Within the last decade, a disproportionate number of government employees have been resigning early from their federal and state jobs. But the tide has changed. Reasons cited in recently released studies of government employees indicate improved employee satisfaction resulting from an increased focus on good office ergonomics, open office designs, collaborative workspaces, and participation in workplace wellness programs.
In government workplaces, practicing good ergonomics simply makes good sense.
A proactive ergonomics program helps employees stay healthy and eliminates the need for them to find “shortcuts” that might promote a more harmful or long-term condition that negatively impacts productivity. Taking prompt and direct action also helps reduce workers’ compensation and health insurance costs.
A good ergonomics program in the workplace tackles, head on, the single most common and costly injury category in the U.S. — musculoskeletal disorders. MSDs are the leading cause of pain, suffering, and disability in the workplace and account for one-third of all workers’ compensation costs. The direct costs of MSDs have been calculated at $20 billion each year, and indirect costs are estimated to be five times as much.
Top companies have taken note of the importance of quality ergonomic office furniture in this battle. This past summer, Apple CEO Tim Cook announced that all employees received a standing desk as part of the tech company’s move to its new corporate headquarters.
Cook cited doctors who told him “sitting is the new cancer.” The opportunity to sit or stand as needed during the workday is reflective of a healthy lifestyle. Cook, like all good CEO’s, realized that health and wellness among employees is a “bottom line” issue.
To address this concern, Formaspace CEO Jeff Turk offers seven steps organizations can take to improve health and wellness in the workplace. These actions help keep down workplace healthcare costs and increase employee productivity.
Practicing good ergonomics through the installation of highly beneficial ergonomic office furniture goes hand in hand with innovations implemented in government workplaces in recent years.
A study of 231 U.S. government employees conducted earlier this year by researchers at the University of Arizona and published in Occupational & Environmental Medicine yielded some startling results. Government office workers in open office designs averaged about 1,000 more steps per day, collaborated more freely with co-workers, and exhibited stress levels 14% lower than their colleagues confined to their own offices.
The survey was conducted at four separate federal government workplaces that featured open plan offices, cubicles with high-wall partitions, and private offices. Government employees that work in open office settings, the study determined, were 20% more active than workers in cubicles and 32% more active than those in the private offices. These results were obtained from chest monitors, which measured all movement, including when workers were standing and sitting.
The findings indicate that government workers in open office designs are more active, less stressed, and overall happier. The “bottom line” is higher employee satisfaction.
Perhaps even more importantly, we can now “officially” report that happiness impacts productivity!
A study by economists at the University of Warwick in 2014 found that happiness in the workplace led to a 12% spike in productivity. Unhappy workers were 10% less productive.
This information can also help forward-looking companies attract and retain quality employees.
Employee Satisfaction and Wellness Are Vital to Every Organization
The importance of good office ergonomics and healthful daily activities cannot be understated. Employees can reduce health risks by following the wellness guidelines offered in the Formaspace Office article “Another article, “How Employers Can Encourage Healthy Eating at Work”, provides suggestions for encouraging healthy eating in the workplace.
Formaspace offers additional guidance in the area of enhancing employee well-being and improving performance in the helpful article titled “Five Benefits of Ergonomics in the Workplace”.
The findings from the University of Arizona study indicate there are benefits for individual employees as well as organizations.
Open office designs and collaborative work spaces enhance employee satisfaction. They also help attract talent to your organization, as Formaspace noted in an article featuring five successful recruiting strategies for securing and retaining top employees.
These seven points summarize the ways to specifically attract Millennial and Generations Z talent to your organization.
- Speak to the independent/entrepreneurial nature of Millennials and Gen Z’ers.
Their capitalist spirit can be leveraged to mold great employees.
- Provide opportunities for learning and growth.
Millennials and Gen Zers are willing to invest their time and effort in higher education and training courses to attain their career goals.
- Communicate face-to-face.
