Impact of Workplace Environment on Employee Performance

Impact of Workplace Environment on Employee Performance

Employees are very important assets in an organization. A good organization is one which takes care of its employees. This is often done by paying attention to their workplace environment. This is because the employees spend substantial part of the time of their lives at the workplace while carrying out their work. Hence, workplace environment influences their cognitive and emotional states, concentration, behaviour, actions, and abilities. It plays an important role in the employees’ engagement as well as in their performance. In fact, workplace environment has a big contribution for the organization in maintaining a high level of employees’ productivity and hence the organizational productivity.

Workplace environment can be anything which exists around the employees where they work and which affect how they carry out their work. It consists of both external and internal conditions which can influence the working spirit and hence, reflect in their performance at work. There exists a strong interaction between employees’ performance and physical workplace environment. The physical environment at work is critical to employees’ performance, satisfaction, social relations and health. The environmental conditions at the workplace are important factors which has an influence on the employees’ morale and job satisfaction and hence their performance.

Workplace environment and productivity are often perceived as two opposites by the managements in some of the organizations. This is because, the managements of such organizations consider workplace environment as an extra, resource-consuming, nonproductive activity, which they dislike because of the lack of production stemming from it. They believe that the productivity enhancement of the employees can be achieved by enhancing the employees’ skills. Such managements are ignorant of the fact that majority of the productivity problems reside in the workplace environment in which the employees operate. These managements are not aware that the lower productivity and unable to fulfill the urge to increase productivity is because of the malfunctioning of workplace environment. The type of work environment in which employees operate determines the way how they perform. Effective workplace environment raises the bar of what is expected from the employees without necessarily giving them extra means or resources to handle this.

Employees’ productivity is the heart and soul of any organization. The success of the organization is very much dependent on how its employees perform at the workplace. Employees who put forth extra effort often make a big difference in organizational performance. Increasing the employees’ productivity is one of the most critical goals of an organization. Workplace environment influences the employees’ behaviour at work.  In fact, employees’ surroundings and the workplace environment impact most the working efficiency of the employees.

The workplace environment is the employees immediate surrounding where he performs his work. Employees’ workplace environment is a key determinant of the quality of their work and their level of productivity. Improper surroundings introduce hazards which make the workplace environment unsafe and impede the productivity rate of the employee. Hence, the workplace needs an environment in which the employee can carry out his work without any hindrance. An effective workplace is required to have an environment where the expected results can be achieved comfortably. Physical environment affect how employees in an organization interact, perform tasks, and are led. Physical environment as an aspect of the work environment has a direct effect on the human sense and it delicately changes interpersonal interactions and thus productivity. This is so because the characteristics of the workplace have consequences regarding productivity and satisfaction level. The workplace environment is the most critical factor for the employees to perform.

The physical aspects of a workplace environment have a direct impact on the employees’ productivity, performance, health and safety, comfort, concentration, job satisfaction, and morale. A proper, helpful, conducive workplace environment brings improvements to the employees’ physical and mental capabilities in performing their daily routine. An improper and unfavourable workplace environment leads to work stress. It also causes errors being committed by the employees. Also, unfavourable workplace environment, results into under-utilization of the capabilities available with the employees. It also induces work related stress in the employees. Important factors in the workplace environment include building design and age, workplace layout, cleanliness, workstation set-up, equipment design and quality, space, temperature, ventilation, lighting, noise, vibration, radiation, and air quality etc. (Fig 1).

Fig 1 Factors of workplace environment influencing employees’ performance

Employees are driven into job engagement using acceptable physical working environment. A physical conducive workplace environment which is comfortable, flexible and aesthetic to the employee encourages their mobility, concentration, sensory and physical connection to work roles and foster employees’ engagement. It enhances the physical and mental well-being of the employees. It not only provides support for the development and maintenance of their working capacity but also enhances it. This happens since the work environment affects one’s cognitive, emotional and physical well-being. A properly designed user-friendly physical workplace environment is central to employee engagement and consequently organizational success.

Noise is one of the leading causes of employees’ distraction, leading to reduced productivity, serious inaccuracies, and increased job-related stress. High noise level at workplace reduces employees’ productivity, and increase errors. Also, the employees’ productivity improves with the availability of natural light and good ventilation at the workplace.

