Is a healthy environment needed to bring the best out of your employees? Modern theories suggest that yes a workplace must have a certain set of characteristics to ensure that its environment adds to the value of work its employees produce. A lot of research has been done on how to increase staff motivation levels, but the question: “Have companies actually shifted from an old school way of management to a more modern approach?” Is under scrutiny.
The definition of work environment reaches far beyond the geographical location of a particular job. The term incorporates other very integral factors. The work environment is composed of the physical conditions which include the noise level, office temperature, furniture used in the workplace, safe buildings, clean drinking water, etc. Apart from physical conditions the level of autonomy workers have, the degree of social interaction and working hours play a major role in determining the motivation levels of staff.
Social scientists have been conducting studies in an attempt to find out what motivates human behavior. Let’s discuss some basic theories which are of paramount importance in the domain of motivation and work environment. A prominent psychologist, Frederick Herzberg highlights two aspects of work life in his Two-Factor Theory of Motivation. He believes that having the right blend of motivation and hygiene factors can lead to a healthy work environment. Motivational factors are those factors which encourage employees to work harder. Recognition of an employee’s work is the biggest motivator. So if a boss personally praises an employee’s work it is a fact that this will boost the confidence level of the employee and will spark him intrinsically to produce better results. Recognition makes workers enjoy their job thus increasing the efficiency of the firm altogether. Hygiene factors include fringe benefits, salary, relations with co-workers and managers. Absence of these hygiene factors can result in a highly demotivated staff.
Another theory pertinent to the work environment is that of Abraham Maslow. Abraham Maslow was a psychologist who posed the hierarchy of needs. The hierarchy consists of five levels: physical needs, safety needs, belonging, self-esteem and self-actualization. Physical needs refer to attaining the basic needs essential for the functioning of human life. It involves food, shelter, clothing, etc. Once these needs are met humans tend to move up the hierarchy to seek health and security. After the fulfillment of each need, individuals tend to move up the hierarchy. Once self-esteem and belonging needs are accomplished humans seek self-actualization, which is reaching one’s full potential. Abraham Maslow applied this theory to the work environment and concluded that workers must be in good health with healthy relationships with colleagues and must have a sense of security to reach their full potential. Only self-actualized workers are motivated enough to add value to a corporation.
Another management theory which is crucial to develop an understanding of the work environment is Vrooms’ Expectancy theory. This theory proposes that the behavior of a worker is determined by the rewards he or she expects to get as a result of his behavior. A worker may only want to work for extra hours if he or she is promised extra pay. If not, then the worker will be demotivated and will not have a sense of fulfillment leading to lower effectiveness in his work. This theory is based on three essential components: expectancy, instrumentality, and valence. Expectancy is the workers’ belief that he will be able to achieve his desired outcome. Instrumentality is the belief that whatever a worker is doing is going to result in benefits. So for instance, if a worker expects to pay rise for extra hours due to past experience but does not get it, then he will feel alienated and will not feel as if he is a part of the corporation. Valence is the amount of importance the reward has in the eyes of the worker. It can thus be concluded that workers will prove to be the most beneficial for a firm if its environment is such where rewards are encouraged. Employees who are not rewarded for their efforts do not feel respected and therefore experience a decline in their morale levels. A company whose work environment assimilates praise and applause for its workers can go a long way in achieving its goals.
This was a theoretical review of what a healthy work environment may encompass but whether these theories have actually contributed to the wellness of employees or not is a question under research. In the post-industrial society of today’s workers are aware of their rights. Any violation of their rights may result in an outburst spread immediately through social media. Social media in the contemporary world has become a prime force in regulating behaviors across the globe. Companies have also established the fact that the only way to boost their revenues is through strengthening their customer base. In the medieval era work, ethics and reputation of the firm were not taken into consideration. Firms were only interested in mass scale production, but now due to niche marketing, it is very important to establish customer bases. This strong customer base cannot be developed unless the company has a good reputation. Providing its workforce with a good work environment can result in a good reputation. Any misbehavior towards staff can be detrimental to the repute of the company.
Another very recent development has been a rise in awareness of women’s rights and their demands for equality. Women of today require equality in the workplace. Companies should, therefore, have a work environment which comprises of both female and male staff. Places where males significantly outnumber women might intimidate women and may result in resentment amongst women. Bosses and managers should treat both men and women equally. Any environment where women are mistreated or discouraged cannot be accepted. In countries such as Pakistan women often face harassment at workplaces. Companies must make sure that they have strict policies and consequences for those who indulge in such heinous activities.
Apart from women, firms today should also pay attention to other marginalized groups of society. Companies must make sure that their work environment is not such where discrimination on the basis of race, ethnicity or any other factor is harnessed. People with disabilities should be treated fairly. A healthy work environment calls for the breakage of the glass ceiling which curbs women and other peripheral groups from reaching their full potential.
Work environment, therefore, plays a very important part in the efficiency and effectiveness of a firm’s employees. Lower stress levels and appropriate physical conditions spur mental and physical wellness amongst employees. To conclude communication plays an immensely important role in maintaining a healthy work environment. Employers must actively listen to their workers. They should also involve them in decision making. Most of the times, employers feel that they know best little do they realize that workers know more because they are the ones doing all the work. Thus a demographic style of leadership should be followed. Employees say should always be taken into account. Recognition, training, and teamwork make a fun and productive environment. Employers should also be a little flexible and must celebrate and laugh with employees during their successes. The work-life balance must also be maintained by addressing the employee’s needs outside the workplace by giving employees paid holidays, maternity and paternity leaves, etc. If a firm provides a work environment with all these characteristics, then its employees will develop resulting in a firm’s growth in the long run.