Despite their apparent dependence on technology, most Millennials and Gen Zers would rather chat about important concerns in-person than over email or instant messaging in the workplace.
- Reevaluate your workplace design.
You may have to rethink the layout of the workplace to accommodate the collaborative needs of Millennials and Gen Zers. An open office design is a good option.
- Cater to their desires/needs.
The desires and needs of Millennials and Gen Zers might be different and unique. Take the time to listen to them. You will likely receive their respect and dedication in return.
- Build a tech-centered workplace.
These “digital natives” expect to work with the latest and greatest technologies. About 90% say they consider technology a factor in their decisions to work or not work for an organization.
- Motivate them with money.
Making a difference is priority one, but Millennials and Gen Zers are motivated by money and want to succeed as they attain it.
Insights about recruiting and retaining talent are addressed in this video from researcher and author Dan Schawbel. Among his findings, from his survey of more than 4,000 Millennials and Gen Zers, are that employee satisfaction is enhanced through in-person mentoring and on-site employee interactions.
Employee satisfaction researcher and author Dan Schawbel discusses his findings from a recent survey of more than 4,000 Millennials and Gen Zers in this informative 5-minute video.
Employees and Organizations Benefit from Health and Wellness Programs
The top reasons cited for considering employment with an organization relate to employee health and wellness programs. A recent survey found this is especially true for Millennials and the Gen Zers.
For these same reasons, organizations benefit by addressing a key factor that might be at the root of workplace-related illnesses that cost the U.S. economy $225 billion each year. Inactivity and sedentary patterns often relate to fatigue, poor mood, poor diet, as well as cardiovascular diseases and other health issues that are associated with early work exits.
Organizations that feature open office designs recognize the value of enhanced collaboration opportunities. They soon realize the benefits of greater employee satisfaction achieved through increased interactions with colleagues. Plus, the organization often benefits from more collective successes in the workplace. The collaborative approach enables smart people to engage productively and share their potential.
“It doesn’t make sense to hire smart people and then tell them what to do. We hire smart people so they can tell us what to do.”
Steve Jobs, Steve Jobs: His Own Words and Wisdom
The 2017 Employee Benefits Survey of more than 3,200 HR professionals by the Society for Human Resource Management (SHRM) tracked the trends over the past five years as it related to more than 300 employee benefits. While the “overall benefits” package was cited most often, wellness and health-related benefits were viewed as more important than the other eight top benefits cited by employees in the survey.
Government Employees Acknowledge Benefits of Open Office Designs, Good Office Ergonomics, and Proactive Wellness Programs
To enhance its understanding of the needs of government employees, Formaspace recently spoke with several who have held roles at both the federal and local levels. The responses we received from them seem to confirm the findings of the recent studies.
Noveaka Holmes has worked in an open office setting at both the federal and local government levels in her current role with the IRS and previously at Austin Energy (Texas).
“In the area where I sat at Austin Energy, it was pretty much all open space. We would have our desks with modesty panels that would separate us,” Noveaka said, noting that the combination of an open office design, plus wellness-related amenities helped her feel both more comfortable and invigorated in her workplace. (Another option for separating areas in an open office design is the through the use of gallery panels and privacy panels that can feature a custom laser cut pattern of an attractive scene, design, or an organization’s logo.)
“Desk ergonomics, the lighting, the open space, all of that. To be able to move freely was beneficial. If I needed to get something done, I could just walk over to whoever I needed to speak with about it. All of this motivated me to get my work done,” she added.
In her role, Marjorie Dussault faced a different challenge than her billing department employees when she first joined the staff at the City of West Sacramento (California) 19 years ago.
“I am only five feet tall, so I have a lot of challenges with work spaces. When I first started, they had to give me a phone book to put my feet on,” she said, noting that they soon bought her a foot rest.
