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How Working Environments Affect Women

Wed, Apr. 12, 2017 Posted: 01:23 AM


Many different studies have shown employers that environmental factors in the workplace have a noticeable effect on workers. Since many companies are focusing on retaining more female employees and improving their overall diversity, understanding how work environments have a particular effect on women can be key to making positive changes. Here are some of the problems that employees face in the workplace environment, and what a company can do about them.

Air Quality
Poor air quality is a tremendous drag on the wellbeing of employees. Without clean air quality, employees may struggle with dehydration and poor energy levels, as well as respiratory health issues. How companies manage their air quality will be affected by whether the building is primarily closed, with interior ventilation and air conditioning, or open, with windows and doors that allow natural air to move through.

If the building is closed, it is crucial that vents be cleaned regularly, and that the air circulation system be maintained. Remember that men and women experience temperature differently, and that it is important for all workers to be comfortable for maximum productivity.

If the building is open, remember that allergens may be a factor. Close window during high pollen times, and make sure there is a plan for keeping the office temperature regulated during these times.

Plants and Lighting
Women are more likely than men to develop mood disorders, and mood disorders are more common in the dark winter months. Businesses which lack natural light, windows, or end up keeping employees at work throughout all of the hours of daylight in winter can negatively affect employees moods and overall work ethic. By distributing well-tended plants throughout the office and making sure that natural light can filter in, businesses can help contribute to a more positive and cheerful mood throughout the office.

To help employees feel comfortable at work, they can encourage employees to bring in (non-flowering) plants and place them on desks and bookshelves. They can make sure that lightboxes are available, and that their use is encouraged. When weather is permitting, they can encourage workers to hold meetings and events outside, where they can enjoy the weather.

Interpersonal Support
Although individual women are of course individuals, many women prefer to work collaboratively within their teams, crosspollinating ideas and concepts. Setting up an office with cubicles or isolated offices can lead to employees who don’t work together well, or who don’t feel a sense of teamwork as they approach projects.

On the other hand, employees who work in glass cubicles, or whose desks are entirely exposed, can have difficulty focusing on work, and can get too involved in office drama.

One solution is to make sure that employees have both secluded workspaces and collaborative areas to choose from as they go about their daily work. Many companies invest a great deal in luxuries like nap rooms and catered lunches which ignoring basic items that can make the workplace more functional and relaxing, like well-lit conference rooms and different seating options for employees.

Elevated Stress
Elevated stress levels are bad for all employees, but for the same mood disorder reasons that harsh work environments may disproportionately affect women, elevated stress levels may affect female employees in noticeable ways. Concerns such as reduced productivity, increased turnover, and decreased ability to work collaboratively might be noticed.

Many companies try to reduce stress in the workplace by adding perks, like gym memberships, ambient music, and nap rooms. These things can be nice and fun for employees who want a few minutes away from their desk, but the real stress reducers have to do with the actual workload.

To reduce workplace stress, employers should focus on making sure that employees have a reasonable amount of work to do in a reasonable time frame. They should discourage employees from working over their required 40 hours every week, and they should make sure that management is following the same rules as team members. They should make sure that workplace attendance and leave policies are sane, reasonable, and support families.

If all of those pieces are in place, then consider a nap room.

Women are a crucial piece of the growing and expanding work force, and helping women feel comfortable, happy, and fulfilled in the workplace is good for female employees and the overall company. By finding ways to support women in the workplace, companies don’t just strengthen their diversity quota, they also help to build stronger, more nimble, and more diverse businesses. After all, the same policies that help women feel happier in the work place help men feel comfortable and happy there, too.

What does your business do to support women in the workplace?

Margarita Hakobyan