Description of the organization and its needs for developing and implementing a new workplace wellbeing program
HiTech Telecom Pty., Ltd is a company that offers internet-based telephony services to service providers, resellers, and businesses. The firm offers a range of next-generation network-based usage applications for VOIP, mobile and PSTN networks. Other services include billing, session initiated protocol, and phone cards among other services within that range.
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In the past six months, the management has been exploring the effect of workstation designs and the tools used at work – on the performance registered by the company, as well as the overall wellbeing of the employees at the center. The employees at the center were required to spend their entire day at their workstations, as well as meet the high workload targets set by the management. These employees were also not in a position to alter these work designs, patterns, and the conditions of work.
Unfortunately, these job characteristics placed them at the risk of different health problems and conditions, which often limit their performance levels. These work design challenges were realized through the continually dropping work performance – as their health and comfort conditions had a direct effect on customer retention, satisfaction, and the profits realized by the center (Csikszentmihalyi & Hunter 2003).
Due to this direct effect of the work design on the success of the center, the management set out to alter the workstation design, so as to alter customer service relations (CSR), performance, and also realize maximum space utilization. However, it should be noted that workplace wellbeing is highly grounded on the concepts of wellbeing, which include self-efficacy and psychological wellbeing.
These concepts, arguably, draw from the increased levels of satisfaction resulting from increased job satisfaction and the possible decrease in the incidence of physical and visual complications. This is in line with the ideas of Johnson and Johnson (Robertson & Cooper 2011, p. 131), who argues that facilitating wellness and wellbeing among workers increases work performance, as it fosters their general success levels and their potential to offer their maximum abilities.
Image showing the general outlay of the Work station, before any changes were implemented
Among the primary roles of the company’s call center, which was divided into two (for research purposes), included taking merchandise orders and processing the details using the computer. The workstations at both divisions of the center occupied a 48 square foot design, characteristic with panel-based station furniture. However, at one of the divisions, – the workstation was 84” panel height while the other was 62” – the goal for the higher panel height alteration was to offer higher CSR privacy (Staw, Sutton, & Pelled 1994).
Data was collected from the different groups (divisions) using questionnaires, reaching the total of 385 workers from both divisions. 89% were female, working an average of 24 hours every week. The information collected to reflect the areas in need of a workplace wellbeing implementation included: work tools and workstation adjustability, station support for different routine tasks, and the ambience at the station – regarding acoustics, lighting and air quality.
The survey also gathered self-reported findings on psychological stress, job satisfaction and performance, visual and physical discomfort. The results from the findings showed that the elevated work station panels were associated to problems of visual and physical discomfort (Minehan 1997; Greenlaw & Kohl 1986).
From these findings, the results were presented to the human resource management (HRM) department, who were to evaluate the impact of altering the challenging workstation design at a cost or maintaining the uncomfortable working conditions, which would continue to affect the overall job satisfaction of workers as well as the customer satisfaction levels realized.
The reason as to why the findings were reported to the HRM arm of the management was because they are responsible for planning, managing, career, training, and the development of the human resources at the call center. The focus of their responsibility is maximizing productivity through maximizing the effectiveness of the human resources available, while positively affecting the work life of the employees and their general welfare.
Therefore, the central responsibilities in the area of maintaining employee satisfaction, including planning for the intervention, implementing the interventional changes and evaluating the success of the intervention (Minehan 1997). According to Herman Miller Inc (2006) in an article entitled “new directions in call center design: demanding challenges for a complex workplace,” today’s call centers have taken the position of sophisticated, high-tech centers of support, service and sales.
The same centers are earning respect as corporate centerpieces as opposed to backroom support, as recognition over their vital role at the workplace – both remote and distant – as a source of bottom line influence on organizational success. The call center is becoming an increasingly important asset to the business world, thus an increasing need to alter its look and the satisfaction levels of the employees operating from such centers – as this is found to contribute to increased customer satisfaction.
The centrality of the role of the call center is also increasing continually, as their application areas are increasing; it is becoming the primary determinant of corporate image, and the tapping area for vital and strategic data. Due to this central importance, there is increasing need to keep the agents at these centers, comfortable and content; the institution should take responsibility over design and furnishing towards increasing satisfaction levels; and the workstation design should reflect the expected results (Tausig & Fenwick 2001).
