Gone are the days of the traditional nine-to-five workday that effectively ended the moment you exited the office building. Now, with technology that virtually tethers us to the office 24/7, it’s difficult to separate work from life. For this reason, employers are making greater efforts to introduce measures to create a better workplace.
“There are a lot of factors that go into creating an ideal workplace,” says Paul Wolfe, senior vice-president of human resources at Indeed. “It starts with realizing that your employees are like a family. They’re working on a common goal, so it benefits any employer to create an environment that will inspire them to be more productive and engaged.”
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Wolfe recognizes that technology has changed the face of the traditional workplace. Because employees are connected to the office around the clock, that gives employers leeway to make concessions that would have been impossible in the past, like flexible hours.
But Reeshma Jassani, director of human relations at the Institute of Professional Management, views technology as the culprit in making employees “victims of work.”
“They tend to forget there’s life beyond work and don’t spend time meaningfully outside of the office,” she says. “And that becomes difficult for them because employers can have an expectation that that employee will continuously work.”
Both Jassani and Wolfe agree that technology can be used to positively and contribute to a better workplace. They offer the following tips for employers and draw from their own experiences to illustrate how to implement tactics that can create an ideal workplace.
#1 Use technology for good
The fact that cellphones and laptops keep people constantly connected isn’t a negative, Wolfe says. But employers need to know how to spin that so they’re getting the best work out of employees and not burning them out.
“Make use of technology to facilitate things in the office, like using Google Hangouts for conference conversations and Gchat for in-office communications, but also remind your employees to disconnect at the end of the day,” he says.
At Indeed, employees are given the option to leave work early — say, at 2 or 3 p.m. to pick up their kids from daycare. It is understood that they will spend the rest of the afternoon and early evening with their families, but once their kids go to bed, they can log back on to catch up on what they missed. It gives the employee a chance to balance work responsibilities with their family life that results in increased productivity.
#2 Be flexible
Wolfe says that Indeed introduced unlimited vacation in January 2016, and when the company examined its productivity metrics compared to the previous year, they showed that they hit targets and revenue goals despite the fact that employees across the globe had taken 30 per cent more time off.
“The correlation is that people are more engaged because they could take a break when they wanted to without having to worry about using up all their vacation time,” he says.
Jassani calls flexible hours and personal days “a nice, cheap way to reward employees and motivate them to stay with the company longer.”
She points to this tactic as a smart way to save on medical costs, too, as it relates to mental health and well-being. This is especially poignant for businesses as a recent poll revealed that nearly 40 per cent of Canadians say mental health issues have disrupted their lives over the past year and it costs workplaces $50 billion a year.
#3 Make the office comfortable
The second largest chunk of time in our day (after sleeping) is spent at work, so make it comfortable, Wolfe says. Employers should think about the things they do to make their own homes a haven and apply that to the office.
Open concept offices are great for creating energy and buzz, but they should be offset with smaller rooms where employees can go for one-on-one chats or where someone can go to get some quiet time. All that can be balanced with a larger space that offers soft seating where employees can go to get a different vibe from sitting at a desk.
“Furniture and equipment that’s bright and inviting is an ideal place for people to take rest periods and recharge,” Jassani says.
#4 Make it social
“Recognition and engagement goes a long way to motivating your employees,” she says.
Social events like company barbecues, communal brunches, and lunch and learns are ideal ways to get employees excited about work and prevent them from slipping into a slump.
They’re also key to celebrating accomplishments.
“Having a socially-driven mission also brings people together,” Wolfe says. “It attracts them to your company because they identify with it and are drawn to like-minded people. They understand what they’re doing is communal and they have a shared goal.”