In this new Let’s Talk Business episode, our discussion will focus on the working environment and the well-being of employing in terms of the physical and social conditions of the working environment. Listen to this new Let’s Talk Business episode and learn more about the business working environment.
Let’s Talk about the Working Environment
Welcome to a new episode from English Plus Podcast. This is your host, Danny. I’m thrilled to start yet a new addition to our brand-new season 6. Today, we’ll start the Let’s Talk Business series of episodes. In each episode, we will talk about an important topic related to business and we will discuss it in the episode to let you in some more details in the world of business. Let’s Talk Business is not for business professionals only; the topics we will be discussing are of great interest to everybody, so I hope you like what we will talk about. Before I start, let me remind you that you can find a lot more interesting content on our website englishpluspodcast.com, so after you finish listening to the episode, take a few minutes to browse our website and I’m sure you will find something useful to you; something you will be interested in learning more about.
And now without further ado, let’s start with our episode for today: Let’s Talk Business. We will talk about the working environment in today’s episode. We will discuss how important it is to have a safe and a friendly atmosphere at work and how that can increase the general productivity and happiness of workers.
Today, I will have with me my friend, Sophie, who will be discussing these topics with me. Welcome to the show Sophie and thank you for being here.
Thank you Danny. I’m glad to be here. I hope our listeners like our new episode series — Let’s Talk Business. I’m pretty sure the topics we will talk about will be very interesting to everyone, business professionals or not.
I hope so. After all, that’s the plan. So, let’s start our discussion by talking about the working environment and how important it is. When we talk about the working environment, what do we mean by that?
When we talk about the working environment, we are referring to the physical and social conditions in which work is performed. This includes factors such as lighting, temperature, noise level, air quality, ergonomics, and overall layout of the space. It also includes the culture and dynamics of the organization, including communication styles, management practices, and opportunities for professional development. A positive working environment can contribute to employee well-being, satisfaction, and productivity, while a negative working environment can lead to stress, burnout, and high turnover.
Let’s focus first on the physical conditions. What are these? And what a good standard should be in a working environment?
Physical conditions in the working environment refer to the physical features and layout of the space where work is performed. Some examples of physical conditions include:
Lighting: Adequate natural or artificial lighting is necessary for visibility and to prevent eye strain.
Temperature: The temperature should be comfortable for the majority of people, not too hot or too cold.
Noise level: The noise level should be low enough to allow for concentration and communication.
Air quality: The air should be fresh and free from pollutants, dust, or other contaminants.
Ergonomics: The layout and design of the space should promote good posture and comfort, for example, adjustable chairs, desks and computer monitors.
A good standard for physical conditions in a working environment would be to ensure that they meet or exceed relevant health and safety regulations and guidelines, such as OSHA (Occupational Safety and Health Administration) standards in the US. Additionally, it would be ideal if the physical conditions are regularly evaluated and updated based on employee feedback and new research on ergonomics and best practices.
We hear people, especially in management complaining about this all the time. Some managers believe that even if the physical conditions are not perfect, the employees should not be whiny and just do the job they are paid to do, as this is the best they will ever get. I’m not saying that I approve of such opinions, but I hear them all the time. What do you think about that?
It is important to remember that the physical conditions of the working environment can have a significant impact on employee well-being and productivity. Poor lighting, temperature, noise level, air quality, and ergonomics can all contribute to physical discomfort, stress, and fatigue, which can lead to decreased productivity and increased absenteeism.
While it may be true that some employees may be more tolerant of less-than-ideal physical conditions than others, it does not mean that the employer should not strive to provide the best possible working environment for all employees. It is also important to consider that employees who feel valued and respected by their employer will be more likely to be engaged and committed to their work.
Additionally, providing a positive working environment can have financial benefits for the company, such as lower turnover and absenteeism rates, as well as increased productivity and employee satisfaction. In short, investing in the physical conditions of the working environment can have a positive impact on both employees and the company as a whole.
Very well, now the physical conditions might be easy enough to talk about and pinpoint. What about the social conditions in the working environment? What should those be in a good working environment?
Social conditions in the working environment refer to the culture and dynamics of the organization, including communication styles, management practices, and opportunities for professional development. Some examples of social conditions include:
Communication: Clear, open, and regular communication between management and employees is important for building trust and fostering a sense of teamwork.
Management practices: Fair and consistent management practices that promote accountability and transparency can help build a positive working environment.
Professional development: Opportunities for employees to learn and grow in their roles can help keep them engaged and motivated.
Diversity, Equity and Inclusion: Encouraging and valuing diversity, treating everyone with fairness and creating an inclusive environment where everyone feels respected and valued.
