One of the killers of work productivity is poor working conditions. For professionals who do the bulk of their work online, this could mean working with a limited power supply or an unstable network connection. Like bad living conditions take a toll on a person’s health, poor working conditions also reduce the quality of work done by an employee.
What are Working Conditions?
Working conditions are the working environment and conditions of employment governing an employee’s work with an organization. These influence the work schedule, health, safety, and productivity of the individual. Good working conditions improve work productivity and promote job satisfaction. Everything from the physical conditions an employee has to deal with at work, to his work schedule and workload, pay, and work experience, all count as working conditions. It is in a bid to curtail the prevalence of poor working conditions that agencies like the International Labour Organization (ILO) and the Nigerian Labour Congress (NLC) set a minimum wage, the maximum amount of working hours, stipulated number of rest days, and so on, in their set rules and regulations established to protect the rights and privileges of employees.
Why are Good Working Conditions Important?
Good working conditions are essential when building a healthy working environment – an ideal working environment is one where employees feel safe, valued, and supported. When employees contribute their expertise to further a company’s growth in a healthy work environment, their productivity levels increase, and the quality of work they get done will improve. Poor working conditions on the other hand, only lead to a toxic working environment which, in turn, leads to unproductive employees, and cranky employers.
Physical Working Conditions Include:
1. Lighting and Power Supply
The importance of good lighting cannot be overemphasized. Scientists have communicated that bright light helps to keep the mind active and improve one’s mood. Working in a dimly lit workspace can strain the eyes and contribute to mental stress. It can also set the stage for bumping into objects and making mistakes in production.
Power Supply is an essential commodity for employees who need electricity to carry out their daily tasks. Working with an unstable power supply can greatly hinder work progress and unsettle an employee. In Nigeria, where power supply from the national board is not consistent, most companies whose businesses depend on power supply employ the use of generators, inverters, and power plants.
Unfortunately, the resources needed to power these electricity-generating machines are expensive. In a bid to cut costs, some employers may decide to limit the use of power within the office complex, to operating relevant machines and devices. When such decisions take effect however employees are left at the mercy of climate changes and moody weather; circumstances that artificial lighting could have come in handy.
When there is a shortage of power supply, it also means that employees are forced to work with no remedy to intense temperature changes such as a heat wave or a windy day.
2. Network Connection
With nearly every organization in every industry going digital, a good internet connection and a stable network have become essential. Working with an unstable network connection could slow down work progress or even limit it when the work is being done online. Having to work with an unstable network could leave an employee frustrated at being unable to meet up with deadlines. That will then make his employer upset at his late work delivery. A work environment where the employer and employee have any kind of friction will quickly become toxic to both parties if the conflict goes on unresolved.
3. Workspace Hygiene
Ordinarily, a dirty environment is uncomfortable to work in and unappealing to the eye. Working in a dirty and unorganized environment may instigate mood swings in employees, and even cause health problems. A dirty and cluttered office complex also puts customers off from visiting the organization. It gives the impression that the company and its staff are messy people, plus diseases are easily spread in a dirty environment.
As an employer, you promote workspace hygiene by making cleaning supplies readily available to cleaning staff and implementing rules and policies regarding the practice of hygiene in the workplace. A clean workplace goes beyond inside the office building, it also covers the attitude of the employees and the appearance of the organization’s environs. Planting flowers around the office complex requires employing the services of a gardener to keep it neat. You may also caution your employees against littering, and set strict (but reasonable) office etiquette rules, to also promote the practice of good hygiene.
4. Health and Safety
Some professions generally come with health hazards, like wielders and gas engineers who are often exposed to harmful fumes and radiation every day in the course of carrying out their assigned duties. Where health hazards become a source of urgent concern, is when there are no measures provided to keep the employee safe. For the engineer, it may be the provision of work gear like safety boots, coveralls, hard hats, and hand gloves.
Even the simple things like stationing fire extinguishers at strategic points throughout the establishment and organizing HSE training and fire drills, go a long way to help make the workplace a safe environment for the staff in it. As an employer, you are responsible for the safety of your staff. You should have routine checkups and maintenance repairs carried out often – failure to repair broken appliances and faulty cable networks may have employees feeling unsafe and anticipating a fire outbreak.
