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Is your workplace toxic?

David Peck

A recent report published by Expert Market has uncovered the unsavoury truth behind employee unhappiness caused by toxic workplaces.

Toxic workplaces are those where bad attitudes, bad interpersonal relationships, bad work styles and more affect the morale and productivity of workers. Contributor David Peck, Managing Director – Markwell Peck.

While half of the workers surveyed said they are looking for new employment, many more of them claim to dread the thought of going into work – and some had even worse confessions. The study asked more than 2,000 workers for their thoughts on workplace unhappiness and its causes, with some worrying findings. According to the Expert Market study, 52 percent of respondents named their boss as the biggest cause of unhappiness at work.

In more astonishing (and frankly terrifying) news, one in ten employees are so disillusioned and unhappy with their bosses that they claim to have imagined killing them. The news gets worse for certain industries. 22 percent of employees in construction, the worst-affected sector, had imagined killing their boss. The same is true of 15 percent of workers in media & communications roles, and 14 percent of science and tech roles. Despite the bad rap that managers get, it’s not always management that’s behind employee unhappiness at work – there are other factors at play.

Toxic workers?
Unhappiness could also be a symptom of low employee engagement, as is low productivity. Low engagement can be caused by any number of things: unmanageable workload, unpleasant work environment, clashes with colleagues, or issues from outside the workplace that are hard to shake off.

Fortunately, there are ways for employers to improve engagement levels through different initiatives, ranging from the simple and easily-applicable through to revolutionary structural reform.

One simple way to improve engagement amongst employees is to demonstrate that you are willing to listen to them about important workplace issues. Developing an environment in which your employees feel that they can communicate and engage in dialogue about important issues helps to develop trust. Look to “Maslow’s Hierarchy of employee engagement” to make sure you’re getting it right from the ground up.

In worst-scenarios, however, toxicity can also be brought into the workplace through poor recruitment. Hiring the workers who aren’t a good fit for your role or working environment can cause unrest or unhappiness amongst your team members.

How to combat employee unhappiness
So how can you avoid the sort of atmosphere which leads to this degree of employee unhappiness? The first step may be to assess your managerial style; if you’re guilty of over-working, under-recognising, ignoring or micro-managing your employees, it’s time to reconsider how you engage and interact with them.

Another theme that emerged as a contributor to a toxic workplace was workload, under various guises. 57 percent of workers felt under pressure to work outside of working hours (while 81 percent of respondents estimated they were working four-six unpaid hours per week on top of their contracted hours).

Excessive workload is also estimated to cause the loss of up to 12.5 million working days each year, according to the report.

As such, protecting employees from overwork and emphasising the importance of true work-life balance could help to reduce the pressures which may lead to burnout. Ultimately, it’s important to note that the Expert Market survey doesn’t exist in a vacuum. Other studies have looked at causes of employee happiness or unhappiness at work, and bad management is often cited. Adjusting managerial styles and making sure there is consistency across the board can help to improve employee relations. Knowing what you can do to reduce stress for your staff, and knowing when is the right time to do it, is useful, to build up your confidence and be a positive leadership force.

How to improve your business’ curb appeal
While the look and feel of your work environment is important, the office is primarily a place of work, right? After all, who cares if your office is a little messy and unkept? It’s not like it will have a serious impact on your business and potential opportunities – plus, you should ‘never judge a book by its cover!’

In all aspects of business, first impressions matter; whether that’s meeting with a new client or interviewing a new employee. On average, it takes three seconds for someone to form their first impression about a person or business, which means you only get one extremely short chance to make a good first impression. But how exactly can you make it count?

When you’re meeting with potential clients, a good first impression will often ensure your client sticks around for a long duration. However imagine if the one thing that ruined your chances was the prospective business owner being put off by your office’s cracked walls and stained carpets.

As experts in commercial decorating and sprayed materials application, Markwell Peck know how much of a difference even a small lick of paint can have for your business. Here are a few ways you can improve your office environment to leave a good first impression on your guests:

Recent studies have shown that a well-lit office can have a huge impact on the levels of productivity and absenteeism in your office, but did you know it can be used to draw attention to different areas in your space?

Taking advantage of as much of the natural light in the office space offers a huge colour spectrum, making it easier for staff to focus on tasks. It has been found that bright, artificial lights make it difficult for people to concentrate and can create an uncomfortable atmosphere for people waiting in the reception area. Therefore, when creating a work area for creative ideas such as a meeting room, it’s best to use as little artificial light as possible.

You can however use focal-point lighting in your reception area, which aims to push your client’s attention to your office’s best design features. Try using soft, bright lights such as LED lighting that mimics close to natural light, to create a sense of calm and appeal as well as putting attention on your reception.

Functional workspace
You may think Feng Shui is a load of rubbish, but it’s actually important your office has a good flow and flexibility to it. As a potential client, there’s nothing worse than having to walk throughout a workspace that isn’t accessible and efficient.

Start with all the basics – consider the types of areas you want to create for your partners and clients to wait in and how this space will represent your business values. You may want the space to adapt to change so you can create a platform that allows multi-functional purposes, while an open reception area is inviting and comfortable for your visitors.

Office fitout and furniture
An office fitout is one of the best investments your business could make, boosting performance, engagement and creativity. While you should be prepared to spend a decent amount of money on high-quality furniture, it doesn’t have to cost you an arm and a leg – just create a well-thought out strategy with your employees.

Rounded furniture has been linked to improving the positive emotions of your employees, offering a core element of creative inspiration. After all, rounding the environment can trigger activity in the section of your brain connected to “aesthetic appreciation”. By incorporating this style into your office space, you can offer your guests and employees a more comfortable and appealing visit.

The colours of your walls and flooring have been known to have an impact on your environment for years. Therefore, you must choose the colours of your office carefully as these will have a direct effect on the way your visitors and employees feel.

For a calm and secure environment, go with soft blues and greens as these are often linked to soothing properties as well as denoting a sense of honesty, loyalty and security – this makes them great for a reception space. In terms of colours you should avoid, stay away from yellows and reds, which can be linked to feelings of anxiety.

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