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Description of the workplace wellbeing program
HiTech Telecom, based on the reported facts, ventured to increase the productivity and the efficiency of all call center employees – through creating an organizational culture that fosters, supports, values, and improves the wellbeing and the health of employees. The program guidelines are based on the “get moving at work kit,” which is directed by the best existing evidence towards implementing the most effective wellbeing and workplace program. These guidelines will also aid in the refinement of the programs as the implementation continues.
Guidelines – the implementation cycle for the health and wellbeing program
First, the approval of management will be sought, during the first week (August 1-7). Next, the expectations and the details of the aims of the program will be discussed with the management. The second stage will encompass capturing the commitment of the management (both HRM and the overall management).
The management, especially the senior management should be briefed on the scope and nature of the wellbeing program – especially regarding the benefits, the need for resource necessities and a coordinator. Here, the findings on the visual and physical difficulties exposed from the study will be offered (Brendan 2000, p. 29).
The second step is establishing a coordination mechanism, which will involve establishing a workplace committee, in this case, the coordinator and a team of three assistant staffs. Of the three assistants, one will be from the senior management, one from junior management (communication manager) and the third from the employee group. Emphasis will be placed on the communication of the aims of the program, the role of the team, the responsibilities of the employees and the administration.
For instance, financial roles will lie with the senior management, communication will lie with the junior management and human resources will be overseen by the team leader. The activities within the second step will be carried out during the fourth week (August 22-28). The third step, which will be carried out during the fifth week (August 29-Sep 4), will be conducting a needs assessment, where priorities will be discussed (needs and issues) and explored through a needs assessment.
For example, the use of HVAC systems used should be able to serve both high and lower panel stations. Different methods of data collection on needs assessment will be used, namely from work register profiles and analysis of the workplace.
Needs assessment will be done from exploring the views of different internal stakeholders, including employees, junior and senior management; external stakeholders like health professionals regarding the changes that are necessary and priorities at the work stations (Brendan 2000, p. 29). From the assessment of workplace needs, the center will cultivate workplace resilience and flow needs, which can be used to address areas of performance shortages (Robertson & Cooper 2011, p. 157).
The needs identified include
- Balancing the HVAC systems to optimize air quality, especially for panel heights higher than 64”
- Offer adjustable task lighting, setting and tools
- Increase interior workstation space
The fourth step will be the creation of an action plan, and will be carried out during the sixth week (Sep 5-11). It will revolve around the founding of a clear direction for the intervention based on the needs assessment. Here, goals and objectives will be determined – reflecting priority issues as determined from the needs assessment.
The goals and the objectives should be reflective of the overall aim, for instance that employees should be able to control the workstation: for instance chairs, keyboard trays, and files storage racks easily. Next will be the identification of strategies to address the objectives and the goals of the intervention. For example, in the area of the HVAC used, there should be a change of the HVAC tools used (Brendan 2000, p. 29).
The objectives of the program
- Optimizing air flow, thus realize the reduction of visual and health problems
- Improve the adjustable nature of the employees work stations – which offers more comfort options to them during work
- Improve the space available at the work station – as this improves of the job and the work process
The fifth step will be the implementation of the action plan, and will take place during the seventh and eighth week (Sep 12-25). Here the strategies for the realization of the priorities will be carried out. For example, the team leader will be responsible for overseeing the installation of new HVAC systems, which are the priority in addressing the workstation design needs. There is also the promotion of the strategies, monitoring and evaluation, where the improvement resulting from the intervention will be evaluated (Brendan 2000, p. 29).
Justification of the program
At the call center, like the case is at other Australian institutions, there has been a great concern over the costs of healthcare costs. For example, the total health costs incurred in Australia in year 2004-05 stood at USD 81 billion – which was approximately 9.0% of the country’s GDP.
Further, the costs incurred – in terms of lost productivity across the Australian economy – as a direct result of illnesses and the resultant absenteeism was USD 34.8 billion per year (Australian Institute of Health and Welfare 2007; Vos et al. 2007). From the previous study, it was clear that a major part of the workforce at the call center, especially those at the 84” panel height, were experienced health problems. From the implementation of the particular program, the call center will realize a reduction in the healthcare costs incurred.
For instance, those incurred due to the workers suffering from physical and visual problems and conditions. From implementing the intervention, the center will also increase employee morale, which will lead to increased performance – thus better customer satisfaction and retention.
These improvements and the changes will lead to a drastic reduction in the overall costs involved in the running of the center; therefore increase the levels of profitability. Due to the increase in the service-hours offered and the increased morale and motivation, the productivity of the call center will increase.
