Creating a better office environment doesn’t necessarily mean that you should have an in-house gym or a designer interior. Ordering lunch or snacks for your employees and taking them on fun-trips is fine, as long as you are doing the basics right. How a person perceives the environment depends to a large extent upon his or her mental state. On the other hand, it is also a fact that improvements in surroundings do help people's productivity.
As a manager, it is your job to nurture and build an office environment where everybody feels motivated and happy to work. Even the slightest disturbances at workplace can make people hold back their best efforts, which will affect the organisational performance. While your ultimate goal is to enhance and maintain productivity, there's no direct route to that destination. You have to take a number of small steps and take everybody along.
In order to be successful with creating a better office environment, you need to work on two fronts simultaneously—the physical environment and the psycho-emotional environment. You should have a long term strategy, which should be designed to improve the environment continuously. The strategy should address both the aspects of the environment.
Here are a few guidelines to help you with strategising and implementing measures for continuously improving the office environment.
The Psycho-Emotional Environment
The psycho-emotional environment at workplace is defined by the psychological and emotional state of the employees. If they are stressed out, unwilling, disgruntled or dissatisfied because of the policies that their company is following, intervention should first be made to mend the way the organisation is being managed. The psycho-emotional environment can be influenced by the following factors.
Compensation: People would always bicker about being paid less. As a manager, you should be able to distinguish between genuine compensation problems and the habitual chatter about low salaries. It would be a good idea to make a compensation and rewards policy with the focus on keeping people motivated and interested in their jobs.
Uncertainty: Uncertainty can make a person feel purposeless and lost. If your employees don’t know the purpose of their efforts or the direction in which their careers and the company are going, they are likely to feel alienated and become disinterested. The solution is to build a culture of frequent and free communication across different tiers of the organisation. People should feel that they are parts of a big plan—a plan that also includes their benefit.
Stress: Too much workload, job insecurity, interpersonal issues, tight deadlines, and consistently long working hours are just some of the factors that can cause chronic workplace stress. Stress is not only counterproductive, but also wrecks the workplace environment by causing jitteriness, unwillingness, lack of attention, and high employee turnover. Make a conscious effort to bleed out excessive stress from your organisational eco-system.
Work Hours: Flexible working hours and frequent breaks reduce stress and keep people fresh. Have at least two breaks during work. If some of your employees regularly turn up late, maybe you should consider offering them flexi-hours.
The Physical Environment
The physical side of the office environment is not as complicated to sort out. Improving the physical environment will also positively impact the psycho-emotional environment, as people can sense that you are doing something for their benefit. As a first step, you should have an office that can accommodate your workforce without looking crammed up. People usually consider the location and the rent more than people's comfort when choose an office. Consider the following factors for creating a better physical environment.
Space: No one likes to be locked away in a 4x4 feet cubical with a computer and piles of documents. The Japanese concept of everyone sharing an open floor can be more productive, but you should also respect people's privacy by providing them with dedicated work stations. Try to keep the environment spacious enough for people to breathe in. The office furniture should be ergonomically designed and should ensure proper posture while working.
Lighting: It has been demonstrated that brighter lighting improves people's moods and productivity. It is better to have sun coming in through the windows, but you can also use "full spectrum" electric lighting if you don’t have too many windows in your office.
Plants: Adding a lot of plants gives a natural and pleasant feel to your workspace. They also cleanse the air in your office by oxygenating and humidifying it.
Colours and Smells: Natural, soothing colours can bring down the level of stress by making people feel calm. Add a few automatic fragrance dispensers to keep the air smelling nice.
These are just some of the ways to go about creating a better office environment. Of course, you can add a Ping-Pong table or even a swimming pool if you can afford, but only after you have taken care of the basics.