How to improve your Office Environment?

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Office environment has an important bearing on the efficiency of employees. Environment refers to surrounding conditions particularly those influencing development and growth.

An office may be properly laid out and the best type of furniture and equipment may be installed in it but its efficiency may be low if the physical working conditions are not good. Physical working conditions are the life of an office.

Environment can be described as a combination of circumstances or conditions that effect and influence the efficiency of the employees. Office work consists of mental work which is distinct from physical work.

Mental work is more boring and fatiguing than physical work. Normally, a clerk spends about 8 hours in the office during any working day. The emotional response of workers is better if the environment is good.

In the words of G.R. Terry, "An individual's performance is significantly conditioned by the environment in which he works. The cumulative effect of his total work environment is a strong determinative of how well he marshals his abilities and skills, his attitude towards his work and his colleagues, and his enthusiasm for his work."

In the words of Z.K. Quible, "Failure to give proper consideration to the environment of the office is reflected in several ways. A poor office environment often results in decreased levels of 64 production and employee morale. Absenteeism and tardiness are also apt to increase, as are the number of errors, made by the employees. In the extreme cases, the employees "physical well being may actually be hampered."

The working conditions and efficiency have direct correlation between them. Therefore, one of the easiest ways to improve office performance is to improve working conditions. It is the duty of the office manager to provide an environment which is pleasant, comfortable and conducive to good working habits. This is because employees spend more time at work in the office.

It is accepted fact that the work of the clerks requires more mental effort than physical. By written tests, personal interviews etc. good workers can be selected. To have better results, such selected persons should be given training in the office.

Thus workers can be fully trained to do the assigned jobs to achieve better result than expected. The office people have to concentrate their minds while doing the jobs. Disturbances, if any, will lower their efficiency.

Here it is made clear that the working environment of an office include all these factors of the surrounding area which are detectable and which affect the behavior of the employees. The following points should be taken into consideration while making effective or sound scheme of office environment:

1. Office Lighting

2. Ventilation

3. Interior Decoration and Furnishing

4. Office Furniture

5. Freedom from Noise and Dust

6. Safety

7. Sanitary Arrangements

8. Security

9. Secrecy

Office Lighting

Lighting is perhaps the most important consideration in an office. A proper designed system of lighting results in greater accuracy, improved quality of work and reduced costs. Almost all the work in the office involves paper work.

Thus, it leads to great eye strain. There must be proper and adequate lighting in the office to avoid eye strain. Poor light or powerful light will cause troubles. If the light is not proper, mistakes may be committed or accidents may occur. The work of a clerk requires concentration.

Improper arrangements of office light will lower the efficiency of the staff through delay, errors and mistakes. If the position of the building is so situated that natural light is not easily available, artificial lights must be arranged. Of course, it will cost more.

The natural light has its own merits. It is good for health. It is economical. Therefore, while, selecting or constructing the office building, see that as far as possible the shadow of the other buildings does not fall on the office. This may not be possible in all cases, particularly when the selection of locality is made in an overcrowded area.

The office manager should take more care and responsibility to see that maximum natural light is made available in the office. The clerks should be provided with seats near the windows.

Points to be borne in mind

1. Right power of light should be provided according to the nature of work. There should not be any sharp glare or dazzle either directly or indirectly.

2. There should not be any sharp shadows over the table where the clerks have to work.

3. There should not also be any glare directly or indirectly on the table.

If the building does not admit sufficient, natural light, an alternate arrangement of artificial lighting should be made, so as to have sufficient light, or supplement the available light. In a gloomy day it is difficult to get enough light in the rooms, and in such cases artificial light is the only source.

When making arrangements for artificial light the office manager should see that the light provided must be proper for the particular nature of work.

Types of Artificial Lights

1. Fluorescent light:

It is widely used and is popular. We get diffused or scattered light. Electricity consumption is also low. In offices, it is good system of lighting. It does not matter that the initial expenses are high.

2. Direct light:

The lamp is fitted against the ceiling with shades. It gives a direct downward fall of light. The ceiling portion will be in the dark. This type of lighting system is giving place to fluorescent light.

3. Indirect light:

This system is the reverse of the above. The fittings are made facing the ceiling. The fittings throw light upward and the ceiling reflects it on the tables. This system gives unshaved light without glare. But for clerical work, it is not advisable.

