A positive work environment is like fresh oil in a well-maintained car. When employees are happy, they work harder. When they work harder, the company grows. But a poor environment and low morale is like bad oil in an old engine — it can bring everything to a halt. Before you look at the books to find flaws in the process, ask yourself, “How can I make my employees happier?”
Take a look at your office. Is it an environment that fosters creativity and inspires an energetic workspace, or does it look like an endless row of cubicles like the ones above at Intel? Late night talk show host Conan O’Brien visited Intel headquarters in 2007 and poked fun at the company’s bland setup. The footage went viral, and Intel actually made efforts to add scenic diversity to its office.
Improving office comfort is about more than plush chairs and luxury desks. Lighting, openness and options are big factors to boost happiness among employees. Fastcompany.com reports that natural lighting is better for productivity compared to typical overhead fluorescents. Floor and desk lamps with incandescent lighting not only provide sufficient lighting, they stylishly enhance the office ambience.
Also, remember that what makes a positive work environment is subjective to the employees who spend eight hours per day in the space. Let their ideas be heard and implement them. Whether it’s standing desks, ergonomic keyboards or a remodeled break area, don’t be afraid to spend on a better office.
We’re not talking about the type of trust that assures managers aren’t stealing supplies from the office (though that’s certainly important too). Trust your managers with the confidence you had in them when they were hired. If micromanaging is your game, there’s really no reason for mid-level management in your company.
Handling company finances also requires trust among colleagues. Do your managers have their own small business credit cards for company expenses or do you reimburse with receipts? Do your managers have freedoms to make changes to their team without pushback or questioning? A lack of trust affects more than the morale of the managers. That attitude trickles down the totem pole. You hired them for a reason, let them do the job.
Develop a system of recognition at your office and make it consistent. And while you’re at it, make it both financial and sentimental. Ditch the thank you email and handwrite a note of gratitude and appreciation. Taking the time to say thank you is far-reaching.
For financial incentives, use anything from gift cards to sports tickets to show employees you appreciate the hard work. If your company hasn’t already installed a bonus system, make these gifts separate and reward teams for work outside the expected job descriptions.
You’re old school. There is certainly virtue in old-fashioned business, but this isn’t “Mad Men” — certain effective practices expired with the 20th century. Today, businesses can easily operate through remote servers and cloud computing, and depending on a physical office is nearly obsolete. Giving employees work-from-home (WFH) days gives them a chance to avoid a daily a commute and pick their own environment for maximum comfort, efficiency and production.
A study by Stanford University found that employees were 13 percent more productive when working remotely compared to in the office. That’s not to say the case for the office is completely moot. Meetings and collaboration may not have the same dynamic over Skype as in-person communication, but giving your employees a WFH day once a week helps lessen stress, reduce distractions and improve focus.
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