Welcome to my second blog post about the creation of an engaging workplace in a growing company. Today, I will be focusing on simple and affordable tips and tricks on how to make your office a pleasant and productive environment for your employees.
Why is this important? Providing an attractive workplace is key for employees’ health and wellbeing. Studies have shown that a well-maintained office “(..) improves employee satisfaction, and increases productivity” (The Productivity Report). We all spend so much time at work, so you want your team to feel comfortable and to enjoy being there.
Let’s get started!
Ways to Make Your Office a Great Place
1. Have a Breakout Area for Lunch to Improve Team Spirit
A typical lunch scenario in the UK is to grab a sandwich plus some crisps and eat them at your desk in front of your laptop while still answering emails. According to a study from Total Jobs, the average UK employee only takes a lunch break of 27 minutes and many skip lunch entirely.
In my opinion, this is not great for many reasons. Getting out of the office and stepping away from your desk during lunch will boost your productivity for the afternoon. Coming from Switzerland, having lunch away from your desk with colleagues is an integral part of the social life at work. Isn’t it much nicer to have an interesting conversation with your colleague while having lunch rather than eating on your own staring at your screen? It also helps to get to know your colleagues better and builds stronger team bonds.
Stressful times don’t always allow us to take the time for a proper lunch, but if you take into account that you are much more refreshed back at work, the productivity boost easily makes up for the lost minutes.
Does that mean you should always go to a restaurant, out of the office and spend a ton on lunch? No. What we did at EVORA is the following: when we moved offices in March 2017 (read Russ’ blog post for more), we decided to provide a breakout area for our employees. I don’t think that I exaggerate when I say that our so-called “breakfast bar” (see picture) is the heart of our office. It enables our employees to take a proper lunch break and to connect with each other on a personal level.
I am aware that square meter prices in London are crazy, but even with limited space you might be able to find a free corner in your office to create a nice little lunch area – assembling a small bar table and some stools will do the job. Believe me, it makes office life so much nicer, more interactive and your team will highly appreciate it.
Pro tip: get second-hand furniture from sites like Gumtree – it is often cheaper and better for the environment.
And keep in mind, you can also use the breakout area for other purposes like a casual meeting or a company social activity.
2. Give Your Office a Personal Touch to Build Company Identity & Culture
There are so many simple and inexpensive ways as to how you can personalise your office. Mostly, all you need is a bit of creativity, some basic stationary equipment and 15 spare minutes. Here are some ideas:
- Create a photo wall in the office. Why don’t you convert a grey room divider into a colourful board with pictures from your last summer party, after work drinks and the office mascot (yes, we have one)? Our next step: add a photo from the whole team – something we will tackle in the upcoming Christmas party.
- Have a board for news. Why don’t you use the other side of the divider as a “What’s on at Your Company” board? Our board includes information about the monthly social, our childcare voucher scheme and much more. Plus some kitschy Christmas decoration at the moment to create a festive mood.
- Frame and hang your mission, vision and values, so that everyone in the office can see them and is reminded of why everyone does what they do. Important: this doesn’t mean that the job is done. Showing the values etc. is a first step, but there is more hard work to it (more on this in another blog post soon).
- Get some plants in the office. To make this even more fun, I decided to make employees godmothers and -fathers of plants. An offer they could not refuse. Their duties include to inform themselves about care instructions, to water it accordingly and to make sure to find a deputy arrangement while on holiday.
Personalising and decorating your office improves your company culture and creates a nicer environment for employees to work in. But before going crazy about it, keep in mind that prospects and clients also visit your office so make sure it is also professional.
3. Keep Your Office Organised and Tidy
I know this doesn’t sound like as much fun as the decoration part, but it is actually very important. As Edmund Burke said: “Good order is the foundation of all things”. A tidy and organised office will enable your team to work with focus, efficiently and productively.
If you have a hot desking office as we do, it is especially important to provide your employees a small space or drawer unit where they can store their laptop, snacks and personal belongings. Before our office move, we just had one cupboard we all had to share and even if someone tidied it up, it was messy again the next day. With the storage cabinets we have in the new office (see picture), the tidiness improved significantly.
Other than that, the best you can do is to have at least one organised person in your office. Even though you have a clean desk policy, there will always be that one person who forgets to unplug the charging cable, leaves the lip balm on the desk or fails to remember the food leftovers in the fridge. I usually do a quick office check every Friday afternoon to collect forgotten items and take a look at our fridge.
Whilst this does not sound like the job of a typical Operations Manager it highlights that in a small company everyone needs to be willing to roll up their sleeves to do work beyond their job descriptions.
One last tip – and I haven’t implemented this myself yet: collect all forgotten items in a lost and found box. Announce that everything which isn’t picked up by, let’s say the 22nd December for example, will be donated to charity.
Creating an engaging workplace is always a work in progress. What is applicable for other companies might not work for your team, so the best approach is learning by doing. Give it a try and see if it is well received by your employees.
Feel free to get in touch with me if you face similar challenges – I am always open for exchanging experiences and ideas. In my next blog post, I will write about the importance of having fun with your team. Stay tuned!