4. Individual desk light:

When a particular work requires more light, then an individual desk light can be provided in addition to the common light. It is expensive. Since the light is placed on working table, it may cause fatigue and eye strain. It is not common at the present age. Benefits of good light in an office are:

1. Output can be increased.

2. Quality of work can be increased.

3. Eye strain can be reduced.

4. Improve the morale of the staff.

5. It creates good impression on visitors.

Ventilation

The office should be quite airy. Fresh and natural air can be had only when there is proper ventilation. Fresh air will reduce fatigue and remove the irritable feelings of the clerks. Low height of the office, small or few windows, opening to a narrow courtyard etc.,
obstruct the flow of air through the office. If the office has no free flow of air, particularly in summer, workers get tired or fatigued and in rainy season they feel drowsy.

These will lead to low efficiency of the clerks. Artificial circulation of too cool or hot air will also cause irritation to the workers. Adequate, clean and fresh air at the required temperature can help the clerks to do their work smoothly. There are many devices to provide a comfortable atmosphere.

If the doors and windows have double shutters, to a certain extent, they will not allow the hot air to come in during summer and cool air to come in during winter.

Air conditioners can also be used to overcome these problems; but it is expensive to install and maintain them. If natural and fresh air is not freely moving, fans, exhaust fans, filters, etc. may be used to draw natural air duly filtered. This is less expensive.

Interior decoration and furnishing

Interior decoration means pleasant coloring of doors, windows and walls. The main purpose of interior decoration is to make the office look pleasant. Interior decoration stimulates better performance on the part of the staff and creates a better impression on the minds of visitors.

In the words of G. Mills. "The decoration of an office can have a noticeable effect upon the morale of the staff. Drab surroundings are depressing, pleasant surroundings are conducive to good work."

The colour used on the walls must be of pleasing nature. Walls of the office should be in light colour. Dark colours will not be pleasing to the eyes. This also includes design of furnishings, floor coverings etc. It is seen that pleasant colouring and good furnishings will create cheerfulness in the minds of the workers. Furnishings (curtains etc.) should also be of pleasing colour.

The floors, stairways, corridors etc. should be of attractive colour. For example, green and blue, induce the feeling of coolness, orange and yellow induce the feeling of warmth. A pleasing decoration will increase the prestige of the firm as well as of the employees.

Floor coverings are used to reduce noise and to add to the beauty of the place. Floor coverings are carpets, thin rubber, and linoleum or foam mattresses.

Furnishing includes curtain, chair, table and sofa covers and floor mattresses etc. These must be pleasant looking. Chair and sofa covers may be pleasant to see. They have a protective as well as decorative value. For example, curtains not only decorate a door or window, but also prevent glare and sunshine coming into the room directly on the table of the office worker.

Some paintings and other art pieces can be attractively displayed in the office. It will add to the decor and prestige of the organization. The office premises will look attractive and will break the monotony of the office staff. It will also have a positive effect on the visitors.

Clerical work involves great concentration of mind. Therefore, the mental concentration of workers should not be disturbed by noise. It brings about errors, mistakes, delays, mental fatigue etc., and in turn, leads to inefficiency and lowering of the output.

Unexpected sounds or loud noise will take their mood off from the work. Naturally, when people are working in an office there is some sound; but it is tolerable, because people are accustomed to it. There is internal noise as well as external noise.

Internal noise is created by the following:

1. Movements of machines.

2. Movements and conversation of clerks, peons, visitors etc.

3. Cracking doors.

4. Calling bells, telephone bells.

5. Shifting of furniture from one place to another.

Measures to prevent internal noise:

1. Carpets or rubber mats or coir mats spread on the floor will reduce the sounds caused by the movements of the clerks and other people.

2. Below the office machines which create noise in operation, felt pads can be placed which reduce the noise.

3. Calling bells can be replaced with buzzers.

4. Banging or Cracking doors should be fitted with rubber or felt stops to reduce sound. Proper oiling of the hinges of the door will also reduce noise. Automatic door springs, rubber pads, etc., can be fitted.

5. Telephones may be kept in sound-proof booths to reduce the sounds.

6. Clerks must be instructed to maintain calmness.

7. When the office is free from noise, calmness prevails; clerks will automatically be discouraged to make sounds by talk or gossip.