A good standard for social conditions in a working environment would be to ensure that they are consistent with the company’s values and mission, and that they promote employee well-being, engagement, and productivity. It’s important to have a culture of open communication, trust, and respect among all employees and management. A good working environment should foster employee engagement and provide opportunities for professional development, this will help create a positive atmosphere where everyone feels valued, respected and able to contribute to their fullest potential.
I understand that, and while we see all these aspects being taken care of in a few companies who strive to provide the best working environment for their employees, we don’t see many other companies focus on these aspects because of the highly competitive nature of those businesses and the high rate of unemployment, so for some companies, it’s like survival of the fittest, and they don’t really care if the employees are comfortable or not? What do you think about that?
It is true that some companies may prioritize short-term financial goals over investing in the well-being of their employees. However, it is important to remember that a positive working environment can have long-term benefits for both the company and its employees. Providing a positive working environment can lead to increased productivity, employee satisfaction, and retention, which can ultimately benefit the company’s bottom line.
It is also important to note that an increasing number of companies are recognizing the value of investing in their employees’ well-being. Many companies are now focusing on creating positive working environments as a way to attract and retain top talent. Additionally, there is a growing awareness of the link between employee well-being and organizational performance, and companies are starting to realize that investing in their employees’ well-being is an important aspect of creating a sustainable, successful business.
However, it’s also true that in highly competitive industries, companies may face pressure to cut costs and prioritize short-term financial goals. In such cases, the company’s management must weigh the costs and benefits of investing in a positive working environment, but it’s important that they are aware of the long-term benefits it could bring.
Do you think the level of focus on the well-being of employees should be enforced by law, or should it be left to the better judgment of each company?
The focus on the well-being of employees should be a combination of both. On one hand, it is important for companies to have the autonomy to make decisions about how to best invest in their employees’ well-being based on their specific needs and resources. On the other hand, there should also be a minimum standard for working conditions that is legally enforced to ensure that all employees are protected from dangerous or unhealthy working conditions.
Laws and regulations such as OSHA in the US and health and safety laws in other countries, set basic standards for physical working conditions, such as providing a safe and healthy work environment, free of recognized hazards that are likely to cause death or serious physical harm, and addressing hazards related to hazardous chemical, biological and physical agents.
Additionally, laws such as the Americans with Disabilities Act in the US and similar laws in other countries, prohibit discrimination against employees with disabilities and require employers to make reasonable accommodations for employees with disabilities.
In terms of social conditions, laws such as the Fair Labor Standards Act in the US and similar laws in other countries, set minimum standards for things like overtime pay, minimum wage, and child labor.
In conclusion, while companies should have autonomy to make decisions about how to best invest in their employees’ well-being, there should also be a minimum standard for working conditions that is legally enforced to ensure that all employees are protected from dangerous or unhealthy working conditions and are treated fairly.
I see. Now what about virtual working environments? I know this is not a brand new concept in the world of business, but it has definitely become a lot more popular after COVID. How do the standards we talked about apply to virtual working environments?
Virtual working environments, also known as remote working or telecommuting, have become increasingly popular in recent years, and particularly during the COVID-19 pandemic. When it comes to virtual working environments, many of the standards we discussed earlier still apply, but there are some additional considerations.
Physical conditions: In a virtual working environment, employees are typically working from home, so it’s important to ensure that they have a safe and comfortable space to work. This may include providing them with ergonomic equipment, such as a comfortable chair and a good quality desk, and ensuring that the space is well-lit and ventilated.
Social conditions: In a virtual working environment, it’s important to maintain open and regular communication with employees to ensure that they feel included and connected to the team. This may include using virtual tools such as video conferencing, instant messaging, and project management software. Additionally, it’s important to be aware of the potential challenges that employees may face in a virtual working environment, such as feelings of isolation and lack of work-life balance, and to provide support and resources to help mitigate these challenges.
Virtual working environments can also present some challenges related to data security, it’s important to ensure that employees are aware of the company’s data security policies and procedures, and that they are following them.
Overall, while virtual working environments may present some unique challenges, many of the standards for a positive working environment still apply. By providing employees with a safe and comfortable space to work, maintaining open communication, and providing support and resources to help employees maintain work-life balance and stay connected to the team, companies can create a positive virtual working environment.
Alright. Now I’m going to share with you some accounts by employees working in different jobs and different working environments, and I would like to know what you think about their well-being and their working environment based on what we talked about so far.
I would be happy to provide my thoughts on the well-being and working environment of employees based on their accounts. However, please keep in mind that without a more detailed information about the employees and the working environments, it would be difficult to provide an accurate assessment.
