No one, when they were a kid, dreamed of working in an office. It may be a way to pay the bills but it is not exactly exciting. Whether you enjoy it depends in part on what type of personality you have. Some people find that they work better when they are not watched over all the time. They are self-disciplined, self-motivated and do not need a collaborative atmosphere to succeed at what they do. They can work their own hours and will organise their lives in the way that they know will work for them. This is not to say that people who go into work everyday and find that they are more productive when they are alongside their colleagues and who need guidance and a strict rule set from their boss are inferior workers. They are just different and are better suited to some jobs that more independently minded people. In a survey of over 8000 people, 43% of workers who identified themselves as the former personality type said that when they are working remotely, they love their job. If you put the same people in an office environment, that number drops to 24%. Knowing which of your employees are better suited to certain environments is a key component in managing your resources so you can get the most out of them. However, some companies do not have the luxury of being able to work with employees remotely, and if your business necessitates that everyone comes into the office and works in that environment, you should consider how to make it as comfortable and therefore as productive as possible.
There are lots of fabled initiatives that perhaps desperate managers have used in the past to make people enjoy work as much as possible (the same survey quoted above found that of the people whose personalities are suited to working in an office, only 19% said they loved it, with an even 50% conceding that they liked it). These include ideas such as casual Fridays. As an abstract suggestion, removed from its context in a real life office with real people, it can seem rather infantilizing as if it is actually reasonable to expect people to enjoy work more if you let them wear their own clothes, like high school kids on the last day of term (in any case, it still seems to exist: a quick Google search produces several recent articles about what to wear and what not to wear to work however casual it may sound). If these are the sorts of tactics that managers resort to when they want to make the office more appealing (or less dispiriting at the very least) then it suggests that the office is really not a place that people want to be.
The average person spends 90,000 hours at work over the course of their lifetime. A more startling fact is that in an eight hour day, the same average worker is only productive for two hours and fifty-three minutes. The rest of the time (over five hours) is wasted on news sites, social media, smoke breaks and even looking for a different job. Whichever way you look at it, this is grossly inefficient and most salaries are therefore wildly inflated relative to the work that supposedly warrants them. Boosting efficiency is a problem that every business person tries to solve and there are a few answers. Knowing your employees and treating them like they are more than just resources that need to become more efficient is a great way to actually make them more efficient. Other great ways to motivate the people that work for you is to help them improve at what they do, give them opportunities for advancement, communicate with them clearly and recognise their good work when they do it. The truth is that happiness has been found to increase productivity by 12%. This leads to the question of how to make your employees happy. There are lots of ways, although as a small business owner or a manager in a larger corporation, they do not all sound that tempting. Higher wages seems like it would always work, as would shorter workdays and less work to do in that time. All of these things are just not feasible though, especially if you want your business to succeed or grow.
Amongst the more practical options is improving the environment in which your workers do their thing all day. Google is a great example of how to have an immensely productive workforce (Google is the most popular site on the internet) while keeping the office fun and conducive to hard work. Their ‘campuses’ are way out of most people’s reach when it comes to investing in an office but they are all unique, creative places. If you want to make your work environment a place where people want to be, here are a few ideas for improving it:
The most essential and the simplest point is that your office should be clean and healthy. In the United States, there are laws on the books that stipulate that every workplace needs to be kept to a certain standard for it to be safe for employees to work in. Three different government agencies have responsibility for this part of American life. Failure to comply could result in your business being shut down and you could face personal consequences too for your negligence. However, maintaining a safe work environment is more of a moral obligation than it is a legal one. The existence of the law suggests otherwise but looking after the people who spend so much of their lives working for you is just the decent thing to do.
Besides your office being safe, it should also be comfortable. This could mean lots of different things but one of the most critical is to ensure that it is cool when it needs to be and hot when it is too cold. Investing in an air conditioning system (check out some options here: https://stinsonair.com.au/ducted-systems/) is a good idea. No one wants to work during the long, beautiful days of summer weather when you dream of hanging out in the park or the pool, but people loathe the idea of work when they have to be hot and sticky all day instead. It is also a hygiene issue too as no one wants to work amongst the sometimes pungent aromas of overheated colleagues. Similarly, when winter ensconces the city, having cold employees is a sure way to make them not want to work. In fact, you will probably have to send them home if you cannot heat the office to a workable temperature, if they come in at all.
Another way to ensure that your workers aren’t miserable is to make sure that their furniture is sufficient. If your workers sit at their desks for most of the day, they will need good chairs that support their backs and do not cause them any discomfort. If someone cannot sit in their seat for a long time without having to get up and stretch themselves, their productivity will suffer simply because they cannot actually sit at their desk long enough to have sustained attention. However, it is not just their office chairs that you have to worry about. The place where your workers take their breaks is just as important as the place that they work. If they come back from lunch not feeling refreshed or as if they were not able to relax, they are not doing to do their best work during the rest of the day. Investing in comfortable, stylish (your office’s appearance is crucial too as a drab colour scheme will always fail to inspire enthusiasm) furniture is quite a modest expense but one that could produce returns in the long run, both in terms of revenue and employee satisfaction.
However, it is not just the physical qualities of an office that can make it a place where people want to work. Company culture is paramount to any venture. Sitting on uncomfortable chairs is one thing, but going into the office every day with people who are passive aggressive, snide and prone to gossip is worse. Sometimes people will just not get along and there is not much that can be done about that but if your office inculcates negativity and bullying, you will find that your employees are less productive and more likely to quit. Allowing your employees flexibility and freedom will make them more collaborative. If you have a common goal towards which everyone works together, it will foster a sense of purpose and therefore a sense of accomplishment when the task is completed. Business is not all about your profit margin and many people are much more motivated by doing a task well for its own sake than the monetary outcome. Embracing these varied and useful personalities is the best course of action.
Making an office a place where people want to be is not easy but if you manage it, you will have happier, more productive employees and better profits too.
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