The universal truth is that ever since the beginning of time, there has been an uncomfortable gap in the power dynamics of bosses and employees. Ultimately, this gap has resulted in an invisible barrier that either party is weary to trespass upon.
It’s only quite recently that organisations have been trying to bring a change to this problem. Be it with the presence of open offices, or company-sponsored trips, or a conscious attempt to create the look and feel of an enjoyable office atmosphere.
However, the barrier is still present — these initiatives have, at best, only created a dent. A bigger change is yet to come, and it can only be delivered if a more human workplace is created, where employees thrive.
Why is there a need for more human workplaces?
We’re a part of the world that is disruptive at all times. Between this constant change, people need a place where there is no uncertainty, where it is okay to be a human. On the flip side, if your workplace is just as disorganised as the outside world, then the work your employees deliver is bound to be disorganised too.
If disorganisation doesn’t feel like a priority, then here’s a fact for you: The United States estimates a loss of $450-550 billion every year due to poor employee engagement rates.
It is not only your employees who will benefit from a human workplace, but you will too. Your profits will be higher (by 21%), your employees would be happier, and your employee retention rates would be better. So, take a pen and paper, and let’s get started on the tips that will help you create a more human workplace for your employees.
Help team members to perform at their best
Every human needs novelty — an innate desire to learn, to unlearn, to relearn, and to grow. This releases dopamine (which is essential for happiness), and it can allow for a healthy sense of well-being. We’re not just saying this to sound science-y, this claim has actually been backed up by Dr. Nicole Gravagna, President of NeuroEQ and a neuroscientist.
To achieve their true sense of purpose, employees need to understand what they’re good at, what their core values are, and what it is that motivates them. Not only would this help them unlock their true potential and achieve great success, but it would also foster a genuine symbiotic relationship amongst employees.
The first step on the ever-growing ladder of helping employees unlock their potential is creating a workplace culture that allows open communication. The steps that follow are creating opportunities to show that potential and allowing room for education in their areas of interest.
Ditch micromanagement. Promote autonomy.
I like micromanagement, said no employee ever. Sorry to disappoint many traditionalists, but micromanagement is not a ‘necessary evil’ for your business, it’s an ‘evil’, full stop.
And the reason for it being so is because it sends a message — that your employees cannot do their tasks well, or you don’t have enough faith in them, or that you much rather do the work yourself.
Alternatively, giving employees the autonomy to work on the tasks that they were hired for shows that you trust their competencies. Autonomy allows for skill building, improves trust, and, more importantly, regulates accountability.
The H.A.P.P.I.N.E.S.S puzzle from Yellow Goldfish explores autonomy in the workplace based on multiple factors and may be well worth a read to explore your options. Alongside this, you can also assess the importance of autonomy through surveys in your organisation.
Share information to keep everyone on the same page.
For any workplace to have a synchronised workflow, every team member needs to be on the same page — which can only happen if the information is shared freely amongst coworkers.
By sharing information, we don’t really mean that every department has to share every aspect of their work, but some level of mutual trust has to be established (which can be achieved by sharing the important bits).
Encouraging this behaviour at an organisational level is recommended, as people will talk anyway - it’s up to the leadership team to steer them towards the most productive conversations.
Value diversity (and not only for DEI goals).
Talented people are born and brought up all around the world. They all look different, act differently, talk differently, and think differently. If your goal as an organisation is to attract top talent, then you should show that such talent is respected, revered, and valued.
This all begins by promoting equality and creating plans for inclusion (if you haven’t already). Ask your existing employees what kind of changes they would like to see in the organisation — chances are, because we all come from different backgrounds, we may be blind to some of the biases which can make the work environment uncomfortable for others.
Here’s an important resource that lays down some points for a diversity-inclusive workplace.
Boost employee well-being
Most people are much more productive when the job they do brings them happiness, challenges them, and makes them excited to work. While everyone approaches happiness in the workplace differently, the simple solution would be to create a work environment that combines all of these factors. The easiest way to do that is to promote employee well-being.
When we talk about well being, we see it through three lenses — mental, emotional, and physical. For emotional and mental health, you should create space for conversations outside of work and check in with your colleagues regularly. You should consider how you set goals and expectations, and how you communicate these has on your team. Once you're all aligned, another simple way to help manage stress is to promote deep focus and flow.
For physical wellness, you should encourage encourage your team to get up and move around, to take the time to prepare and eat balanced meals, and to have meaningful breaks throughout the day. Making sure you don't request meetings during lunch hours and keeping an eye on colleagues is in back to back meetings can definitely help.
Another physical challenge brought on by the rushed transition to working from home is that we now have millions of people working on kitchen tables, sitting on the edge of beds, and using home office equipment that isn't fit for purpose. If you provide your employees with ergonomic home office equipment, you significantly reduce their risk of musculoskeletal injury and show them that you are dedicated to their wellbeing and comfort. And with tools like Hofy that let you do this anywhere in the world in minutes, you have no excuse!
Start at the top
If business leaders wish to see real change in the organisation, then they have to take charge themselves. Starting at the top allows waves to flow through the entire company. To begin with, be open to receiving feedback and try to cultivate a healthy workplace culture in your organisation.
There are other things that you can do too. For example, recognising good work and effort, rewarding employees for a job well done, trying to build confidence in team members, creating space for human micro-moments, and building opportunities for growth and development within your organisation (which begins by a genuine interest in your employees’ career progression).
Your workplace is a reflection of you
Your workplace is a reflection of your company culture. And if your goal is to achieve a humanised company culture, you’ll need a human work environment too.
So if you're planning to bring a change in your organisation, the question is not why, it’s rather why not? Your employees will be happy, their productivity will be boosted, you’ll have better social recognition, and you’ll see increased profits too.
It’s a move that will make all your stakeholders happy. More importantly, you’ll set an example and lay the groundwork for the future of work.