It would be important to consider factors such as the company’s policies and procedures, the specific responsibilities of the employee, and the employee’s own perceptions and experiences in order to get a complete picture of the well-being and working environment.
Let’s hear the accounts of the employees and I’ll do my best.
All Right, let’s start with Sarah:
‘I work in advertising. I love my work! It’s really rewarding and stimulating. Originality and creativity are very important in this industry, of course; we have to come up with lots of new ideas.
‘No two days are the same. I could be contacting film companies for new advertising campaigns one day and giving client presentations the next. I like the client contact and I am very much hands-on.
‘When I joined the agency, I hit it off with my colleagues immediately. I still get on well with them and there’s a very good rapport between us. This is all part of my job satisfaction.’
Based on Sarah’s account, it seems that she is generally satisfied with her working environment and well-being. She enjoys the creative and varied nature of her work in advertising and finds it stimulating and rewarding. She also has a positive relationship with her colleagues, which contributes to her job satisfaction.
Physical conditions: It’s not mentioned in her account if she has a comfortable and safe working space, it’s also not mention anything about ergonomic equipment.
Social conditions: She mentions that she gets along well with her colleagues and that there is a good rapport between them. This is a positive sign for the social conditions in her working environment. She also mentions that she likes client contact, which suggests that she has good communication skills and is comfortable interacting with others.
Overall, based on Sarah’s account, it seems that she is satisfied with her working environment and well-being. However, it would be important to gather more information to get a complete picture.
Now let’s hear what Jonathan has to say about his job:
‘I’m an aircraft engineer. I work on research and development of new aircraft. I love putting ideas into practice. I like working on my own, but it’s also great being part of a team. I like the teamwork and the sense of achievement when we do something new. And of course, the planes we produce are very beautiful.
‘Is there anything I don’t like? I dislike days when I’m chained to a desk. I don’t like admin and paperwork. Sometimes I feel I’m snowed under. And in a large organization like ours, there can be a lot of bureaucracy or red tape that can slow things down.’
Based on Jonathan’s account, it seems that he is generally satisfied with his working environment and well-being. He enjoys the technical and creative aspects of his work as an aircraft engineer, and finds it fulfilling to put ideas into practice. He also values the teamwork and sense of achievement that comes with working on new aircraft.
Physical conditions: Jonathan does not mention anything about his working space, but he does mention that he does not like days when he is chained to a desk, which implies he would prefer more movement and less sedentary work.
Social conditions: He mentions that he likes working on his own as well as being part of a team, which suggests that he is comfortable working independently and collaboratively. However, he also mentions that sometimes he feels snowed under with paperwork and bureaucracy, which suggests that the organizational structure or processes within his company may not be as efficient or streamlined as they could be.
Overall, based on Jonathan’s account, it seems that he is generally satisfied with his working environment and well-being, but he also expresses some dissatisfaction with certain aspects such as paperwork, bureaucracy and sedentary work. It would be important to gather more information to get a complete picture.
Now, let’s listen to what Petra has to say about her job:
‘I’m in luxury goods sales. I have some nice perks, like a company car. I have to meet demanding sales targets every month, so the work can be very stressful. But I enjoy the flexibility that I have in working when I want to without someone breathing down my neck all the time. Unlike my husband, who has to travel into London every day, I don’t have to commute to an office – I’m out seeing clients most of the time. My boss allows me to work from home when I’m not seeing clients. My office uses hot-desking, so when I do go into the office, I use whichever desk is free. I only get two weeks a year vacation time. If there’s a family emergency, I can take time off without having to ask my boss. I work quite long hours – about 60 hours a week – but I enjoy my job.’
Petra’s working environment sounds quite fast-paced and high-pressure, with demanding sales targets and the need to work long hours. She mentions the perks of having a company car and the flexibility to work from home, but also mentions the downsides of only having two weeks of vacation time and working with a hot-desking setup. Overall, it seems like Petra enjoys her job despite the stress and long hours, but the lack of vacation time and the lack of a dedicated workspace could potentially impact her well-being negatively over time.
Alright. We have talked about the working environment and the physical and social conditions that should be taken into account when we strive to provide a good working environment for people to work in. Now, let’s shift our focus to talk briefly about some concepts and keywords or phrases we mentioned.
Sure, I’d be happy to elaborate on any specific concepts or keywords you’re interested in. But just to remind our listeners, some of the topics we’ve discussed so far include:
Physical conditions in the working environment: This refers to the physical aspects of the work environment that can affect an employee’s comfort and well-being, such as temperature, lighting, ergonomics, and cleanliness.
