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Corporate Social Responsibility

CSR in another dimension: corporate social responsibility towards employees

By Adam Targowski, sustainability manager at Skanska Commercial Development
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Corporate Social Responsibility, which, according to the PN-ISO 26000 STANDARD, means: "The organisation's responsibility for the impact of its own decisions and actions on society and the environment through transparent and ethical behaviour".

This definition also means business activities affecting the environment in an ethical, social or ecological dimension should be carried out with the employees and their needs in mind. As emphasised by employees, activities based on corporate social responsibility towards them translate directly into an increase in their efficiency, productivity, and motivation, whilst also affecting the degree of integration in the work environment or the level of results achieved by the company.

Achieving mutual benefits resulting from CSR activities towards employees must first be preceded by actions taken by the employer. They can be based on policy of equality, flexible forms of employment, development in company structures or conditions in the work environment.

The latter is broadly associated with the design and development of space suited to human needs, and hence the WELL certificate that places the health and well-being of the employee in the centre of attention together with the concept of placemaking. In Poland we may observe a trend according to which more and more entrepreneurs and companies choose comfortable places for their employees in accordance with the standards of certificates such as WELL, which evaluates the seven main criteria of a healthy office – including air, water, light, physical condition, comfort and mind.

Offices certified in quality systems represent a much better space for employees. They often have higher standards than those required by law (such as those regarding air quality), which improve the comfort of work every day. An example of a healthy office is the Skanska headquarters in the Spark C office building in Warsaw. This is where solutions such as the use of finishing materials with low emission of harmful substances or specially filtered air which have a significant impact on the well-being of employees have been used. Access to drinking water is also important. Employers should facilitate the consumption of tap water in the workplace by, for example, providing distributors with water, or installing drinking points for people and animals around the office buildings.

Thermal and light aspects are also important elements of a healthy and comfortable office. Employers are increasingly choosing office buildings which provide the possibility of individual control of temperature and light in the rooms. Currently, many office buildings, such as, for example, Spark C, use a lighting system that adapts to the level of outdoor sun exposure, time of day or the type of activity performed by the employee. An important aspect is also the access to views outside and the possibility of looking into the distance, which according to research helps to focus again on work and improves the well-being of the employees.

Concern for the employee is manifested by creating and providing a healthy and comfortable workplace, consistent with the idea of activity-based working. Employees can find the perfect place to work, tailored according to their needs. In the Spark C office building, the space was designed in such a way so as to include large and small conference rooms (depending on the type of meeting) with multimedia access, quiet and specially silenced phone booths (which increase the acoustic comfort), creative zones or green amphitheatre which serves as a meeting place and space for afternoon cross-fit exercises. In addition, interiors of work space are filled with elements of art such as graphics, murals and flowers – all to provide employees with a friendly workplace.

It’s also worth considering CSR activities towards employees and visitors to the space in and around the workplace in the context of placemaking. Employers pay increasing attention to whether the given space and the area around it were planned in cooperation with local organisations aimed at designing a friendly, green and open urban space for everyone, which is also conducive to a moment of relaxation during the working day and socialising. The space around the Spark C office building in Warsaw arose after the ‘Na Miejscu’, ‘Project for Public Spaces’ and ‘Integracja’ foundations, which focus on planning friendly and accessible urban space, were engaged in the design process. Through the joint efforts, the office building meets the requirements of the barrier-free facility certificate, while around it arose an amphitheatre, which can be used by all visitors, a green linear park, and convenient passages (without architectural barriers) for residents. Such examples of activities related to placemaking are essential for the comfort of people moving and working on a daily basis, inside and outside the office.

The topic of CSR towards employees is considered as increasingly important for employers. Growing numbers of initiatives taken towards employees are more and more visible, and the employees' awareness of this topic is higher every year. Despite the positive trend, however, it is worth working towards disseminating knowledge on this subject and stressing that CSR assumptions towards employees are an inseparable element of job satisfaction, better results at work and the success of enterprises. It is worth bearing in mind that a properly appreciated and healthy employee is a happy and effective employee.

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