Employer's duty of care
The afternoon workshop we did with Paul in class on Monday revolved around the safety and wellbeing of employees within the workplace. Obviously this is an important issue, especially for any organisation striving to achieve excellence. Happy employees are ultimately better employees. They are more productive, more loyal to the organisation and more proactive. If you're pissed off with something or struggling to do something due to illness, you are unlikely to be motivated or willing to expend energy to achieve that goal. Whilst class focused primarily on the physical wellbeing of workers, experience from past modules along with readings and my own experiences of work emphasise the importance of caring about the mental wellbeing of workers.
As I have said in previous blogs, there is in my opinion no one thing more important to an organisation than another. People are just as important as machines, cash is just as important as property. You could have the most gifted, motivated and capable workforce in the world, but if they are based on an empty island in the middle of the Pacific Ocean with no contact to the outside world they won't be able to create an excellent product. Just as if you have the best factory and machines in the world but completely demotivated employees, you won't produce the best products you could.
However, what makes people more important to an organisation in terms of requiring attention and engagement is that people, unlike a machine for example which only needs regular servicing, are different from one another and have emotional needs. If you do not cater to people's emotional needs as well as their physical needs, you will alienate and potetnially damage your workforce. Looking up the cocnept of Maslow's Hierarchy of Needs emphasises the different factors that need to be satisfied (and as an employer or manager you need to help satisfy) that makes managing people key to the success of any organisaiton.
In my own experience of wellbeing, I have worked in factories before. One organisation I worked in was brilliant. They gave me all sorts of training, safety equipment and time to familiarise myself with the factory and become confident that I would be safe in the factory. It was an industrial paint company and one time I had to make paint stripper, but I felt completely fine in being able to do so. However, I have recently worked for another company, a garden furniture company. Whilst packing pieces of furniture to deliver to customers, I am sometimes required to sand down the wood if there are any stains in the wood whilst it's been kept in storage (such as watermarks or paint). When I do this I am not given any protective eye or breathing equipment, despite their being plenty of dust produced from sanding down the wood. I am not sure of the health ramifications of this, but it certainly unpleasant, causing strong eye irritation and a lot of sneezing. This to me seems like a lack of caring for the employees by not giving myself or other members of staff the opportunity to have protective equipment whether it is a pre-requisite under law or not. Sometimes the most basic things can alter the pereceptions of an organisation's workforce. Managing the assets are important, managing the intellectual capacity of the organisation is just as important. But just doing basic things to please people is also important as illustrated in class on Monday and from my own experiences.