When a new city hall was built, the city transitioned to cubicles and also provided ergonomic furniture. For government employees that requested it, this included a new ergonomic chair, computer mouse, and keyboard. Especially helpful for Marjorie was the installation of an adjustable-height tabletop, such as those from Formaspace, since part of her duties included coverage at the front counter.
“The counter table we use goes up and down, so I can adjust my chair to reach the counter. I can write comfortably, and I can have my feet rest comfortably on the ground. That’s very nice. And I have tall co-workers, so they’re able to have it raised up so that it’s more comfortable for them too. They’re not having the desktop hit their knees,” Marjorie explained.
“The city I work for does a lot of stuff to help their employees work in a comfortable space. I feel very fortunate that they are very proactive. The city does not want anybody working in an uncomfortable position,” Marjorie added.
From her current experiences with a Texas-based government agency, Pelin Atesoglu notes that utilizing ergonomically-friendly office furniture makes a huge difference from a wellness-at-work and employee satisfaction perspective.
“In previous roles, I’ve had a private office, and I’ve worked in an open office environment within cubicles. But I never had such an ergonomic work environment before. Having the ability to adjust every single joint at my desk, as I can in my current federal role, is a game changer,” Pelin affirmed.
“I experienced back pain when I first started. Even though our daily work is fast-paced, all my pains disappeared with my current office setup,” she explained.
The design and layout of her government office space promote a healthy and positive work environment.
“As an early Millennial, I think a good open space design is equally important as the pay range and the people you work with. Having access to multiple cafeterias, working around extremely friendly people, and enjoying a great work/life balance makes my life at this government agency more than satisfactory. I also gain better health benefits compared to my private sector benefits. All in all, I am so happy working for the government,” Pelin shared.
Ingrid McDonald retired earlier this year but held government roles for about 28 years. In her first role, she was challenged with shoulder pain and had to wear an elbow brace for a time. The state agency, the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality, built a keyboard tray, and the ergonomics coordinator set up and advised her on the proper arrangement of office furniture and equipment at her workstation.
“They were pretty much in tune with how you sit and how you work on your keyboards” Ingrid explained. “They had someone come out and set up my work space.”
Both at the TCEQ and in another role Ingrid held with a local school district, the agencies provided guidance in health and wellness.
“Most of the agencies I worked with had a wellness coordinator. They would hold contests for who could lose the most weight, who could eat healthy. They would have journals where you’d write down what you’re eating, and you could receive information online too, like ‘Here’s recipes to eat better’ and ‘Here’s what you can do to get better sleep.’ Things like that,” Ingrid recalled.
Employee satisfaction is a just one positive result from the increasingly popular transition in government offices to open office designs. The benefits for government office space that enable more collaboration among employees include more active, less stressed, and happier employees. Government employees are also realizing the benefits of good office ergonomics and healthier workday habits.
Formaspace Provides Solutions For All Government Agency Furniture Needs
We’ve offered a few options for enhancing your government workplace setting within this article, provided here are a few more suggestions we believe you’ll find helpful.
- Conference and lounge tables – Formaspace offers table sizes and designs that will meet your individual needs. We’re happy to answer any questions you might have and assist with your selection.
- Multi-purpose, height-adjustable table – This 5-in-1 Ping Pong Conference Table features locking casters for mobility. The design is perfect when you need to move your gaming table to the conference room and stage it for a more formal event.
- Communication board – In an open office design or any workplace setting, this durable and versatile dry-erase board features a 16-gauge steel frame and casters. It can assist in communicating important information and ideas to all meeting participants.
- Customize the design of your Formaspace Office furniture and many accessories with The Virtual Furniture Designer, 3D Configure Tool. It’s free and easy to use online with no software installation required. Create photorealistic renderings of your favorite office desks, conference tables, storage elements, lounge tables, and communication boards. Try it today!
Learn more about these and other quality office furniture and accessories from a friendly Formaspace Design Consultant. We’re just a phone call away and can help make your office design project a success.