Working environment is a term used to refer to all the aspects surrounding a worker in any setting or organization. This includes the physical work environment, relationship with other workers, the working conditions and the relationship between the workers and the management (Chandrasekar, 2011). Different organizations adopt different working environments depending on the functions, model, culture or history of the organization.
The working environment impacts on the workers’ performance irrespective of the model adopted. The work environment is not constant and keeps on changing or is changed according to emerging demands to ensure optimal performance of the workers. This paper will review the working environment with reference to its developmental history, example of a good working environment, the impact of good working environment, and how to improve a working environment.
History of Working Environment (Past and Present)
Working has been part of human history since creation. The earliest forms of work involved food production on farms as people depended on it for survival in a largely subsistence economy. For successful farming to be accomplished, the people organized themselves into small family farms or villages.
This may be pointed as the first ever organized working environment albeit primitive in structure. Nevertheless, the society also had specialists in different fields such as craftsmen and artisans who traded their wares for food with the farmers. At the beginning of the 19th century, industrialization registered a rapid growth. Most people migrated to urban centers and worked in factories.
These factories employed workers and divided them into various segments according to personal skills. With this came the wage system of labor in which people worked for pay. The working environment then was restrictive and employees suffered physical and psychological torture. For instance, some firms in New England forced their workers to sleep in dormitories owned by the firms. They would also offer low wages and restrict them to only purchase goods from stores owned by the factory owners.
The working environment continued transforming with the emerging demand for skilled labor and higher wages. Trade trends had an impact on the working environments directly affecting employees. The emergence of new and advanced technological applications ushered in a new era of mass industrialization. Most industry players needed to reduce the cost of production to for their products in order to remain competitive in the market.
With technology assisted production cutting on the cost, many employees were laid off. This made working in such settings unsatisfactory due to the uncertainty surrounding work environments. The emerging competition led to the working environment radically being changed with workers being discriminated on the basis of color, race, religion, class, creed and gender. Colonialism only acted to worsen the problem with workers being subjected to forced labor and slavery.
The hostile working environment eventually resulted in resistance among employees that led to the abolition of such practices. This got a further boost with the formation of labor unions that completely revolutionized the relationship between employers and the employee, a love-hate relation that has existed to date what with regular strikes that paralyze operations in these organizations (Huberman & Lewchuk, 1999).
The formation of labor unions and legislative efforts over the years has transformed many working environments into what they are today. Despite numerous challenges, both current and emerging today’s working environment can be described as better in standards as compared to the past. Workers safety is significantly guaranteed nowadays than in the past. This is because of efforts to embrace safe production procedures and legislations that demand workers compensation in case of injuries and litigation.
Today, employees know their rights and procedures to follow in passing their grievances. This empowerment has made employers observe safety measures keenly. The demand for specialized skills in work stations has led to division of labor and increased specialization. Today the number and variety of job descriptions is growing larger. Modern systems of management of labor are in use today in both government and private enterprises (Levering, n.d.).
Challenges in the working environment continue to emerge, especially with the rapid adoption of technology. This has led to efficient systems of production thus making many individuals to become jobless. Issues of remunerations and allowances remain a thorny issue in the modern day working environment due to the rising cost of living affecting the world. Today, the employee understands their roles clearly, and many organizations conduct training programs to empower their employees with up to date skills and knowledge.
Problems being experienced in today’s working environment that can be compared to those of the past include cases of sexual harassment, discrimination on the grounds of gender, race and color. Corruption and nepotism have also infiltrated many working environments today seriously compromising the quality of service provision. These and other factors affect the performance of employees (Morin, 2004).
An Exemplary Working Environment
Working environment has become more important with each passing day owing to the desire by organizations to remain competitive as well as attract and retain highly skilled workforce. One such organization is Google.
The work environment in this company is an attractive, high energy package allowing employees to express their knowledge and skills optimally. In order to assure of employee satisfaction, the company gives its employees a chance to concentrate only on what is interesting to them. The program dubbed “20% time program” encourages all its engineers to explore new challenges.
This has in turn benefited both the company and the employees. The company has an on-site medical facility with a doctor, dentist and massage parlor, fitness equipment and food to ensure the workers perform optimally health wise. Google has a comprehensive compensation and benefits program for its workers (Great Place to Work Institute, Inc., 2007).
Among others, it provides healthcare coverage for the employee and their family. The workers are also titled to flexible working hours and vacation holidays. The work-family relationship is also enhanced at Google with new parents being supported with take away meals.
These meals are worth up to $500 for over a month after birth. The company also has a day care for the employees’ children, onsite dry-cleaning, employee discounts, and free shuttle transport to several locations. Apart from the salaries and allowances, all these cutting edge benefits are offered. The company also offers internship programs to talented youths giving them a platform to learn practical experience from other experienced employees at the firm.
With such a working environment, Google has been able to record tremendous growth due to the increased commitment displayed by its employees. With all the employees enjoying the element of belonging and being integral parts of the company, they are motivated to perform maximally. The professional freedom given at the firm is the best opportunity for enhanced career growth and skills exploitation (Great Place to Work Institute, Inc., 2007).
