Americans work longer hours than the citizens of any other industrialized country. Often, we’re confined for eight or more hours each day in an enclosed environment, with only thin cubicle walls separating us from co-workers. As supervisors and managers, we have a legal and moral obligation to ensure the working environment is healthy and safe.
Here are five tips for creating a work place that not only enhances your productivity, but ensures that your workers have an environment that protects their health and safety in the process.
1. Adequate ventilation. We spend too much of our lives breathing recirculated air. This not only facilitates the spread of infectious diseases, it can aggravate respiratory conditions. Make sure your ventilation system provides an adequate flow of fresh air and has filtration to remove dust and other particles.
2. Proper lighting. Inadequate lighting in the work place can cause a number of problems. It makes the performance of certain tasks more difficult, and can damage workers’ eyesight. It can also contribute to work place accidents. Try to have as much natural lighting as possible. This not only provides better illumination, but fosters a more positive mood than can be achieved with artificial lighting.
3. Keep the work place clear of obstacles. If you’ve ever seen the old movies about traditional newsrooms, you have some idea of how gloomy a cluttered work place can be. Desks and work spaces that are jammed together, and stacks of boxes or supplies in hallways and aisles are not only an eyesore; they can pose a hazard to evacuation in emergencies.
4. Strive for a stress-free work space. Reducing stress is less a matter of how a work space is physically arranged than how business is conducted. One of the keys to reducing stress in the work place is the supervisor’s management style. Confrontational supervision and micromanagement; unclear channels of communication; inattention to employees’ concerns; all contribute to increased stress. High levels of stress can lower resistance to illness and increase the risk of on the job accidents. A stress-free environment is not only healthier, it is more productive.
5. Have a comprehensive health and safety program. A healthy work place cannot be left to chance or handled in an ad hoc manner. Develop an in-depth health and safety plan to deal with potential hazards in your work place, for instance, how to deal with a situation of an employee contracting an infectious disease, or methods to prevent work place accidents. Make sure every employee is familiar with the plan, and ensure it is frequently updated.
As a supervisor, you are legally liable for any injury suffered by an employee while on the job. Having a healthy and safe work place will not only protect you and your organization from an expensive liability claim, it will foster a more productive work environment.