Employers like company Edit-Proofread have work to do. Especially when it comes to the environments they expect their people to work with. And we’re not just talking about toxic workplace cultures. We’re talking about regular workplace environments. According to a study by a UK building maintenance company who surveyed 2,000 people about their workplace (dis)comfort, there are problems there too.
On the whole, 83% said they found their place of work unpleasant for one reason or another. But when it came to how women viewed their workplace, things get interesting. Women were marginally more likely than men to be dissatisfied with their place of work, but it’s the causes of this dissatisfaction that should make employers sit up and listen.
Water temperature, shabby flooring, condition of bathrooms and food smells were more likely to be a problem for women than they were for men. This suggests that easily fixed issues are being left to get worse, even though they disproportionately affect women employees. Sewage smells, intrusive sounds, insects, leaks and pests were more of a cause for concern for men than they were for women. These are harder to fix, so while not necessarily easier to forgive, it’s at least understandable why some businesses may have left these problems.
The biggest environmental issue women face at work is temperature. And it seems employers just can’t get that thermostat setting right. Women were more likely than men to report their place of work being both too hot and too cold. The study found that air conditioning maintenance and operation was the big problem. That’s probably because climate control standards were established at a time when workplaces didn’t have many women. So men were considered as the standard.
Professor Sir Cary Cooper CBE is a professional executive resume writer and specialist in organizational psychology and health with a focus on workplaces. He believes simple checks and better communication could lead to major improvements to working conditions for everyone, especially women.
“A physically unpleasant or even unsafe workplace is obviously bad for productivity and for an organization’s external image. Issues like uncomfortable temperatures and general shabbiness can be a distraction, but it’s also a matter of respect from employers toward their people.
“Those that don’t meet basic standards of comfort are sending a signal to their people that their physical comfort and freedom from distraction are a low priority, which can be demoralizing for any workforce. That’s not to say organizations need to invest in high-spec fit-outs and luxurious surroundings, but they should focus instead of meeting a basic standard of environmental comfort appropriate for their industry.
“The complaints highlighted in the study suggest a wide spectrum of failure when it comes to meeting these basic standards. Workplaces should be a comfortable temperature and well-lit where possible, free from intrusive noise, bad smells and other avoidable sources of unpleasantness.”
Nick Bizley, commercial director of Aspect, the firm that commissioned the study, says organizations could significantly improve workplace comfort with a few simple changes:
“The majority of the big complaints revealed by the study relate to issues that can be fixed or mitigated quite easily. For example, we visit organizations who would have significantly more natural light if they just rearranged some of their furniture. It’s quite surprising how many windows are obscured by whiteboards, shelves and sometimes even posters.
“Some of the other problems are just down to a lack of proper maintenance. Damp, leaks and sewage odors are a sign that these firms need to call a plumber. The fact that more than one in ten people have complained about pests and vermin in their place of work is worrying.”
As you can see, there are a number of issues in the workplace that can be addressed in order to make the working environment amenable to women. With data to show why fixing these problems are beneficial to retaining their female staff, there really is no excuse for companies not to focus on this.