Have you ever worked in a place where it seemed like a few minor changes would make a significant difference in how you did your job and how effective you were? I’m talking about lighting, replacing the cushion on your chair, upgrading your computer so it works faster, the distance between where you sit and where your colleague works, or even just having more storage space by your desk to de-clutter the mess.
Basically I mean macroergonomics.
To me, environment is one of the key factors in how a person feels about where she works and also plays a tremendous role in how productive she is. There’s nothing worse than going into work and dreading where you’ll spend the next 8 to 12 hours of your day.
Why keep people who work best with natural light in the darkest part of the office? Why have a social bee near the person who likes to work alone? Or why have the loudest person sit in the middle of the office instead of giving him his own closed door space so his calls don’t disrupt the entire floor? All this seems to do is create unnecessary tension and a whole lot of frustration.
So why not make it better for everyone? I’m sure with all the technology that’s out there, a system can be developed to evaluate new staff when they’re brought on board to determine what environments work best for each individual. This can be done by developing sophisticated software that matches personality type with the ideal work space, OR, probably radically easier- by just surveying people when they’re hired to find out what type of atmospheres makes them the most effective, and doing what you can to offer that environment as a reality.
I know it’s impossible to please everyone. But I do believe it’s worth attempting to create a workspace that is more than just satisfactory to each person. Lets face it, would you be content to have only a satisfactory group of people running your organization? Then why just give them a satisfactory space to do their jobs? When you ensure that your team is being heard and you’re making efforts to create a positive space that they can work in, I’m confident the result will be happier employees, better morale, and stronger work produced.
I particularly believe non-profits need to look at this more closely. Just because resources are often limited does not mean modifications can’t be made. I understand with budget limitations, it can seem impossible to make changes, but here are some simple and easy options you can take into consideration when working with your staff:
1) If you’re office space is dark and/or windowless, and several of your employees prefer to work in natural light, be flexible and let them work at a nearby coffeeshop that has a lot of light, or work from home, or at an alternative site that is agreed by you and your employees.
2) If you have an open floor plan but have a lot of workers who prefer privacy to avoid distractions and concentrate better, consider investing in cubicle walls, or allow them to work off-site part of the time.
3) If you have an employee whose desk is piled with files and needs more space to properly work, reach out to local office supply stores for in-kind storage donations so that this problem can be repaired without costing the organization any money. Or if there’s another place in the office where the employee can be relocated to, collaborate with the employee on administering that workspace move.
4) If you have an employee that sits under jarring florescent lighting and has a hard time focusing, invest in a lamp with a better bulb and offer that as an alternative. Put your heads together to find a solution that’s feasible and will lead to better work conditions.
There are a lot of other alternative and creative solutions you can implement, but the point is to take the time to assess the macroergonomics in your office and to help your team work the best and brainstorm with them on applying changes to create that successful workspace. On another planet, we would probably be like robots with no preferences, no ticks, and would just get the job done. In reality, however, everyone has specific things that make or break them at work, and I firmly believe it’s worth investing the time and resources to accommodate your people to ensure you’re doing everything you can to help them work more efficiently. In turn your organization will reap the fruits of that labor.
What type of environment makes you the most effective at your non-profit workplace?