Driving Advancements in Biopharmaceutical Manufacturing

How Industrial-Organizational Psychology Informs Working Conditions

05 Sep 2023

We owe basic worker’s rights and safe working conditions to the American Labor Movement, which we celebrate with Labor Day every September. But how can businesses go beyond the legal requirements to make sure employees are happy, healthy, and productive?

Using principles of industrial-organizational psychology and behavioral studies, human behaviors can be characterized and influenced. Taking this vast research into account, employers can create more ideal working conditions. Some of the issues that PAK BioSolutions prioritizes include the work environment, worker safety, and workplace respect, as discussed below.

Environment

Did you know that colors, air quality, and lighting can all directly affect our health, mood, productivity, and even perception of pain? The physical environment in which we work should provide ideal spaces for concentration, focus, and creativity. Even the arrangement of furniture can influence how people feel and function. Just as chemicals require the temperature, humidity, and UV exposure within certain ranges, humans are also sensitive to these environmental factors. The classic book, Drunk Tank Pink by Adam Alter, provides an overview of some classic studies about human responses to colors. You may view the world differently after reading this book. As the title implies, the calming effect of pink walls are utilized in jails, prisons, and even the locker rooms for visiting sports teams.

OSHA requirements are a basic start but building a work-topia requires far more involved planning (imagine a Silicon Valley tech campus). For example, providing a variety of work areas allows employees to change postures and mindsets as needed. Different project types may require different thinking approaches. Adjustable furniture additionally allows for more ergonomic positioning for each body type and reduces repetitive strain injury.

Flexible policies, such as allowing work-from-home, can prevent employee burnout and exacerbation of injuries. Picture working from a houseboat with a glimmering water view. Writing that expense report may suddenly seem less stressful. Now take into account how much stress a commute could cause if an employee has a mobility injury or their car is in the shop. The option to work from home could be the difference between a very efficient employee and one who is at the end of their rope.

What are some of the factors that PAK BioSolutions has used to enrich the work environment?

Plentiful office windows with views and sunlight, ergonomic & alternate-posture furniture, nature-inspired colors and textures for interior design elements, open floorplan with glass doors, elimination of fluorescent lighting, ability to block blue light, work-from-home policies, minimization of plastics, and ultra clean/sanitized surfaces.

Safety

PPE, or personal protective equipment, is the law. But what else can increase the physical comfort of doing certain tasks? Going beyond items such as gloves, eye protection, and laboratory coats, supports such as cushions, braces, and padding can reduce strain and improve productivity and mood while increasing safety. A simple example of this would be giving kneepads to an employee who often kneels as part of their job.

Along the same reasoning, Worker’s Comp is a mandatory program that gives employees medical coverage for injuries that occur on the job. Much more could be done, however. Giving medical benefits (health insurance coverage) to employees increases preventative care and starting health levels, reducing the risk and severity of injury at work. Chronic pain is a massive hurdle to people’s work ability. Addressing underlying health concerns and promoting employee health will boost worker productivity and offers employers a chance to demonstrate care towards workers.

Many companies take the security of their assets very seriously. This could include physical products or sensitive data. Employees are also assets, though. The safety and security of employees should also take priority. One aspect of this is employee data privacy. Companies should have clear zero tolerance policies regarding the violation of privacy. Where possible, safeguards such as security software, passwords, two-factor authentication, and physical locks should be put in place to prevent access and remove temptation.

How has PAK BioSolutions increased safety in the workplace?

Low-crime location with outdoor lighting; building doors and elevators require badge access after 5PM; specialized tools and equipment for manual tasks; appropriate PPE along with regular employee feedback; health & safety training for all employees; medical insurance, including vision & dental; generous medical leave policies; physical & digital locks including two-factor authentication; regular evaluation and minimization of risks; regular improvements to operational protocols; training materials that include accompanying pictures & videos with text; chemical safety shower & eyewash station; clear avenues for reporting near-misses & incidents; emergency action plans with assigned leaders, muster points, & communications; and easy access to fire extinguisher, first aid kit, & stairwell.

Respect

The government requires basic worker’s rights to be posted in a clearly visible area of a workplace. This covers topics such as maternity leave and minimum wage. However, respect at work is mandatory for a healthy, functional company. Not feeling respected or valued at work is a commonly cited reason for people quitting their jobs. Respect comes in the form of interpersonal interactions and in the benefits and policies issued by corporations.

In terms of interpersonal interactions, much can be gauged by the way people communicate. Healthy work environments foster open and honest communication, clear work expectations, clear consequences, and open lines of communication between various departments and levels. There should also be a clear policy for how to report issues. Respectful communication should be the cultural norm.

The compensation a worker receives for their labor includes both their monetary pay and benefits such as vacation or PTO, and medical benefits. Pay is often the bottom line in retaining good workers and signifies a level of respect the company has for the work an employee provides. Without such demonstrated respect, employees have no reason to feel loyalty towards the company when a marginally better offer may come along. The medical and leave benefits also factor into this equation. Offering an acceptable amount of paid time off lets an employee rest, rejuvenate, and reset themselves. Not taking vacation or breaks from work can lead to burnout and even clinical depression. Respecting an employee’s need to rest and take vacations from work without the consequences of withholding pay can increase worker happiness along with efficiency.

How does PAK BioSolutions demonstrate a respectful workplace?

Respectful communication policies, including sexual harassment, inclusion & diversity statements, & reporting methods; workers’ rights postings; culture of kindness & appreciation; clear expectations & boundaries for work; 3 weeks annual PTO; paid parental leave; sponsored social events; meals provided for team meetings; appropriate mileage compensation for work travel; opportunities for professional education & career development; close collaboration with upper-level management; and regular feedback & training regarding workload, stress, & mental health.

From the first worker’s strike in 1768 New York to the modern day Hollywood writer’s strike, the American Labor Movement is still happening. Where do you see the Labor Movement focusing in the future? What “extras” do you anticipate becoming the standard?

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