Open plan and dog-friendly? Or cubicle-centric and closed off? Whatever your office layout, there’s a high chance that it’s still an uncomfortable place for some people.
Try as you might, it’s impossible to please everyone and, unfortunately, that’s the nature of the beast when it comes to housing a diverse workforce together in one place, hoping that they will agree on everything from air conditioning to music choices.
Regardless of the kind of office you have, there are probably a few things you could be doing to make your workplace a little more hospitable and a little less hostile. Here are some creative, and effective, ways to make your office environment more comfortable to ensure those hours spent at work are as bearable as possible.
Quiet, collaborative space
While working in an entirely silent area can be quite distracting for some people, for others, having an open plan, bustling office can quickly divert attention away from the task at hand.
If your office has an open floor plan, then consider investing in some in some quiet individual spaces for those employees who need a little more Zen to get the job done. This doesn’t have to be a huge cost – quiet spaces can come in the form of pods, cubicles or smaller offices, cut off from the larger area, where calls and meetings are forbidden.
For a more traditional layout, where colleagues are separated by partitions, it can be a good idea to intersperse couches and casual meeting spaces around the office to encourage more collaboration and interaction between teams.
No tech zone
Unplug. Put down the phone, close the laptop and disconnect from the Wi-Fi. Take a leaf out of Twitter’s book and allocate spaces within your office promoting the “meet and greet” over “meet and tweet”.
According to recent research, the average adult spends approximately eight hours and 41 minutes per day on media devices. Allocating tech-free zones acknowledges that your employees spend a substantial amount of time staring at a screen checking emails, social media channels and browsing the internet and not enough time making real connections with colleagues.
By becoming an advocate of unplugging, your business will allow your employees to take some time away from their devices without feeling guilty and stimulate conversation and real-time interaction.
Chill out areas
While chill out areas might sound like something that is more suited to Silicon Valley than Sandyford, they are becoming increasingly popular in many Irish workplaces. Providing your employees with an area to get some respite is a tried and tested technique with a lot of modern companies and the guys down at Silicon Docks (the name given to the area Grand Canal Dock where companies like Google, Stripe and Facebook have set up home) are fully supportive. While the Facebook offices come complete with an ice cream vendor and deck chairs on the roof terrace, Google provides its employees with a music room to jam out in between meetings.
If your company doesn’t quite fit the start-up mould, you can still recreate chill out zones by adding a few beanbags to a corner of the office, sectioning off an area with some comfortable armchairs or purchasing seating for an outdoor area so employees can grab fresh air in comfort.
Fruit and snacks
A simple addition to the office, like fruit and snacks, can be a huge morale booster, and it doesn’t have to break the bank.
Order your fruit via the online shopping option of any major supermarket and you could be feeding 30-40 people for less than €25 a week. Opting for supermarket produce over pricey fruit basket companies allows your money goes a little further. Snacks, like popcorn and mixed nuts, can be ordered in bulk from websites like Amazon to keep costs down and happiness levels high.
Most offices that provide these types of perks operate a policy of two pieces of fruit or snacks per person, per week, and once it’s gone, it’s gone. While this might instigate a particularly ferocious case of hoarding in the first few weeks, the stockpiling should calm down once people start to realise that it will be replenished on a regular basis.
We’re not talking about renovating the place every 12 months. However, it is worthwhile to conduct a quarterly or bi-annual facilities survey to incorporate employee suggestions or take changing needs into account.
Needs and requirements grow with your business and what worked for you three months ago, may no longer be sufficient. By conducting a company-wide survey, you can discover employee bugbears and aim to tackle the top three issues each quarter.
Subtle changes as your business expands, like more whiteboards, screens to track sales numbers or live feeds, or noise-reducing headphones to allow some employees the quiet time they need to do their best work, are examples of small modifications that can have a significant impact.
Article by Niamh Linehan. Images from Shutterstock.