Creating great office environments is key to any organisation. A work environment directly impacts people’s mood, concentration, focus and performance. If employees work in a poor office setting they won’t feel motivated or energised. That’s why creating a productive work environment is critical to the overall success of your company.
Studies have proven that people perform much better in the right working environment. There are two key factors to success, providing the right work environment and removing those employees whose behaviour is negatively disruptive. This article addresses the former point, the physical work environment. After much study in preparation for the opening of our new office in Nottingham; which was designed by the employees not architects; we thought we’d create this checklist for success.
Give Everyone a Say
Invite your employees to have a say in the new design, when invited they will share what they would like and what they feel they need from their workspace. Create an employee group to represent the entire workforce. Create a Pinterest board for employees to share images. Make it fun, create a voting system for the submitted ideas, see which ones are most popular and remember, it’s not about you, it’s about them.
To support collaboration, mentoring, problem solving, routine communication and information sharing you need to create more open spaces in the office, from workspaces with no or low panels making it easier to communicate to breakout areas for quick meetings of minds. It is also important to consider what happens when someone in a large open office environment needs to concentrate on a big project or lead a conference call. Open spaces only work when employees have access to areas where they can focus on a specific task. One solution is “hoteling,” offices that can be reserved or used at will when needed. These offices can be small, but should be highly functional. They should be equipped with good lighting, phone systems and technology necessary to complete critical tasks.
In open environments, people still need some peace and quiet. Invest in good quality headphones that will block out the background noise.
The Quiet Room
Occasionally people need a private space in work, somewhere to make a phone call in private or a quiet place to pray. Create a quiet room with comfortable flooring for people when praying, a recliner chair when someone needs power nap and make sure to sound proof the room for private conversations.
Catering for the personal needs of your employees is essential. To support health and well being, provide shower facilities for employees who use travelling to work or lunch breaks to get that exercise in.
Toilet facilities need to be thought about too! It’s easy to overlook the simple things we take for granted at home, such as mirrors with good lighting and storage for personal hygiene products. For added touches, provide hand cream for the staff – for both men and women!
Humans need to be fuelled and watered. Provide a well-equipped kitchen that enables everyone to cater for their own dietary requirements such a large fridge for those who bring their own food into work and a microwave. For extra touches, provide a range of coffees and teas (don’t forget the decaf), milk and filtered water. If you want to promote healthy diet, provide fresh fruit too. To ensure comfort for all your employees, do promote a keep-it-clean ethos, if you use it, clean it.
Employees should never have to eat their lunch at their desk, apart from the fact that doing so is pretty unhygienic, people are more productive with proper breaks away from their workspace; so providing relaxing rest areas where employees can eat it essential.
Bring the Outside In
Plants are a great way to add fresh colour into the workplace. They also link humans to the world outside of the office. Two tips to share – choose real over fake every time, fake plants can look cheap, they don’t have the same impact on people’s mood. Also, have a plan in place to maintain the plants, wilting or dying plants will have a negative impact on people’s mood.
Colour it Bright
When choosing your colour scheme, it really doesn’t have to reflect your corporate branding. You won’t impress prospects because your office is branded in your corporate colours, however, you will impress them if you’ve created an amazing space for your employees.
Avoid dark or dull colours, battleship grey is not going to inspire creativity, innovation and productivity. Be bold, go with different colours in different areas of the office to create multiple mood spaces. Match the colours to the purpose of the area. For example, for rest areas, think calm blue skies, green grass floors, a space for relaxation. For creative areas think about bright colours and patterns. When thinking about meeting rooms and the boardroom try bright but neutral colours to promote clear thinking.
Lighting plays a vital role in employees’ performance and attitude. Exposure to natural light improves mood and energy, greatly impacting focus and productivity.
If it’s not possible to incorporate natural lighting through windows, there are other options. Blue-enriched light bulbs reduce fatigue and increase happiness and work performance. Use this type of lighting in creative work areas such as design labs and scrum rooms. In both meeting and break rooms, use warmer tones to promote calmness and relaxation. In conference rooms, use middle tones that welcome employees while keeping them focused.
Also, don’t forget to provide good ventilation, and a quality heating-and-cooling system.
The Most Important Spend
As employees spend a considerable amount of time sitting, the one purchase not to scrimp on is multi-adjustable chairs. This investment will support their health and comfort at work.
Provide a budget for employees to purchase items for the office such as exercise balls and photo frames. A great induction experience for a new employee is to enable them to choose how to personalise their space. Don’t issue the same things to everyone, enable them to choose for themselves.
Trust your employees to manage their own time, they know what they need to deliver and by when. Provide different spaces for them to take breaks, play games, take a brain break and recharge as and when they need to.
Give your employees the flexibility to choose to work where they feel most comfortable. Let them choice of whether to sit or stand at their desks. People who feel their work furniture is “bad” are three times more likely to consider their environment as less productive, and two times more likely to find it “depressing.”
It’s hard to put a tidy workspace high on your priority list. Who knows that better than the employees who work in a disorganised or cluttered office? Their productivity and motivation can suffer when people don’t know where important information and supplies can be found. Ensure that, office supplies, workstations, meeting rooms, kitchens and bathrooms are always de-cluttered, clean and tidy.
Focus on Utility
When the basics of a functional office work flawlessly, and when complaints regarding technology and equipment malfunctions are answered and remedied quickly, it goes a long way to making employees satisfied with their surroundings. But you’ll want to go several steps further. Companies should take advantage of the research and give thought to furniture design and how it fits the needs of employees. The space should be wired to support WiFi to maximise the space’s flexibility. But don’t let utility override personality. Remember, your employees spend more time at work than almost anywhere else, so it should be a comfortable and inspiring environment, with wall colours and art that support your company’s image and culture.
Make the Office Optional
Flexible working is on the rise. We are all time-poor and work-life balance is essential to a healthy, highly productive workforce. To attract and retain the best talent, you need to be flexible. Trust your employees to figure out when they need to be in the office and when to work from home. Enable them to set their own start and finish times to suit their personal circumstances. Create a work environment that helps people manage their lives better.