Other benefits to be drawn from the implementation of the program include increased company loyalty among workers, increased responsibility, a decrease in health insurance expenses, and increased teamwork performance – which directly affect the success of the center and the overall productivity of the workforce.
The program was tailored to meet the needs of the center, as the reduction of the visual and physical problems, increased adjustability of the workstation and the creation of more space at the work stations will increase performance levels, which will affect all the other mentioned areas – including the reduction in the health costs incurred.
From the case of the call center, it is clear that the benefits to be drawn from the realization of implementing positive psychology concepts like emotional intelligence will sustain continued realization of the benefits of the program.
This is comparable to the case of the higher institution, which sought to engage the right staff and the entire population regarding the outcomes and the goals expected (Robertson & Cooper 2011, p. 159; HSE 2003). This is mainly grounded on the concept of coherence, where continued lucidity will create continued use of the wellbeing intervention model in the long term.
This program is tailored to meet the needs of the call center, as it has placed its focus on the comfort, satisfaction and the favorability of the employees; the workstation, as this is the center of the business of the call center.
For instance developing a program to improve the housing at the care center may not have any impact on the performance of the center, as opposed to the current case, whose focus is placed on improving the comfort and the satisfaction of the employees, who are the direct links of the center – its customers and the customer population.
From the previous study, the division of the center – composed of the workers operating under well aerated by the current HVAC systems registered visual and physical problems at an incidence rate of half to those at the 84” panel height, which were identified as related to reduced ventilation and visual exposure.
The objectives of this study are supported by the findings of a study by Herman Miller Inc (2006, p. 3), who pointed out that flexible working conditions increased customer service time by 37% among financial services workers, as opposed to those under restrictive, extremely controlled conditions (Department of Health 2004).
Evaluation plan for the program
Monitoring and the evaluation of the program will seek to ascertain the ongoing progress of the program – checking that the objectives, goals and strategies within the program are realized. The evaluation of the success of the program will take place throughout the action plan. The findings drawn from the evaluation will be presented to the different levels of leadership and staff. The evaluation process will check how the strategies of the program have been planned and implemented.
For instance, the evaluation team – which will comprise of the four team members form the different departments will inspect the balancing and installation of new HVAC systems, which will involve the placement of vents at areas that optimize air quality, especially for the panel height workstations beyond 64” (EMPHO 2011, p. 30-33; Kreis and Bödeker 2004).
The measurement tools used for the evaluation will include questionnaires, direct observation, and interviews. The questionnaires will offer basic information on the main issues and the changes caused by the intervention. Towards ensuring validity, the questionnaires will pose questions that can be answered by the employees. The wording will be simple, and the questions will be specific and concise, as this will increase the comprehension of the questions, thus the validity of the data gathered.
The anonymity and privacy of employees will be guaranteed, thus there will not be any fear for identification – in the case of those who may offer engaging responses. The flow of questions will start with easier to more difficult ones, especially the more sensitive issues. Spaces will be left for the informant’s comments, where they may feel that their answer has not been fully communicated. The second tool of measurement is direct observation.
The observers to register the progress and the success of the intervention will be outsourced, as this will help reduce the cases of offering biased results or feedback. The comments offered from the observation should be short and clear to the point, the observers comprised of a team of three nationally recognized evaluators of such programs, and the evaluators were first educated on what to check.
These are aimed at increasing the validity of the data captured. Areas of observation include the time of talk with customers, the quality of relationship or personal commitment offered to such customers and the overall level of satisfaction maintained (EMPHO 2011, pp. 30-33).
The evaluation process will start at the onset of the implementation process, particularly during the seventh and eighth week (Sep 12-25). Questionnaires will be administered after every three days after the start of the implementation. Particularly, they will be administered twice each week.
Direct observation will be ongoing, and the evaluators will make the observation without knowledge of the workers, as such knowledge may lead to a show of prejudiced satisfaction from the employees. The interviews will be administered at the end of the week, particularly on Fridays, when all workers are available, as some take off days on Saturdays and Sundays respectively.
After the two first weeks of implementation, the data collected will be compiled, then the process will be continued for a provisional period of five months – after the implementation, compiling the data and communicating it to the workers and the management at the start of the succeeding week on Mondays (EMPHO 2011, pp. 30-33; Boardman et al. 2003).
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