Better Office Environments

Aug 02, 2004

Every so often, I have to remind our readers of the importance of their office environments. Our own recent office rehab here in Natick, along with a trip to New York and seeing some not-so-great office spaces, got me thinking about this again. Think about it— you and your workers spend an average of 48 waking hours each week in the workspace. That’s probably more time than you spend (awake) in your own home! The environment is critical. At its best, it should literally change the mood of the people who enter it. It should be inspiring. It should be motivating. It should be pleasing. It should represent the firm and its culture to all those inside and outside of the company. It should be fun. It should be a place you hate to leave every day. At its worst, however, it becomes a place people dread coming to. It can be depressing. It can be demotivating. It can be so disorganized that work is hard to get out the door. It can be foreboding. It can be a place that you can’t wait to leave. I remember years ago— I was 17— when I got recruited away from the shop I worked at by the owner of a four-store bike shop chain to come to work for him. Truthfully, back then, anyone who would pay me 25 cents an hour more than I was making at my present job would probably get me! I was initially put in charge of the back of the shop— where service, repairs, and new bike assembly happened. I was horrified. This shop— in a strip mall— literally had deep shag carpet in the service area! If you dropped a small piece of hardware, you could not find it in the carpet! It was a complete disaster area! Everything was totally disorganized. Working there would have been horrible except for the fact I shut down all repairs and assembly for a couple days and immediately reorganized the place. We ripped out all carpet, got our repair parts organized, installed some better lighting— and generally cleaned everything up. It was an immediate boost to the productivity and morale of all who worked back there, and I am convinced even the quality of our output went up as a result. Back to A/E/P and environmental firms: Is it time you took a look at your space? Having had the pleasure of visiting a dozen or more of the firms on this year’s Zweig Letter Hot Firm List, I can tell you that none of them had dumpy offices. They all exhibit a certain amount of pride in the workplaces, with good signage, clean lobbies, nice examples of their work on the walls, good lighting, great conference and meeting rooms, and nice employee kitchen areas. ALL of them had great workplaces. On the other hand, I also visited a number of firms NOT on the Hot Firm List this year. And I have to say that half of them had offices that in my opinion needed a lot of work. Whether it was their ugly carpet, bad lighting, messy libraries, dirty coffee bars, or cubicles filled with junk, many of these workplaces were completely uninspired. I can only imagine what visiting clients or potential new employees must be thinking when they come in the door. Only the cheapest client who sees the lack of pride in the office as a plus or the most desperate unemployed job candidate would tolerate such an environment. Is that what you want for your firm— cheap clients and desperate workers? I doubt it. If not, maybe it’s time for a little clean-up and freshening. We just painted, carpeted, and repartitioned some of our space here, along with selectively purchasing some new lobby furniture and other furniture. I even reoriented my office for better Feng Shui. Total investment for a real freshening of our 10,000 square-foot office was around $35K. Money well spent. Comments or questions? Drop me a line. Originally published 8/02/2004

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