Good work design – to both the physical workspace and work processes – is critical to worker health and wellbeing. Many businesses have been reviewing and refreshing their approach to working in the office due to the pandemic, especially in areas where people are now returning to the workplace after lockdowns. Do you need to do the same?
Why is a good work design important?
The impact of a well-designed workplace and work processes has been documented to show a link with improved health and motivation of workers. It’s probably no surprise that working in a cramped and untidy work environment with sustained high-pressure deadlines leads to a deterioration in health.
8-step approach to good design
The approach to implementing good design reflects the general risk management approach in work health and safety laws. These are:
- Senior management commitment to improving workplace design.
- Consulting with workers on poor design issues.
- Identifying areas for improvement – more on this below.
- Assessing the risks arising from the current processes.
- Implementing new or additional systems of work that improve current work practices – more on this below.
- Reviewing the effectiveness of those new systems and adjusting as necessary.
How to identify areas for improvement
You need to review how the work is currently being performed including:
- The duration, frequency and complexity of the tasks. Is there evidence of unreasonable demands on workers physical and psychological health?
- The systems of work being used to complete the tasks. Are these appropriate to best achieve the task outcome in a manner that reduces or eliminates any risks to health?
- The equipment being used and the work stations/building layout. Are these appropriate for the tasks or is better equipment and layout/fit-out available? Is equipment being used appropriately and can it be set out in a better design to improve productivity and reduce risks to health?
How to improve your workplace design
You should then consider the resources you have available to implement a better designed workplace including:
- Improving the workflow process and work environment, including ensuring the management and communication of the work is clear, effective and reasonable.
- Ensuring work duties and processes are clearly explained to workers, as well as the expectations on the level of work required and deadlines. Consider training for managers to improve this aspect.
Want more tips?
When it comes to the safe design of the physical workspace, the Health & Safety Handbook chapter Working environment is jam-packed with tips to help. It includes a template Working environment checklist for you to adapt and use in your workplace. Review it today.