Workplace Wellness: This Isn’t Your Grandpa’s Office

January, 2017

For many employees, the idea of a lifelong career with the same organization is a concept left behind with shows like Leave It to Beaver. And though the workplace has changed since Beaver’s dad went to the office (thank goodness!), the idea of some “golly gee” politeness around the water cooler is not without its charms. Fortunately, many of today’s employers are investing in tools for fostering workplace wellness and mitigating conflict. From understanding your HR policies to surviving your co-worker’s stinky lunch, here are some simple strategies to help create a healthy workplace.

Respect in the Workplace

Respect in the workplace isn’t simply about manners. It includes the ways in which you engage and collaborate with others. A respectful workplace is one in which every person in the organization is treated with dignity and valued for their contribution. It begins with leadership but includes the entire organization. As a valued employee, respect is being asked to do meaningful work and to be fairly compensated for it.

Respect also helps foster a strong workplace culture that’s more productive, has high morale and retains long-term employees. So refrain from gossip and non-constructive criticism and, instead, look for opportunities to praise the work of colleagues and contribute to a positive atmosphere.

Workplace Culture

Understanding your workplace culture is a key component to fitting into any job. A strong workplace culture prioritizes respect and dignity and reflects the mission and values of the organization. But a “good fit” means different things to different people. Recognizing how the organization functions on a personal level is important, so whenever possible, try to learn these things before signing an employment contract. For example, if everybody dresses in a suit and tie, your favourite khakis could garner some side-eye. If you are an introvert, an office full of cubicles may not be your best fit. Learn how often meetings are held and if they’re chaired or informal. Do they include team-building exercises that might make you cringe? And are there policies about dating? The answers can help you understand your workplace culture and make your job a more comfortable fit.

Surviving Cubicle Nation

Cubicles are the bane of many employees. From the cubicle partner who insists on using the speakerphone to your neighbour who won’t stop talking for five minutes so you can complete your work, cubicles can be a nightmare.

How do you combat the noise, lack of privacy and ever-present smells of a large space that houses dozens of staff members? First, don’t contribute to the problem: keep your own noise levels down, don’t stick your nose in other people’s cubicles and keep perfumes and food out of the office space. While you’re at it, leave your shoes on—your fellow workers will thank you.

When you need time without interruptions, use headphones (if allowed) or tape a Please Do Not Disturb sign to the back of your chair or cubicle entry. Better yet, if your workplace has quiet rooms, book one while working on difficult tasks or meeting deadlines.

Know Your Workplace Policies

Workplace policies and procedures manuals clearly define the expectations for employees and the organization. So always familiarize yourself with them. If you are a contractor, this document may even be considered the contract that outlines your terms of work—so always ask to see the manual… if it exists, that is…

Many organizations, especially smaller ones, don’t have written policies. So if your organization hasn’t defined its expectations, ask your employer or Human Resources (HR) department to clearly define your position and their company policies. Always have specific questions so that your discussion is focused and productive—it’s up to you to advocate for yourself and make the most of your job.

As an employer, remember that policies are living documents that should constantly adapt to reflect changes in the workplace. “We’ve always done it this way” can lead to inefficiencies and discontentment. As an employee, review is opportunity to find new ways to contribute to a healthy, productive workplace.

Hello, HR Department

You likely met at least one member of the HR department when you were hired. And it’s in your best interests to continue that relationship. If you’re not sure about a policy or think a mistake has been made on your paycheque, make an HR appointment. If
you have a problem you can’t take to your supervisor, ask HR for advice. Remember, though HR personnel work for the company, their role is to act as a liaison between management and staff, which makes them a valuable resource for problem solving.

Sick Days

There are often questions about what constitutes a sick day, as opposed to a personal day. If you are legitimately ill, stay home to recover, and avoid being the person who gave this year’s big flu bug to the entire office. If you choose to use a sick day because you need a day off to recharge, plan it carefully—try not to book it when you are in the middle of a critical project or nearing an important deadline.

Some employers also allow for personal days. These days cover the often unexpected realities of life such as family emergencies, military duty or religious holidays. Be sure to know what’s available to you.

Social Media Etiquette

More and more organizations have social media policies, so read and follow them carefully. Not doing so could lead to embarrassing situations (for you and your organization) or even to losing your job.

Social media policies often cover issues relating to language (profanity, tone, political correctness), harassment, brand messaging and respectful interactions. Policies may also cover your personal use of social media, both at work and away—if your company does not allow social media during office hours, save it for your break. Some policies even go so far as to monitor your personal social media accounts. In those instances, if you wouldn’t say it at the office, don’t say it online.  t8n

Is it Time to Leave?

Deciding to leave a job is never easy. However, if your job is affecting your mental or physical health, it’s likely time to look for an alternative. Do your best to have a plan in place before handing in your resignation, and never use office time to look for a new position—book a personal or vacation day instead. Regardless of why you leave, do it respectfully, and never burn your bridges.

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