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When banks come clean: Five steps to create workspaces that sparkle and inspire

Every day, banks compete for customers’ business and trust. But in the marketplace, options are limited; low interest rates and high investment returns alone can no longer woo discerning customers. If that’s so, then what will?

Consumers now hold financial institutions to lofty standards— including how they care for the planet and its people. Just this week, 200 CEOs led by Jamie Dimon of JPMorgan Chase agreed on a new definition for “the purpose of a corporation.” It borrows from the concept of “conscious capitalism,” which proposes that a company has a broader responsibility to society.

Creating ethical, livable working spaces for your employees demonstrates that you take this commitment seriously. According to the New York Times, human wellness has made its way into commercial construction and development in a major way, as architects and design professionals can attest. Certification programs such as the Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) and IWBI’ WELL Building Standard guide builders to construct office spaces with appreciable wellness benefits.

Those benefits extend well beyond the construction phase: various studies show that happy, healthy workers are more productive and treat customers better. Similarly, customers who experience pleasant first impressions tend to stick around. Innovative property design can benefit both groups.

Dirty finance, reconsidered

Imagine walking into a bank with a neglected physical work environment: dingy floors, dusty stations and unpleasant smells in the air. Even if all employees—from greeters to loan officers—act professionally, a sense of stress hangs heavy. Workers cannot effectively function in this type of environment. Could you?

Conversely, a 2018 study discovered that higher levels of workplace cleanliness not only translate to better employee productivity but also improve satisfaction. Unless banks want to deal with turnover—and the costs related to steadily rising worker health insurance premiums—they may want to improve both the hygienic and aesthetic aspects of their spaces.

Removing airborne contaminants such as dirt, volatile organic compounds, allergens and moisture is critical. One Harvard University study linked good indoor air quality with improved employee mental acuity. Carpets naturally help filter some airborne particles, but unless dry cleaned routinely, they’ll oversaturate and stop filtering. Daily vacuuming helps extend the time frame between more intensive sanitization sessions and eliminates odor in common areas.

Installing energy-efficient, high-powered HVAC systems can also fight filth. And sanitizing surfaces—textiles, countertops and floors—stops air-driven irritants from jeopardizing workers’ physical and mental health. Initiatives to improve your bank’s workplace environment present a low-risk way to generate positive outcomes—both internally and externally.

Five steps to workplace appeal

If you still think keeping clean belongs way on the bottom of the priority list after budgets, marketing plans and return on investment, ask yourself if you’ve overlooked how it can impact all three.

A survey by the U.S. Green Building Council revealed that having a LEED-certified sustainable building gives you a hiring advantage. In fact, 79 percent of job seekers would pick a LEED-certified workplace over a non-LEED alternative. And more than 80 percent of workers say LEED-certified buildings are more likely to help them excel.

Furthermore, offering your customers a comfortable, appealing place to fulfill their banking needs casts a better light on your overall brand. No one wants to be surrounded by bacteria or tracked-in debris when cashing a check or signing mortgage loan documents.

Fortunately, creating a clean, appealing space need not turn into a massive undertaking. Here are five steps in that direction:

  1. ‘Start with three.’ Three spaces deserve your immediate attention: restrooms, teller stations and glass surfaces. Obviously, a tidy, nice-smelling bathroom reflects well on your financial institution.

    Clean floors regularly using green cleaning products, which prevent the release of chemical odors. Empower your personnel on the bank floor to use sanitizing wipes between customers to minimize germs and dirt. Finally, clean windows and glass-paneled doors daily to foster worker pride and customer satisfaction.

  2. Address air concerns. According to the World Green Building Council, improved air quality can boost productivity up to 11 percent. Even as you maintain ductwork and add air filtration systems, identify other ways to clean “green.” Cracking open the windows occasionally can reduce stale air. Keep all carpeted and textile surfaces deep cleaned year-round to minimize the spread of viruses and discourage bad odors.
  3. Take advantage of natural light. Give employees and customers access to abundant sunlight rather than artificial lighting sources. One study found that employees see access to natural light and outdoor views as a major office “perk” and nearly half said they feel tired and gloomy from the absence of such things. Even skylights can provide an immediate boost without compromising safety, especially in secure bank areas.

  4. Create relaxation spots. When workers are relaxed, they’re calmer and more prepared to solve customer problems. Encourage relaxation by outfitting areas with features found in nature (e.g., running water, staff gardens and living walls). One study discovered a 15 percent uptick in feelings of wellness among people whose workspaces included natural elements.
  5. Prioritize proper office ergonomics. Invest in ergonomically focused, fatigue-reducing furnishings such as adjustable sit-stand desks and stools. Some banking employees spend copious amounts of time walking and standing. The more efficient, comfortable and safe their working areas, the better they can perform their duties.

Putting it all together: A tidy profit

Employees and customers alike now demand more sustainable, ethical and clean workplaces. Building your bank brand on a foundation of social and human responsibility earns trust and business, even if it’s not the most obvious way to get there as opposed to cross selling, slogans or product launches.

Bankers who apply the subtle and sublime logic of the strategies outlined above will enjoy  a cleanup time financially speaking. And for those who remain unconvinced, take a moment to put aside any snarky comments and skepticism. After all there’s no need, before you start, to throw in the towel.

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Stephen Lewis is the technical director at milliCare, a floor and textile cleaning company.