Effective workplace communication is another key factor to improve workplace environment.  An organization which communicates throughout the workplace in an effective manner is more likely to avoid problems with completing the daily procedures, and is less likely to have a problem with improper occurrences. Such an organization generates a stronger morale and a more positive attitude of employees towards work. When employees communicate effectively with each other, productivity of the employees increases since the effective communication means less complains and more work getting done. It removes confusion and frees up wasted time which would have been otherwise spent on explanation or argument. It makes workplace more enjoyable, less anxiety among co-workers which in turn means positive attitude towards work and increased productivity. Besides, another aspect of communication which affects productivity is noise level. Noise has negative influence on communication, frustration levels increase while productivity decreases in relation to persistence and loudness of noise. A reason given for this is that spoken communication becomes progressively more difficult as noise levels increase.

Workplace environment has an effect on the ‘ergonomics’ which can be defined as the science of designing to fit the employee, rather than physically forcing the employee’s body to fit the job. It also can be considered as physical and mental capabilities which it limits in the employee as he interacts with tools, equipment, work methods, tasks and the workplace environment. If the ergonomics issues are not addressed then the employees act on a subconscious level, adapting their behaviour to lighten the pain thus affect their performance and reduce productivity. The work stress in the employees increases. Work stress is defined as the harmful physical and emotional responses which occur when job requirement do not match the employees’ capabilities, resources, and needs. The increase in the work stress is caused by the work design and workplace environment.

The issues related to the ergonomics at the workplace deals with the human body’s responses to physical and physiological stress. Employees experience stress if they perceive negatively towards their workplace environment. The stress slows down the responses of the employees and hence affects their work efficiency. Stress generated at the workplace can affect the employees’ productivity, morale and motivation which in turn reflect in the performance and the productivity of the employees.

The factors connected with ergonomics contributing to the reduction in work stress include, (i) availability of things at a place which is easy to access, (ii) working in an environment which is comfortable, (iii) availability of an environment which promotes reduction in use of an excessive force, (iv) the available work environment facilitates working at proper heights and in good postures, (v) availability of working environment which minimizes fatigue, (vi) availability of working place which is clean, clear and which facilitates easy movement, (vii) availability of working environment which is comfortable and which enhances clarity and understanding, and (viii) availability of systematic working methods at the workplace resulting into improved work organization.

‘Seven S’ (7S) methodology is adopted in some of the organizations for the improvement of the workplace environment (Fig 2). This is carried out by eliminating or reducing the waste, inconsistency, and physical strain. The implementation of 7S methodology consists of seven phases namely (i) sort, (ii) set in order, (iii) shine, (iv ) standardize, (v) sustain or self-discipline, (vi) safety, and (vii) spirit or team spirit. Each phase of 7S methodology continuously improves the performance of the organization by eliminating wastages of searching, waiting, transportation, motion, and work in progress inventory etc. The 7S methodology makes the working environment clean and safe which improves the morale of the employees and hence has a positive effect on their performance. The improvement is in the quantitative form as well as in the qualitative form. The quantifiable variables are searching, movement, and waiting time, cycle time, lead time, production rate, productivity, and quality etc. while the qualitative variables are working environment, communication, and morale etc.

Fig 2 7S methodology for improvement of the work place environment

In the 7S methodology ‘sort’ means distinguishing or sorting out between wanted and unwanted materials at the workplace and removal of unwanted materials. The ‘set in order’ means arranging and labeling items in such a manner that they are easy to find and use. The meaning of ‘shine’ is removal of dirt, strain, filth, soot and dust at the workplace. This includes cleaning and care for equipment and facilities as well as also inspecting them for abnormalities. In a way, it also includes primary maintenance of equipment. The term of ‘standardize’ under 7S methodology means the systematizing of the practices. This means ensuring that whatever cleanliness and orderliness is achieved is required to be maintained. Hence, the working methods are to support the practices and turn them into habits. The purpose of standardization is to make sure that all the employees of the organization follows the same procedure, the same names of items, the same size of signalization/floor marking, shapes, colours, etc. Standardize also helps to do the right thing the right way every time. The term ‘sustain or self-discipline of 7S methodology denotes commitment from the employees to maintain orderliness and to practice the procedures with discipline and sincerity. The term ‘safety’ under 7S methodology means the condition of being protected against physical, social, spiritual, financial, political, emotional, occupational, psychological, educational, or other types or consequences of failure, damage, error, accident, harm, or any other event which can be considered non-desirable. The seventh term under 7S methodology is ‘spirit or team spirit’ which means the willingness of the employees to cooperate and work as part of a team. Team working constitutes a set of activities of the group of individuals, which includes effective communication/interaction amongst the team members for knowledge sharing, understanding each other on personal level, helping others in achieving a level of perfection, building a sense of unity in the team and working towards common objectives.

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