Other Working Conditions Include:
When an employee has too many tasks with close deadlines to accomplish, it leaves him stressed and anxiety kicks in. Under intense mental pressure, the quality of work he gets done will be less than satisfactory. When the entire workforce of a company is burdened with a workload that should be shared but isn’t because the employer is trying to save the cost of hiring more staff, it can result in chaos. The mental health of the existing set of employees will gradually deplete, conflicts will arise among team members because they may be inclined to take out their frustration on one another, and general work productivity reduces. You can prevent such a scenario as an employer, by delegating jobs, outsourcing, and hiring more staff when necessary.
2. Work Schedule
A round-the-clock work schedule takes a toll on an employee’s health. Employees deserve breaks and free days. It makes the employee feel overworked and underpaid when an employer consistently calls in favors and requests that he works extra hours. A worker’s schedule should be explicitly spelled out in his job description and during his onboarding process. His off days should be strictly work-free, and his sick leave and vacation periods should be respected. Late working hours and urgent work calls at odd hours of the night should also be discouraged.
When an employee has an erratic work schedule, it will interfere with his work-life balance and leave him feeling drained too often. However, a clear work schedule will promote a good work-life balance, and boost his productivity on work days.
3. Employee Benefits and Privileges
Benefits and privileges given to employees boost work productivity and promote job satisfaction. An ideal company offers health insurance, paid time off, and other benefits to its employees. Some companies go further to include transport allowance (for on-site workers), and data allowance (for remote workers). Some organizations even include paid vacations for senior executive staff.
The inclusion of attractive benefits in an employee’s work package will inspire him to stay with the company for longer and make him value the job better. Statistics disclose that most employees who struggled to leave jobs that were too demanding on their mental health stayed as long as they did because of the fat paycheck and several attractive benefits. A company that doesn’t compensate its workers with good pay, and still pinches pennies on benefits will only motivate its employees to build their skill set and apply to better job opportunities.
4. The Organization’s Ethics and Work Culture
A company’s work culture directly influences its employees’ work attitude. Like having body odor, a company that has a bad work culture and unreasonable work ethics is a turn-off to employees. It makes the employees disinterested in contributing to the company’s growth, hence reducing productivity. A company with an employer that has a monopoly on power, for example, will make employees less inclined to give good reviews about the company. Senior executives manipulating junior staff into running errands on their behalf, new employees receiving larger workloads, and interns being victimized are other forms of bad work culture. A high percentage of today’s workforce will gladly trade in their job for one with much lesser pay, but a better work culture.
5. Job Security
Business disruptions such as lost revenue from a bad investment decision, poor turnover from sales, bad management choices, and so on that are not properly handled may have devastating consequences. Employees can tell when a company is experiencing difficulties and the business is barely holding on. This automatically lets them know that their future with the organization is uncertain, and their job may soon be taken away.
When an employee no longer feels assured of job security, they slowly start to lose motivation to work with the company and tend to give less than their best efforts to tasks. Employers can prevent this by making smart business decisions and reaching out for consultation when necessary. There will always be growth opportunities in a company that is thriving, and that’s enough assurance of job security for the average employee.
Incentives are given as motivation to do more next time. From merit bonuses to simple shows of appreciation like public recognition, the reward of a day off, or even a “thank you” make employees happy to work in a company. It lets them know that their efforts are seen, and their contribution is valued. Everyone loves to work where they are appreciated. It also encourages healthy competition among employees which drastically increases productivity levels across all job roles within the organization.
7. Performance Management
Technology is constantly evolving to provide us with new ways and more tools to help us achieve our goals faster. Good working conditions include the presence of necessary performance-enhancing equipment and practices. The productivity levels of employees who use their hands to bind documents for filing together, and those who use perforating machines and binders, for example, will not be the same. The latter set of employees will deliver better quality and faster. Employers will see a significant increase in work productivity when they update work equipment to new improved versions as necessary.
Bad leadership – overbearing employers and micromanaging supervisors – is one of the strongest contributors to a toxic work environment. Good leaders set standards and follow them, they lead by example. Bad leaders, however, are more of a “do what I say, not what I do” bunch. Working for an organization with bad leadership can be counted as a poor working condition. Not only does terrible leadership inhibit growth and demotivate productivity, but it is also detrimental to the mental health of both employers and employees.
Good Working Conditions are a Necessity!
When people are forced to function under unfavorable conditions, it reduces their work output and demoralizes them. Employers should strive to create good working conditions where employees can grow and thrive alongside the company. Employees also should evaluate a hiring company’s working conditions before they say yes to any job offer – maintaining physical and mental health is a top priority.