How to Improve Working Environment
To ensure optimal performance and satisfaction by an employee, the environment they work in must be favorable in terms of offering physical, social/emotional and psychologically support. One way to achieve this is by embracing best practices in the management of an organization’s affairs.
When an organization cultivates a culture of integrity and credibility within its workforce, the working environment is greatly improved. One of the key elements to enhance such an environment is sharing of information openly. An organization must have mechanisms to allow all employees, irrespective of cadre, to access any information they may need.
The environment should competently offer direction and coordination to employees and available resources in line with the vision and mission of the organization. Integrity within an organization is the greatest asset in development of an enhancing working environment. This is because it promotes openness and transformational leadership where promises are kept, set operational standards and deadlines met, and acceptable ethics are followed to the letter (Christiane, Tit & Carlo de, 2010).
The value of human capital can not be overemphasized. The workers remain the most integral components of an organization. As such, they should be accorded utmost respect through the establishment of an environment that offers professional development of individuals working there.
The overall wellbeing of the employee should be incorporated in the establishment of the working environment. One way in which organizations achieve this is through offering periodical training opportunities to the employees. This is aimed at acquiring up to date skills and learning new ways of tackling emerging challenges. The environment must also be supportive in terms of the equipment in use.
Only then can a professional produce tangible results (Inside Jobs Coaching Company, n.d.). Integrating an employee’s idea and appreciating their achievements encourages growth and creative thinking. This brings new concepts that are beneficial to the firm. A favorable environment in this sense also ensures unlimited support to the employs to explore their imaginations in a safe and caring working environment.
Several internationally recognized institutions have adopted models to promote professional development among their employees. These models include advanced education reimbursements plans in institutions or seminars offering such training. This in the end benefits the individual and the organization (Ripley, 2002).
An enhancing working environment is one that supports the three elements of fairness. These are equity, justice and impartiality. This entails treating all workers within the organization equitably in awarding. The environment should be assuring to the effect that no form of favoritism will be condoned in any process involving the running of the organization.
Thus, it impartiality becomes a norm in such a working environment and any employee is assured of promotion or rewarding in accordance with his/her achievement. On the same vein, such an environment should work to eliminate all forms of discrimination on its employees on the basis of their background and/or orientation while addressing all complaints in an impartial and just manner (Chandrasekar, 2011).
When a working environment instills pride in the workforce, then it can be described as favorable. An organization’s structure should be in such a way as to build personalized ownership of duties to instill the sense of belonging. When an individual or a team is appreciated and valued for accomplishment, an impetus is injected to propel them to greater heights. This concept brought success to Apple Inc. in its formative stage when its proprietor Steve Jobs inculcated a sense of pride and purpose in his team.
This saw them triumph and floor established giants in the competitive computer applications industry. This shows that the focus of such an organization is not only making profits but involving the employees to allow for ownership and career development. The work environment should also enhance employees’ relationships. This will allow them express their feelings concerning their work and create harmonious collaborations that create synergy across departments and in the entire organization (Ripley, 2002).
Impact of Good Working Environment on Employees’ Satisfaction and Productivity
A general assumption is that working in a favorable environment enables workers to achieve comfort and thus perform optimally. The associated productivity will then translate into a drop in employment cost per employee and facility operation cost. The element of physical workspace is integral in creating a favorable working environment.
Important aspects of this element are space, sound, lighting and designs. Employees spend up to 90% of their time indoors while working and thus the environment should be conducive. It has been shown by a study that 30% of American office workers suffer from sick-building syndrome. These environmental aspects greatly affect an employee’s performance and satisfaction and efforts should be made to create an appealing office environment (Al-Anzi, 2009).
Employee satisfaction and productivity is negatively affected by a hostile working environment. The environment should be supportive of the employee to discourage disturbances that could interfere with the productivity of the employee.
A hostile environment may arise from the organization structure or attitude of management to the employees. When the relationship between the employees and management is tense, productivity is greatly affected. The employees may compromise quality in an aim to reach targets imposed upon them by the management.
At the end, this does not result in employee satisfaction as the environment does not promote personal or professional expression of one’s input. Tensions among employees themselves may create disastrous working environment. Unnecessary competition and jealousy my make some dig downfalls of colleagues all to the detriment of the organization’s performance. In such a setting where an employee’s input is not recognized or valued, they may be demoralized.
This results in below par performance, resignation or seeking transfers to other organizations. The use of technology could have an impact on the employee’s performance. An employee with excellent skills may have their productivity and satisfaction greatly affected by inadequate or lack of appropriate technology to match his/her skills (Taiwo, 2009).
The value of the working environment cannot be underestimated in any organization. This is because it is evident that successful organizations are those that have good working environments. Therefore, the working environment is critical in determining the satisfaction and productivity of employees.
With changing times, the work environment is undergoing rapid changes that organizations need to embrace so as to remain competitive and ensure that employee satisfaction is guaranteed for optimal productivity. In this regard, the organizations should remain flexible to adapt to the dynamism of the working environment. This will ensure success of the organization.
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