We all know about the obvious legal and financial benefits that come with giving health and safety instruction to employees. But what we don’t always appreciate is the psychology of working in a safe environment, and that safety is the first step to a better business.
Health and safety has numerous benefits to your business. It’s important to note that employees in a safe work environment can focus better on their tasks, simply because they do not have to worry as much about their personal safety. This enhanced focus will eventually lead to better work output and quality, ultimately increasing productivity and consequently, the company’s profits in the long run.
Employees who are confident of their safety at work also tend to be more satisfied with their employers — and it goes without saying that this increase in employee morale will also boost productivity. Employers who take measures to keep their workers safe are also more likely to earn the loyalty of employees, and as such, highly valuable skilled workers are less likely to leave and transfer to other companies.
Connected to this is psychological safety, i.e. the shared belief that a team is safe. In psychologically safe teams, team members feel accepted and respected. Implementing positive psychology in the workplace means creating an environment that is relatively enjoyable and productive. This also means creating a work schedule that does not lead to emotional and physical distress.
According to the US Department of Labor, in 2009 employed people worked an average of 7.5 hours a day. 84 percent of these people did some or all of their work at their workplace. This indicates that the majority of employed people spend the majority of their time at work, outside their homes. With this in mind, employers must do their best to create a low stress and inspiring work environment to ensure increased productivity.
Positive psychology in the workplace is about shifting attention away from negative aspects, such as:
- work violence
- job insecurity.
Positive psychology can help create a working environment goal of promoting a positive effect in its employees. Don’t look at the concept of ‘fun’ as something you cannot achieve during work, but rather as a motivation factor for staff. It is also important to examine the role of:
- helping behaviours
- team building exercises
- job resources
- job security
- work support.
The new emerging field of positive psychology also helps to creatively manage organisational behaviours and to increase productivity in the workplace through applying positive organisational forces. Broadly speaking, traditional psychology has not specifically focused on implementing positive psychology methods in the workplace. But, recent research on job satisfaction and employee retention has shown that a greater need to focus on implementing positive psychology in the workplace will be to a company’s benefit.
The initial steps you take to create a safe, happy workplace for your employees can begin simply. For instance, by merely paying greater attention to the ergonomic aspects of your workplace, you can already enhance positive feelings for employees in the organisation.
10 workplace design considerations
- Thermal comfort and temperature
Thermal comfort is created through the right combination of temperature, airflow and humidity.
- Access to nature, views and daylight
People generally prefer to be surrounded by nature, which provides endless sources of variation and sensory change.
- Sensory change and variability
A lack of visual stimulation during the day can dull the senses and affect a worker’s ability to stay alert.
Use colour strategically to promote desired behaviours and feelings based on psychological reactions, not personal preference.
- Noise control
The key is enabling people to control noise by providing access to a room with a door and acoustical separation when needed.
The perception of crowding can be reduced through the use of furniture, plants, decorative elements or pillars. These objects prevent people from feeling crowded or distracted. The perception of space and whether a person feels crowded varies greatly by cultural background, individual preferences and gender.
- Human factors and ergonomics
‘Human factors’ is an area of workplace psychology that focuses on a range of topics including ergonomics, workplace safety, reducing human error, product design, human capability and human-computer interaction.
- Indoor air quality
Invest in carpet, paint, furniture and other workplace finishes with low counts of particulates, gases or volatile organic compounds (VOCs) that can trigger illness; invest in equipment with ENERGY STAR labels; Ensure heating, ventilation and air conditioning (HVAC) and other office equipment is checked and maintained on a regular basis; train cleaning staff on how to use cleaning equipment and products, and add plants to the office to help clean the air.
Well-designed workplaces provide opportunities for both and allow individuals to choose when and how they use them.
- Employee engagement
Provide work spaces that enable visibility, openness and greater employee mobility to foster engagement. When workers are more likely to see each other, they are more likely to connect and collaborate.