How does your company entertain your employees? Do you provide them with free snacks or drinks in the break room and some cozy furniture? Or do you really jazz it up and have video games, beers on tap, and movie nights just for your employees? Or do all those “perks” sound like a bunch of needless distractions to you?
The traditional office environment has changed considerably over the years, and it’s not just because of the influx of younger millennial workers. Business are also starting to realize that employee happiness — as well as overall mental health and lack of stress — is a leading factor in overall company productivity.
In other words, happy employees are engaged and productive employees. If a company doesn’t work to create a fun and positive environment, then the whole company may suffer as a result. But what does that mean for your company? How can you be sure that you’ve created a truly fun environment for everyone that promotes not only employee happiness but also productivity?
Sprucing up the office environment
Physical appearance can be a major roadblock in productivity within the office. However, the office environment has changed considerably over the years, and much of this could be due to generational preferences and the prevailing societal beliefs of that time.
For example, cubicles came about in the ‘80s and were the office “normal” for almost two decades. The idea behind these stark and small boxes was to fit as many people as possible into a single space while still giving them the peace and quiet they needed in order to focus on their work. However, cubicles often created more depression through isolation and offered very little cause for inspiration, but nevertheless this design prevailed for quite some time before it was eventually phased out.
Now, we’re in the era of a more holistic and humanistic office space — creating a space that not only feels comfortable and welcoming to people, but also promotes creativity, productivity, and community. With the inclusion of technology, this has further pushed the mold, encouraging many offices to not assign desks, but simply create spaces that people could easily work within throughout the day.
Now, companies are seeing the value in eye-catching and comfortable interior design within the office, and are understanding how it can help boost the company culture and improve the attitude of employees. Even something as simple as an electric modern fireplace surrounded by plush chairs can improve the appeal of a space, and employees will be eager to hang out and enjoy a comfortable environment — free to choose whichever seat best suits their needs.
Plus, if your company is not able to offer work-from-home perks for employees, then a snazzy, comfortable interior and designated quiet spaces may be just the trick to increasing productivity and helping everyone feel more “at home” in the office. Besides comfort, an open office plan can also promote team building by allowing employees to sit and chat together, discuss projects, or simply enjoy each other’s company while they’re working.
Unique perks for employees
However, swanky interiors are only some of the benefits you can offer employees. There are also additional perks you can implement into the office that may have an equally impactful effect as a comfortable interior.
Some offices are investing in health benefits for their employees, including on-site yoga, wellness rooms, stationary bikes (so you can exercise and work at the same time), and gym memberships. Promoting wellness can help employees stay motivated throughout the day, and is shown to help in stress management. Other offices are focusing more on home comforts, such as creating a dog-friendly environment to help lower employee stress and improve communication among staff (dogs are excellent ice breakers).
Another unique perk that some businesses are beginning to implement — especially on the west coast, in Seattle, Silicon Valley, and San Francisco — is the option to include beer in the office. Of course, this benefit would also require some strict rules, such as no beers before 4 p.m., never more than one or two pints, and reasonable and responsible consumption. However, the pros of offering beer in the office can make all those rules well worth the effort. As one employee, Liz Chatterton, shared about her experience of having beer in the office, some of the biggest benefits included:
- Reduced stress among staff
- Increased socialization across the floor and improved team building
- Increased job satisfaction, lower turnover rate, and decreased absences or sick days from employees
- Employees enjoyed working late and loved to boast about this perk, which in turn is good PR for the company
Improving productivity by promoting communication
However, as great as all these additional perks and a cozy office may be for employee morale, it is only one piece to the greater puzzle of employee engagement and building a supportive company culture. Businesses must also consider how their office can adapt to different needs and changing cultures, all while promoting a productive environment.
Communication is certainly one of the biggest precursors to productivity, as employees must be able to communicate with each other in order to work collaboratively on projects or stay on task. However, communication faces some unique challenges, as a couple of the biggest emerging trends of the 21st century include the influx of Generation Z employees (those born between 1996-2010, the generation after millennials) and the increase in remote work, or “deskless employees.”
Generation Z is the first generation to be raised in the era of smartphones, but surprisingly they prefer in-person communication combined with the flexibility to work remotely or collaboratively through technology. Due to this increase in remote work, mobile communication is becoming increasingly common within offices: from increased texting and smartphone use, to the integration of communication apps such as Slack, WeChat, and others, as well as more traditional emails. Unfortunately, these forms of communication can make in-person conversations difficult.
Another one of the issues that remote work creates for employees is the lack of connection remote workers may feel with those that work in office. How can HR professionals make physical changes to the office in order to improve their culture and communication between everyone?
One suggestion is to create plenty of meeting rooms, fully equipped with webcams, speakers, and teleconference phone lines. If meetings need to happen, or an employee simply needs to speak with someone face to face, they will have plenty of options in order to do just that.
Plus, increasing access to communication can improve overall employee morale — both for those working within the office and those working remotely. As employees are able to easily talk with each other, they’ll feel more connected with their co-workers and may even feel more valued for the work they provide. This in turn can help them become more productive while working out of the office.
Focusing on providing communication methods for employees — both in office and remote — can be an important key to creating a productive and supportive company culture. The more you invest in making everyone feel welcome, the more the company will flourish.
Supporting happy and health employees
In the end, the best way to create a productive employee culture for your company is to focus on the needs and wants of the employees. Instead of pushing harder to ensure they get their work done on time, provide them with ways to help them manage their stress, communicate with each other, and be comfortable in the office environment. If they’re remote, you can still make improvements within your office that sends a message to those employees: Even if you’re out of the office, you’re still a valuable member of the team.
The modern office has changed considerably over the past few decades, and the future will hold even more changes. The changes themselves may not matter in the long run, but how you respond to them will. In this case, the change is to focus more on your employees and work on creating a happy, healthy, and productive environment just for them.
I'm a people-person through and through. When I'm not elbows-deep in the inner workings of small business retail, I'm negotiating the mesmerizing world of online community-building and dreaming of new, creative ways to help people connect through the written word.