Juggling the Aspects of the Work Environment

Inevitably, employees will disagree and complain to each other, their bosses, and to HR about various aspects of their physical workplace environment. Such comments and complaints might involve the temperature, lighting, proximity to other employees, smells, etc. As an HR professional, how can you measure which issues should take precedence? It is within your control to allow or not allow the changes that would make employees more or less comfortable in their work space, but should you assume all the responsibility? What allowances should you make in the workplace in order to maintain morale and decorum? Should certain things be adopted as part of company policy, or should you depend on the common sense of individuals to respect their neighbors?

Because there is research that proves employees are more productive in certain environments, Human Resources individuals are in a tight spot. Employees gain a hold of these materials and wonder why their workspace can’t be an oasis when it would improve their productivity. When measuring your office against these “ideal” conditions, your department and company should have a clearly defined focus to help guide decisions about office temperature, the color of the walls, or the placement of cubicles in proximity to windows. Productivity in the workplace is an obvious priority, but outside of that, is your employee’s comfort your priority? Cost-effectiveness? Customer or visitor experience?

Within the scope should be consideration for those things an employee can control on their own time and within their own resources. If they’d like more sunlight, encourage them to rise early and exercise outside. Inside the office, suggest that they move around frequently throughout the day. Encourage them to stand up, stretch, and walk around the office space to avoid stiffness or cramps, such as this article from Forbes suggests. If they’re concerned about the air quality (after vetting this concern for serious potential risks), invite them to add a plant to their office décor. If the colors in the space aren’t inspiring to them, encourage them to spruce it up with colors that affect them positively. While adhering to company policy, invite them to bring in small things that will alter their environment positively, such as a small desk lamp or space heather. In short, encourage them to control the aspects of their environment that are immediately within their control.

Even with these expectations in place, Human Resources pros cannot leave everything to their employees. Doing so could threaten the morale within the office. Employee questions, complaints, and concerns should always be taken seriously. As a Human Resources professional, it’s important to be concerned with the human aspects of being in the workplace, including everything from disability benefits to the temperature of a cubicle. However, a well-defined focus can help you measure issues for Human Resources against complaints that are easily taken care of by employees. And once you know this scope, clearly communicating it with employees will be key to achieving a comfortable atmosphere.

What’s your strategy for handling employee requests to change aspects of the work environment? We would love to hear from you in the comments below!

IMAGE: Courtesy of Flickr by Gabriel Rojas Hruska