asked about their mental health and stress levels, both of which are key contributing factors to emotional wellbeing.

It is even more surprising that only 20 per cent were asked about their happiness in their organisation’s wellbeing survey. If stress levels and happiness are not questioned in a wellbeing survey, can the current wellbeing surveys in use be deemed as comprehensive? Wellbeing is defined as the state of being comfortable, healthy, or happy and this ultimately means 80 per cent of surveyed respondents had not taken part in a fully comprehensive wellbeing survey.

Almost half (48 per cent) of the comments regarding workplace conditions were negative and therefore indicate that many organisations have room for improvement. Areas for improvement, which were cited by survey respondents, include improved scents (50 per cent), office cleanliness (22 per cent) and washroom hygiene (15 per cent). Each of these areas is bound to impact on the way employees perceive the standard of their workplace, but they are also important factors to consider in a health and safety capacity.

Cleanliness standards in the workplace environment must not be ignored. Organisations should consider the implications of an unclean workspace and recognise that a clean office is proven to boost employee morale, productivity and retention. By contrast, a disorganised and unclean workplace can cause employees to feel uncomfortable or even worried about contracting illness from germs. It is therefore essential for organisations to act on such concerns.

In conclusion, the PHS Workplace Wellbeing Survey highlights the importance of the workplace environment and emphasises the need for organisations to monitor employee satisfaction and overall wellbeing through more in depth assessments. This is especially true given today’s multi-generation workforce and their differing needs.

Through a number of small and affordable changes to the working environment, organisations can boost employee productivity and business success.

For more information on improving your workplace, visit: www.phs.co.uk

About Sarah OBeirne

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