ROBERT BIELSKY, founder of Manhattan Commercial Realty, offers 10 ways to make an office more inviting.
The modern office need not be a place of drudgery and boredom. Gone are the days of endless rows of cubicles, industrial carpeting and painful lighting. We can use the space around us to influence our mood, productivity and workflow. It’s not necessary to create over-the-top, Google-esque spaces (where employees enjoy slides, bicycles and free food), but a few small changes can go a long way in making an office more comfortable for employees, guests, and clients.
If your budget is tight, some of these can definitely be a challenge, but even if you can only manage a few, you’ll see the difference right away. Environment does impact work productivity and the impression that customers get when visiting a space.
1. Make your conference rooms more engaging
White boards, chalk boards and touchscreen monitors can turn a dull meeting into a hands-on experience. Some ideas are explained more easily with visuals and ready-to-go presentation tools help groups get more done. You won’t have to schedule another meeting just to present your ideas; just stand up and jot it down. You’ll be able to convey meanings more freely, and identify and solve problems quickly.
2. Accent colours can brighten up small spaces
Colour is very important to us. It influences our feelings and behaviour. A splash of color on walls and office accessories like stools, ottomans or lamp shades can nicely complement your workplace’s culture and ambiance. Rooms will look brighter and larger, and you can use clever colour schemes to direct employees/coworkers’ moods. Add yellow to inspire creativity and vibrancy, or blue to instill relaxation and tranquility.
3. Make sure your employees have all the supplies they need
There’s nothing worse than fighting just to do your job. Office furniture and supplies are business expenses, and it’s up to the business to provide them. If your employees are forced to bring their own pens, staplers, notebooks and printer paper, chances are they’re secretly looking for new jobs. It shouldn’t cost anything to go to work.
Maintain a well-stocked cabinet of supplies. Track what goes in and out so you know your generosity isn’t being abused, but don’t stress over every pen that goes missing. Even non-business items like hand sanitiser, lotion or spare phone chargers can go a long way in making your employees enjoy their work environment. It also helps to have these amenities if you entertain clients.
4. Give out candy or other freebies
There’s no denying that people love free stuff – especially free food. Offer something of value to coworkers, clients or passers-by, even if it’s something as trivial as a little treat, free pen or sticker. People like to feel like they’re getting the better deal. If you’re creating an inviting workspace in order to capture potential sales leads, inspire your employees to do better, or just portray your brand positively, it’s always easier to win someone over after you’ve done them a favour.
If you’re the boss, buy your staff lunch every once in a while. It doesn’t have to be more than a few times a year, and you can time it after a particularly successful event – maybe a great sales month or the completion of a project. Telling your staff you appreciate them is one thing, but showing them is better.
5. Build a community decoration project
It may sound cheesy, but quirky projects and games do bring people together. Find some space on your wall and by using a white board or sheets of poster-board, encourage your staff or coworkers to contribute to its decoration. Add inspirational quotes, words of encouragement, deadlines to build motivation (“13 days to deploy!”), or photos of each other.
It doesn’t have to be serious or complicated; just fun. The idea is to get people who ordinarily wouldn’t work together to build something. Everyone should add to and edit the decoration whenever they see fit so capture the office’s changing nature.
6. Promote recycling and green living
Everyone needs to pitch in when it comes to our environment. That’s especially true for our work spaces, where we confine ourselves for a third of the day, all week. Litter and clutter can create distractions and make people value the workplace less. Leave plenty of opportunities for your staff to discard refuse and recyclable materials properly. Have your space cleaned with eco-friendly cleaning products so no one is irritated by harsh chemicals. If you give your employees the tools to treat their office space like their home, they will.
7. Create a clean space; only what you need
Our brains pick up on the clutter that’s around us. Untidy rooms and desks can be distracting, even if the mess is work-related. If it doesn’t require your immediate attention, put it away in a drawer or filing cabinet, or on the floor so it’s out of your sight. Your workspace should contain only the task you’ve decided to work on right now. Use in/out trays to sort your paperwork by relevance and urgency. Use to-do lists to simplify your priorities. This is often very difficult for people, especially those whose job requires them to constantly switch tasks and juggle multiple things, but it can be done.
8. Make your space comfortable
Ergonomic environments have become increasingly popular. As our culture changes and more people spend entire days at their computer, it’s ever-more important to protect your body by supporting it properly. Purchase or arrange office furniture so it’s ergonomically friendly.
Make sure your feet are always placed solidly on the floor. Keep proper posture with your head up and back straight. Your chair arms should be level with your keyword and your wrists should be straight so they float about the keyboard. Most importantly, adjust your monitor settings so it’s clear without glare, and be sure to adjust font sizes so you can read them without struggling.
9. Personalise your workspace
Work isn’t everything, so it’s alright to allow a bit of our personal lives bleed into our work environment, as long as it doesn’t become too much. Pictures of family members or loved ones can spur motivation and remind us why we’re working in the first place. Since we’re more comfortable in visually appealing spaces, it’s important to avoid spending 8 hours per day in large, sanitary-white rooms. Plants, candles, flowers and small tokens are popular among office workers.
10. Promote distraction-free time blocks
We waste a lot of time throughout the day switching tasks. Answering a caller’s question may only take a moment, but you also have to consider the time it takes your brain to adjust to the new topic, and then remember your place when the call is over. This is compounded if your interruptions require you to go find more information like a file from a cabinet or an old email.
Create spaces in your office designated for no-disturbances, where employees can go to avoid their phone, email or interruptions by other employees. Encourage them to use these spaces for a determined amount of time every day.