Social conditions in the working environment: This refers to the social aspects of the work environment that can affect employee interactions and relationships, such as communication, teamwork, and support.
Well-being: This refers to the overall health and happiness of an employee, including physical, mental, and emotional well-being.
Virtual working environments: This refers to work environments where employees work remotely, either from home or other locations, using technology to communicate and collaborate with colleagues.
Flexibility: This refers to the ability to adjust work schedules, locations, or other aspects of the work environment to meet the needs of employees.
Hot-desking: This refers to a work environment where employees do not have a designated workstation and instead use any available workstation.
Bureaucracy: This refers to a complex set of rules and procedures that can slow down or hinder the progress of an organization or a project.
That’s right. Now, I’m interested in learning more about a couple of other keywords and phrases as well. What about rapport? What does it mean and how can we use it in a business context?
Rapport refers to a positive and harmonious relationship between two or more people. In a business context, having a good rapport with colleagues, managers, and clients can lead to improved communication, increased trust and collaboration, and ultimately better performance and productivity. Building rapport is essential for effective teamwork, problem-solving, and decision-making. It can be built by actively listening, understanding and valuing others’ perspectives, and showing genuine interest in building relationships. In a virtual working environment, building rapport can be more challenging but it can be done by using video conferencing tools, regular team meetings and virtual social activities.
Great! Now what about the phrase ‘the sense of achievement,’ how is that different from just saying ‘achievement’?
The phrase “the sense of achievement” refers to the feeling or emotion that comes with achieving something, as opposed to simply achieving something. It emphasizes the personal satisfaction and positive emotions that come with reaching a goal or completing a task. It is different from just saying “achievement” because it implies that the achievement has a more profound effect on the person, creating a sense of pride, accomplishment and motivation. In a business context, it can be used to refer to the feeling of satisfaction employees may feel after completing a project or reaching a sales goal.
Finally, there’s Petra who said she liked the ‘perks’ that come with her job. What does that mean? And how is that different from say, ‘salary’ or ‘benefits’?
In a business context, “perks” are additional benefits or privileges that employees may receive in addition to their salary or standard benefits package. These can include things like company cars, flexible working hours, or extra vacation time. Perks are usually considered to be non-essential or “nice-to-have” items and are not always provided by all employers. They are often used as a way for companies to differentiate themselves and make their job offerings more attractive to potential employees. They can also be used as a way to retain current employees and motivate them.
So, what exactly is the difference between perks and benefits?
Perks and benefits are both forms of compensation that an employer may offer to its employees, but they are different in terms of what they offer. Benefits are typically more comprehensive and include things like health insurance, retirement plans, and paid time off. These benefits are designed to provide financial protection and support for employees. Perks, on the other hand, are more discretionary and can include things like company cars, flexible schedules, and free snacks or coffee in the office. Perks are designed to make the work environment more enjoyable and to improve the overall employee experience. While benefits are often considered essential and are legally required in some cases, perks are considered more of a luxury and are not always offered by employers.
I see. Well, I believe we have covered a lot of ground today about the working environment. Maybe, we should call it a day. Do you have any final thoughts on the subject?
Yes, we have covered a lot of different aspects of the working environment today, including physical and social conditions, as well as specific concepts and keywords such as rapport, sense of achievement, and perks. It’s important to note that providing a good working environment for employees is beneficial for both the employees and the company. Happy and satisfied employees tend to be more productive, motivated, and engaged in their work, which can lead to better job performance and ultimately, better business outcomes. It’s also important to keep in mind that different employees have different needs and preferences, so it’s important to be aware of individual differences and strive to create a working environment that is inclusive and accommodating of different perspectives and backgrounds.
Thank you very much for discussing the working environment with me, Sophie.
You’re welcome! I’m glad I could help. Remember, a good working environment is essential for employee well-being and productivity, and it’s important to take into account both the physical and social conditions of the workplace. It’s also important to have good communication and teamwork among colleagues, a sense of achievement, and to have fair and equal opportunities for all. These are all important aspects to consider when striving to create a positive working environment. If you have any more questions, please feel free to ask.
And for you folks, listening to us on your favorite podcast player, we thank you very much for listening to another episode from English Plus Podcast. I hope you liked our brand new Let’s Talk Business episode and I hope you like all the new episodes we have in store for you. Before I leave you, let me remind you that there’s a lot to learn on our website, englishpluspodcast.com, so take some time and head over there and browse the site. I guarantee you will find something to your liking, something that will be interesting and useful to you. With that being said, this is your host, Danny. Thank you very much for listening to another episode from English Plus Podcast. I will see you next time.