5 Myths about Non-Desk Jobs and Workplace Happiness
Non-Desk Jobs and Workplace Happiness: 5 Myths
Is Workplace Happiness just for office workers? Anni Virkkunen takes a look at Workplace Happiness from a non-desk job perspective.
Employers are increasingly focusing on employee happiness and wellbeing in their Talent (HR) strategies.
And they should, employee happiness can have many benefits to your business, such as lower turnover and healthcare costs, increased productivity, and better customer service.
These employee happiness policies may include offering flexible schedules and remote work to improve the balance between professional and personal life. Or offering gym memberships and fruit at the office to encourage a healthier lifestyle.
Many companies are also promoting an experimentation culture where employees are given more freedom and trying out new ideas, and even failing, is encouraged.
It has also become extremely popular to add neat perks in the office in efforts of making employees happy. Social media is full of pictures of cool offices spaces with pool tables, videogame consoles, and bring-your-pet-to-work days.
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At first glance, it may seem like these workplace happiness policies focus only on office environments.
And that non-desk workers, whose job is usually more tied to a specific time and place and may consist of completing repetitive or rigidly defined tasks, cannot enjoy the same workplace happiness as their office-based colleagues do.
Indeed, a grocery store cashier cannot show up to work whenever they want. A kitchen worker obviously cannot bring their dog to work, and a factory employee cannot get creative when a mistake could lead to serious damage to people or equipment.
However, there are still ways you can improve the happiness and wellbeing of your non-desk employees, too.
Check out these 5 myths about workplace happiness for non-desk workers that you should break.
1. Line Workers Don’t Need to Make Decisions
Many studies have shown that when employees have autonomy and control over their work, such as making decisions or choosing how to complete their tasks, it can positively impact their wellbeing and happiness at work.
Having control over one’s own work can even have a fundamental impact on physical and mental health.
In many office roles, employees are usually told what to do but not necessarily how they should do it. Thus they can make decisions and have control over their own work.
In a non-desk job such as a grocery store cashier or kitchen staff, employees often perform more rigidly defined tasks and there is less room to decide how to complete them.
Before jumping to the conclusion that line workers cannot make decisions related to their job, let’s take a look at an example from Zappos, an online shoe retailer world-renowned for the way they treat their employees. Zappos trains their customer service representatives to make decisions on their own. They give them the power to for example offer refunds, if that’s what it takes to make the customer happy.
Could the Zappos customer service team do their job without having this decision-making power?
Probably, but by having it the employer is giving the employees more control over their work and most likely also creating better customer experiences.
You could fairly easily implement similar policies for grocery store cashiers, retail store staff, or other non-office employees in customer-facing roles.
Or if you manage a school lunch cafeteria, you could give your kitchen staff the freedom to decide on recipes or the seasoning of the meals. While you might have certain limitations in terms of budgets or the nutrient value of the food served in the cafeteria, in most roles there is some room to allow your employees to make their own decisions without having to consult with their manager each time.
Also, involve your employees in decisions that will concern them and their work. Listening to your employees will not only make them feel that their opinion matters but it can also help you to solve issues or improve your processes.
For example, asking the retail store staff why they think that the new summer collection is not selling can help you to identify issues with the store layout or placement of the products.
Or asking the factory employees how they would improve the safety of their workstation can help you to prevent potential accidents at work.
2. It Is Impossible to Offer Flexibility in a Non-Desk Environment
A flexible working schedule or the opportunity to work from home can help employees balance their personal and professional life better. Thus contribute to workplace happiness.
Some companies, such as Netflix and Trivago are even known for offering unlimited vacation time.
It is obvious that offering flextime to employees whose job is not tied to a specific place or time is easier than to a store employee who needs to open the store at a specific time. Or an assembly line worker whose job needs to be done at the factory.
However, there are still ways that you could offer flexibility to your non-desk workers to help them better balance their personal and professional life.
For example, if an employee needs to run a personal errand during work time, have their supervisor cover for them in the meantime.
Or when you plan your team’s vacation time, try to accommodate everyone’s wishes as much as possible so that they can take their vacation time at the same time their partner does, for instance.
3. A Line Worker Already Knows How to Do Their Job, They Don’t Need Further Training
Professional development opportunities show your employees that you care about their growth.
When you provide your employee’s with training, you are not only motivating them but also investing in your company’s future.
Many office-based roles tend to come with opportunities for career development. In a similar fashion, a retail store sales assistant might not want to do the same job until they retire. Perhaps they would like to become a store manager or an area manager one day.
Have one-on-ones with your employees to learn about their career aspirations and work with them to set up a career plan within the company. Then provide them with the necessary training and other tools to help their growth.
You can also set up an internal mentoring program where a more senior employee mentors a more junior one to help the transition to a new role. Or try reversed mentoring.
Mentoring can be equally rewarding to the mentee as well as to the mentor.
4. Cultural Fit Is Only Relevant for Office Staff
Cultural fit is crucial for workplace happiness.
Essentially, hiring and retaining employees based on cultural fit means that, despite different backgrounds, your employees share similar values with your organization and work well with each other.
An employee who does not feel comfortable in the organization’s culture will most certainly be miserable and not deliver their best work. One might think that the cultural fit concerns mostly employees who make strategic decisions for the company or work in teams to complete projects.
However, cultural fit is equally important for non-office employees. Everyone needs healthy social relationships and the feeling of “fitting in”, regardless of where they work.
A non-desk employee can also be the face of the company in many cases, such as cash register employees and retail store staff.
Therefore, it is fundamental for your brand image that they reflect your company’s culture and values.
5. You Can’t Offer Cool Perks in a Non-Desk Workplace
Finally, if you have the fundamentals of workplace happiness down, who said you couldn’t offer the nice extras to non-desk workers, too?
You might not be able to set up a pool table in the middle of the factory. But you sure could offer healthy snacks and spice up the employees’ resting area to help them get their minds off work during breaks.
If the tasks that your employees perform put a lot of physical stress on them, you could also offer them access to a physiotherapist or have a massagist come periodically to your company, even if it was to give mini-massages during the breaks.
Just remember that these perks are just a neat extra and they will never fix any essential issues in the workplace culture.
Employee happiness is not only a nice thought, it actually impacts your business’s bottom line.
While certain workplace happiness policies may have been developed in an office environment, there are different ways of adjusting them to fit your company’s unique setting.
At the end of the day, employees appreciate similar things regardless of where they work, such as having autonomy to complete their work, professional development opportunities, and a positive work atmosphere.
About the author: Anni Virkkunen is a Talent Consultant who is passionate about improving employee wellbeing and happiness in workplaces. Originally from Finland, she currently lives in Barcelona, Spain. Read more of Anni’s articles at The Happy Works.
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