Smarter work design
I’ve been working for a family-owned company for about nine years. I started working in the warehouse then went on to manage the showroom. Now I manage all teams across the warehouse.
During the summer the heat in the warehouse was so intense the sweat would just pour off you. Deadlines were unrealistic, shifts were long and the environment was dark.
To be frank, the manager at the time wasn’t focussed on health and safety. Getting the stuff out the door was all he cared about. There were five of us in that team and we were all pretty over it by the end. Absenteeism was high because none of us wanted to be there. The manager’s solution was to get annoyed and tell us to toughen up and get with the program.
Eventually three of the team quit all within two weeks of each other. The boss (who was also the owner) came down to ask the two of us that were left what was going on. He was sweating and uncomfortable after ten minutes. We walked him around the warehouse pointing out the poor lighting, lack of air-conditioning, the filthy fridge for us to store our food in and substandard racking.
We’d never had this discussion before. The boss seemed shocked. But after that things started to change. Our manager was moved on and they brought in tradies to install air-conditioning and better lighting. The break room was freshly painted and the fridge upgraded. The racking was brought up to standard and the boss made a point of dropping in every month or so. This gave me and my colleague that stayed, as well as the three new team members, the opportunity to suggest further changes to how we worked.
Over the next eighteen months more changes were introduced. The work was broken up into shorter shifts and job rotations offered. I even took up the offer to do a first aid course which broadened my responsibilities in the company.
The fact that the boss opened a channel of conversation changed the experience of work. I’m not saying that the warehouse is a paradise, but it’s a much more pleasant and safe environment. What’s more we feel heard.