Who do you spend the most time with?
Your first thought is probably a loved one: your immediate family; a better half. But if you work in a traditional office setup, your colleagues could be the people you spend most of your waking hours with. If you work over 40 hours per week, you may be sitting on your office chair more than your sofa. Half of our American counterparts are already at that point, and 18% of them work a whopping 60 plus hours a week. Thankfully, most of the Irish workforce still make it home in time for the Late Late Show, but it may be worth asking yourself: is my workplace – where I spend so many precious hours – optimised to increase harmony, productivity and happiness?
The old adage ‘you can choose your friends, but not your family’ could be appended with ‘…or co-workers’. When a diverse group of people with differing goals and interests share the same space, some can form close bonds, but there can also be discord and tension with others. It’s important to set up the office in the right way to help alleviate these issues. After all, the only certain thing office workers have in common is that they happen to share the same stretch of carpet.
Do you like the carpet?
If not, change it! Surroundings matter. One strives to be comfortable at home, often making minor or major improvements around the house to increase happiness. The same improvements should also be considered in the workplace, but seem to be overlooked by business owners at present. According to a 2016 study by Willis Towers Watson, the physical work environment ranked number 3 on the list of ‘top drivers of retention’ for employees, being bested only by salary and career advancement opportunities. It didn’t even appear on the list of priorities for employers.
What should you change?
It’s easier to change your office design than it is your workforce (although Insight HR can help with that). A rethink of your environment can not only increase happiness but productivity too. Consider the humble desk partition. Is it a helpful aid to discourage distraction or a bothersome barrier to collaborative working? If your company is in a creative field, an open-plan office can encourage people to exchange ideas more freely, but also increases noise levels (a good, sound insulating carpet can help with this, as can curtains!).
Hot desking can help cut costs and coax employees to mingle more – Vodafone’s New Ways of Working scheme pushes concept this to the nth degree by ensuring no one has a fixed desk, not even the CEO! This needs to be carefully implemented, however, as hot desking could also cause workers to feel detached, without a place to call their own.
Dividing your building into separate offices can be effective, but is also the expensive option. Though if you do have money to spend on a redesign, perhaps you could follow the lead of SurveyMonkey’s Dublin office, who recently introduced a ‘mindfulness room’ – a meeting-free zone full of jigsaw puzzles and colouring books for employees to relax in.
If you’re more concerned about the physical health of your workforce rather than helping them to relax, you could always take after Acuity, whose Wisconsin office has a 40 ft climbing wall or Autodesk, who have (rather fittingly, given their name) invested in treadmill-desk combos, or Hyland Software, who have a full-sized volleyball court on-site.
How should you make changes in the workplace?
Of course, the right solution depends on the nature of the business, and we don’t all have cash to burn on playthings, sports facilities, or Go-Karts to zip between departments. The most important thing when considering any changes in the workplace, environmental or otherwise, is to consult with your employees and take feedback on board. Some people may find change daunting; others may relish the opportunity for input. For expert advice on how to manage change within your workforce more effectively, contact Insight HR on 056 770 1060 or email firstname.lastname@example.org for more information.