Workplace Center

The experience of the workplace varies greatly for different individuals. For some, it is a source of daily inspiration, teamwork, and value, for others, "the daily grind" wears away at their soul. Managers and company HR departments have a lot to do with how the workplace is perceived by employees. Do you and your co-workers enjoy and look forward to coming into work each morning? If you do, chances are you are managing a successful place of work. If not, it's time to look into some new practices.

Given the rise of telecommuting (teleworking), the concept of a workplace is undergoing change-perhaps to be superseded by the concept of a "work environment" or "workspace" (with the latter including cyberspace or other virtual shared job space) , which better accords with remote worker interactions. As the concept of "workplace" evolves so will legal interpretations and consequences of it - with implications for company and employee rights, obligations and claims, especially regarding claims concerning "off-site" work rights, benefits, etc.

"Workplace" can denote quite different things: It can mean an office with dozens of desks and employees, a farmer's field or a kitchen table at home with an IT consultant's laptop computer on it. In the case of the office, "workplace" means a common, shared, onsite area that facilitates the provision of services or goods; for the farmer, the workplace, i.e., his planted field, is his main resource and production site-and his alone; to the IT consultant, who, although physically alone, simultaneously and directly works with others in a workplace-his kitchen, which is multifunctional, also serving as a "homeplace", physically remote from the workplaces of others he assists.

The productivity of a conventional company largely depends upon its management of an effective and productive workplace. Workplace management involves attention to the physical work environment, handling organizational working situations and tracking employee performance. However, the workplace is more than furniture or associated series of metrics and numbers.

It's also a culture and an experience, despite legal definitions that emphasize physical location, e.g., "The location at or from which an employee ordinarily performs the duties of his or her position and, in the case of an employee whose duties are of an itinerant nature, the actual building to which the employee returns to prepare and/or submit reports, etc., and where other administrative matters pertaining to the employee's employment are conducted." (National Joint Council of the Public Service of Canada).

The way that employees perceive and experience company culture will dictate how productive they are, how long they stay with the company, and how much value they will bring to projects. Developing a happy (or at least productive) workplace environment requires nuanced thinking and consistent action. Some of the most effective companies design and implement programs to improve interpersonal employee relations, learning and development, retention strategies, rewards and compensation, well-designed benefits and "perks", communications, and accountability and transparency. To compete effectively, workplaces should foster creativity, flexibility, and inspire constant learning and progression. Overall and no matter the industry, a company culture should be imbued with a sense of opportunity and competency.

On the bricks-and-mortar side, attention must be paid to workplace physical design-with emphasis on ergonomics, safety, convenience, efficiency, durability and other parameters critical to optimal performance. Even when employees are telecommuting, a smart company will be willing to help employees create a hybrid "lifeplace workplace" that best fosters productivity and optimal work-life balance.

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