Something is not quite right, not as it should be at the office. It has lost its sparkle, people are not engaging and do not want to be there, but you cannot put your finger on what the problem is other than employee morale is at an all time low and productivity has stalled.
May 2012 – An Office Anywhere – the office atmosphere is sub-zero; everything seems quiet, flat and dull. The workforce is just as drab as the environment; everyone stays in his own workspace, moving paper from one pile to another with one eye on the clock, waiting for it to be time to go home.
Lunchtime comes and goes, individuals and the occasional group go out to grab sandwiches but other than that, the workforce rarely mixes. If they encounter a peer, or even worse, a superior, outside of the office they take elaborate evasive manoeuvres to avoid each other.
Although not all of us have experienced such grim conditions, we are all familiar with this type of environment and the behaviours that it encourages. It is easy for an office to sink slowly into a state of malaise. This more often than not leads to lack of motivation, increased absenteeism, loss of productivity, reduction in employee loyalty, and an increase in staff turnover. This has a huge knock on effect on the businesses financial performance.
You might have tried to be the heart and soul of the office or the nurturing mother figure, but nothing seems to work. Whatever you do, the conditions as a whole will cancel out your efforts, which is why you want to shake things up to get a spark of life back into the office.
Laid back, high-performing team based business cultures, where everyone wants to work, put a great deal of credence in the adage that “a family that eats together stays together”. The likes of Google go that extra mile for their employees and make sure that the environment and atmosphere that their staff work in is as inclusive, collaborative and as social as possible.
Luckily, you do not need the deep pockets that Google has in order to start fostering the same kind of culture. You can make some straightforward changes that will help to address the issues, which will help to perk things up. Most of the solutions are tax deductible. They will not affect the employee’s taxes either. The company accountant will be able to advise you on this.
One of the simplest changes to make that will promote bonding between the employees is to provide a communal eating space and break room that everyone is encouraged to use.
On top of that and this is the critical bit, you should look to keep the space stocked with snacks and drinks for your employees. Lunches are also of benefit because they will encourage people to chat, come up with ideas and collaborate whilst they are eating together. Bonds and cross team relationships that did not have the opportunity to form before will begin to bloom. It takes a little time but the result is worth it.
Setting up the room could not be easier. Provide fridges stocked with juices and soft drinks; a water cooler; decent tea and coffee-making facilities – a machine is a much easier option to maintain than having kettles and ingredients lying around. Snacks ideally would be in the form of plenty of fresh fruits and other items such as biscuits, chips, cakes, yoghurts and cereals. Candy can also make a lovely addition both to the break room and even scattered about the office or reception area in decorative dishes or jars – look out for lollipops and jellybeans, which are popular choices.
Having a regular beer together can also help to break down barriers. One top idea is to set a couple of hours aside on a Friday afternoon – this does not have to be every Friday afternoon, but it should be a regular-scheduled event – for beers in the office with snacks. This will allow
employees to socialise within the office environment again also providing the opportunity to discuss ideas and collaborate in a safe and informal atmosphere.
Changing the office environment and culture by providing these types of benefits and facilities in the workplace have a proven track record. They increase morale and loyalty to the business, which increases motivation, creativity and productivity. These in turn have a direct impact on the businesses bottom line.
How “Eating” And Organizational Success Are Related – by Bruce L. Katcher, Ph.D. President, Discovery Surveys, Inc.
In the Plex: How Google Thinks, Works, and Shapes Our Lives - by Steven Levy (Chapter Three – P121 – Don’t be Evil – How Google Built its Culture)