8. Workers must be engaged fully during the office hours, so that they don't waste their time over idle gossip.

External noise is caused by the street sounds, workshops, noisy industrial process, etc. These sounds seldom enter the office through the open windows and doors.

Measures to prevent external noise:

1. As far as possible the location of the office should be away from the noise-creating places.

2. Doors and windows may be kept closed.

3. Walls of the office should be made of sound-proof materials.

Dust: In certain area, the amount of dust in the surroundings is much greater than in other areas. For example in areas where cotton mills or jute mills or cement mills are working, the atmosphere is constantly dust laden.

When dust enters the office, it spoils the decoration of the office, affect the health of staff, reduce the life of machines, equipments etc. It is difficult to check entry of dust into the office. Dust should be cleaned quite regularly.

Safety

Safety precautions are a must. Accidents are undesirable. Whenever any accident occurs, it leads to wastage of time the person involved in the accident and the fellow workers.

Accident may take place because of many reasons-slips on floor; fall on staircase, leakage of electric wire etc. Precautions

1. A first-aid box must be provided and must be under the custody of a trained person. Two or three members may be trained in case of need. It must be placed at a visible and convenient place.

2. Fire precautionary methods fire extinguishers must be provided and the staff be trained to use them.

3. Fluorescent lamps and fans must be checked periodically. All the electrical fittings must be checked and tested to confirm the absence of leakage.

4. Floor carpets, coir-mats etc. if torn, must be removed or mended, so that people who walk over will not trip.

5. Files should not be placed on the top of the admiral, because, when taking one file, others may fall down.

6. There should be regular inspection of machines, equipments etc.

7. Smoking should not be allowed within the office premises.

Sanitary arrangement

As far as practicable, the office and its surroundings must be kept clean and free from all bad odor and infection. Insanitary conditions affect the health of staff adversely. A large number of person's daily visit the office, there is, therefore, bound to be some dirt and dust.

Cleanness of the office contributes to a good atmosphere, and it creates a pleasant and healthy attitude to the clerks work in. The office may be well furnished and decorated, and to get its full effect, it must also be kept neat and clean.

If a well-furnished office is not cleaned properly, it looks shabby; visitors will have a bad impression about the office. People, who work in shabby places, will produce careless work. The unclean office affects the prestige of the clerks too. They will feel proud to work in a clean office.

Security

One of the vital functions of a modern office is to keep and preserve documents and records for future guidance. Important and valuable documents are kept in office safes or bank lockers. Office files, correspondence etc. are kept in safe places so that outsiders may not have access to them.

The employer may, before recruiting an employee, ask for two reputable personal references from him. These references may be contacted and information sought from them regarding the past general conduct behavior etc. of the employee. Generally speaking, the employees who handle cash are required to deposit a certain amount of money with the organization as a security measure.

People entering the building should be properly identified and entry passes should be issued to them. For any INTRUDER the cash department or cash section is the most tempting target. It is thus necessary to locate it in a very safe part of the building and restrict entry to this part. It is essential to install alarms and warning systems so that emergencies are met with effectively and in time.

Secrecy

There are some records about the business which must be kept secret from the junior staff and outsiders. They may be known as business secrets. Disclosures of such secrets may entail heavy loss to the firm. It may lower down the reputation of the business. The management must determine what type of information must be kept secret and must make arrangements for keeping them secret.

The following information should be kept secret:

1. Tenders:

Tenders which the organisation submits or invites should not be disclosed to anyone till the date of opening offenders. If disclosed, the organisation may lose valuable contracts.

2. Cost Information:

If the clerical staff possesses knowledge of cost data, there are possibilities of its leakage to competitors. Therefore, disclosure of cost information to staff should be avoided.

3. Labour Policy:

The personal policy of the management should be kept secret and should be disclosed at appropriate time. If leaked out, it may lead to strikes, lockouts, and other unpleasant activities.

4. Dividend Declaration:

If the rate of dividend to be declared by the company is disclosed, before its annual general meeting, such disclosures may have impact on the market value of its shares.

5. Financial Position:

The financial position of a company is to be depicted in its balance sheet at the end of every year. If unfavorable conditions, if any, are between the years, it will reduce the credit-worthiness of the business, share prices may go down, sales may be affected adversely, etc.


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