Happy workers are productive workers. That’s a universal business truth, and yet often in the workplace, something gets lost in translation as managers look for ways to keep their staff safe and productive. So how can managers create a safe and efficient work environment?
It all starts at eye level
I once visited a cleanroom facility in California that was looking for ways to improve their working environment. In their gowning room, instead of having dispensers, they were using metro racks, which are wire racks similar to what you might see in a restaurant. The cleanroom gowns were kept in bins stored at the top of these six-foot-tall racks, meaning every employee had to reach and stretch to access their jumpsuit. In a cleanroom environment, employees might have to frock and defrock multiple times during the day as they enter or leave the facility. Imagine the extra effort – and aggravation – that one extra step triggers: every time an employee needs to access their necessary equipment, they must wrestle with a poorly designed storage system. It might seem like a small inconvenience, but it can be fatiguing and stressful at the end of the day.
By taking it all in at eye level, managers can create a more hospitable work environment. In our own facility, we make sure tools are easy to reach. We encourage employees who move from workstation to workstation to use a rolling toolbox instead of forcing foot traffic back and forth between the workstation and tool storage. Eliminating unnecessary movement also helps mitigate fatigue, whether it’s by providing easy access to tools, or making the frocking and defrocking process easier.
Monitor comfort levels
It’s also essential for managers to consistently monitor their employees’ comfort and the flow of the workplace environment. Notice the areas that seem to invite clutter or get crowded. By observing workers in action, managers can see firsthand how floorplans, storage, and equipment all impact the day-to-day activities in the cleanroom. In the end, it’s a matter of prioritizing efficiency and safety. Fatigue can lead to errors and injuries, and awkward tasks make employees tired, leading to a loss in quality and productivity.
When looking for ways to improve worker comfort, think of small things that can get annoying after awhile, like when a person is wearing glasses underneath their goggles. Do their goggles fit right? If you don’t know, ask.
You can find areas ripe for improvement where messes are being made:
- When you pull gloves and hairnets out of a dispenser, they can often end up tangled and fall to the floor.
- Safety goggles can also get tangled together when pulled from a dispenser and fall to the ground.
In these scenarios, we would make sure that they have a catch tray so that objects don’t end up on the floor. These are the kinds of things that we consider in our dispensers and product designs.
Invest in the proper tools
In the end, a small investment in the proper tools can save 30 seconds every time an employee “gowns up.” Imagine ten workers frocking and defrocking eight times a day, five days a week. That’s 200 minutes or 3.3 hours a week saved – in 30-second increments. That’s a lot of time, and the cost is easy to see. Equally valuable is the effect these changes can have on your employees. When your staff sees you willing to invest in their workspace – like trading out cardboard boxes for sleek dispensers – they feel like their concerns are recognized and valued.
Be observant and make sure you physically experience the workspace for yourself by “walking a mile” in your employee’s shoes. Go through the motions of completing the different tasks your workers perform. An excellent place to start is with the line supervisor, who often spends their days actually doing the work and seeing firsthand what goes right and where problems crop up. Their input can be more valuable than looking at a set of plans.
Cleanroom workers must remain focused. Every movement needs to be efficient and purposeful. Any unnecessary step is an inefficient use of their time and energy. Even worse, all those little aggravations can add up, affecting employees on an emotional level. The result? Poor morale, bad moods, and an overall feeling that “the company doesn’t care about me.”
The truth is, management should always be aware of what’s happening at ground level. It’s good business, not just because you need to make sure your employees are accomplishing their tasks, but because knowing what workers experience daily can help improve their work. And why is that important? As I said earlier, happy workers are more productive, and improved productivity helps your bottom line.
Improve the workflow
A better workspace can also save costs by eliminating fatigue and reducing injuries. Making the job easier also improves morale. That means you’ll have satisfied employees and lower turnover, which allows you to avoid the steep costs associated with hiring and training replacement staff. Cleanroom employees are skilled individuals that are expensive to replace and train. Because new equipment designed to help your employees do their jobs will save you money in the long run and even position your businesses to boost earnings thanks to improved productivity.
Employee comfort in the workplace is a serious business. Companies often hire a team of ergonomics experts just to make sure workstations are designed to minimize discomfort and injury. Uncomfortable employees don’t have to be “business as usual.” Let the team at Reytek create a solution that works for your workers and your facility. Contact us at 505-298-2338 or email us at firstname.lastname@example.org to speak to one of our experienced engineers. To view our standard cleanroom equipment, visit our products page.
Originally published: June 22, 2020 | Updated: August 2, 2022