The warehouse industry is a big player in the American job market, yet the industry hasn’t been doing enough to engage and satisfy its employees. A survey carried out in 2014 found that warehouse employees were among the least engaged workers compared to the average employee.
That said, there are plenty of benefits to engaging warehouse employees. The more engaged employees are, the higher their productivity will be. When employees in a company are satisfied with their job, turnover and absenteeism become less of a problem.
Happy employees are more likely to focus on the job they are doing, lowering the probability of making mistakes that could harm themselves or those around them.
With this in mind, employers and warehouse managers should be thinking of ways to improve the working conditions in their warehouses. At the same time, they should strive for eco-friendly solutions that show environmental responsibility, reducing the carbon footprint and recurring expenses.
5 ways to improve warehouse working conditions
Here are some ways to make the warehouse a safer and more pleasant work environment.
#1 Improve employee comfort
Warehouse work is exhausting. Workers have to walk miles on their feet, and the temperature inside the warehouse can be scalding hot or freezing cold, depending on the season.
As a result, it is always a good idea to come up with different ways to make the workers’ experience more pleasant. For instance, providing workers with soft flooring can lessen their foot and ankle pains.
Similarly, employees can benefit from air conditioning being installed inside a warehouse. The Society of Human Resource Management released the results of a survey conducted in 2009, which found that more than one out of every five workers has a hard time concentrating on the job when the workplace is either too hot or too cold.
As for the right temperature, Cornell University carried out a one-month study to find that the optimal temperature for employees to work at is 77 degrees Fahrenheit. On the other hand, the U.S. Occupational Safety and Health Administration, or OSHA for short, recommends that warehouses maintain their temperature between 68 to 76 degrees Fahrenheit and to keep the humidity in the 20 to 60 percent range.
#2 Provide refreshments
Warehouse workers are liable to get exhausted from all the physical effort they have to exert. Providing them with a rest area can go a long way.
They should have access to a kitchen, and there should be tables spread around warehouses with refreshments on it. In large warehouses, workers may not have the time to walk to a distant water fountain. However, if refreshments will be served, they should be offered in paper cups instead of plastic bottles.
#3 Make the workspace safer
When employees see that upper management is investing money in increasing warehouse safety, employees feel cared for.
Here are a few ideas to make the workplace safer:
- It all has to start with basic safety training where employees learn safe logistics operations and the proper protocol in case of an accident. Every employee should know and follow basic safety procedures.
- To supplement the training, warehouse operators should continuously strive to create a culture of safety. This means forming safety committees, encouraging managers to lead by example, and letting all employees know that safety is their responsibility.
- Workers should always use the proper equipment for the job. They should keep their personal protective equipment on at all times while inside the warehouse, and when trying to lift something heavy, they should use forklifts or dollies.
- Emergency exits in the warehouse should be clearly marked. The sprinklers should be regularly maintained to stay in pristine working order and never blocked.
- Warehouses need to be well-lit; otherwise, poor lighting can cause accidents, eye strain, and lower concentration, all of which harm productivity.
- Seeing as warehouses contain both pedestrians and heavy machinery, such as forklifts and other vehicles, warehouse operators should work hard to prevent collisions. One way to do this is to implement clear, safe routes for pedestrians and to demarcate traffic lanes with floor tape. This is a simple, versatile solution that works even if the warehouse layout changes in the future. You can remove the tape and lay it out following the new layout.
#4 Use electric equipment
As mentioned earlier, warehouses tend to contain several vehicles and heavy machinery. This equipment could either run on fossil fuels or electricity.
However, given that electricity causes less pollution, it presents itself as a greener solution. It is also safer as diesel-fueled vehicles emit cancerous particulate matter that can be devastating to people nearby.
To help charge the vehicles, operators can install solar panels on the roof of the warehouse. Alternatively, operators may choose to go with a renewable energy supplier to lower their warehouse’s carbon footprint.
#5 Implement new technologies
With Industry 4.0 at our doorstep, numerous pieces of technology can improve warehouse work conditions. For instance, AI and robotics can help automate many processes that happen in a warehouse, saving workers from performing dangerous activities and increasing the overall productivity of the warehouse.
Using wearables, operators can assist workers in their day-to-day activities while keeping them safe. For example, exoskeletons can help workers with heavy lifting as well as lower the chances of developing musculoskeletal disorders.
Wearables can also help with location tracking, which can prove instrumental in creating a safer workspace. They can alert the management of overheating or exposure to toxic materials.
And, should any employee come too close to a dangerous piece of equipment, the warehouse manager and the employee themselves could be alerted of the danger they are putting themselves in.
There are several other ideas warehouse operators can explore. Virtual assistants like Siri and Alexa could prove helpful to workers for managing inventory that can be run on a cloud provider instead of pen-and-paper.
AR and VR technology can be used to train workers without actually exposing them to anything dangerous. IoT can be used to monitor employees and make sure that they are following the correct safety procedures.
Putting it all together
There are many ways to improve working conditions in warehouses; some ideas involve using cutting-edge technology, whereas other ideas require providing workers with basic amenities.
Regardless of the solutions implemented, what matters the most is treating workers with empathy and care, which includes listening to their concerns and putting oneself in their shoes.
Joe Peters is a Baltimore-based freelance writer and an ultimate techie. When he is not working his magic as a marketing consultant, this incurable tech junkie devours the news on the latest gadgets and binge-watches his favorite TV shows. Follow him on @bmorepeters