Think through the times you’ve stepped into an office setting and wondered about the work environment. The warning signs were likely subtle, weren’t they?
- How was the office planning and layout?
- Did the furnishings seem functional and up to date—or out of date?
- What about tension? That’s the people part.
All of these elements contribute to the quality of the workplace. This becomes part of the company culture—a daily living out of the values that your business stands for.
A positive company culture is similar to office ergonomics. In ergonomics, the work environment is designed to support and meet the needs of the workers. A healthy or positive company culture recognizes that employees have needs. Those individuals are supported to blend their talents and create great products, achieve more sales or help customers be satisfied.
They are motivated to turn the company vision into reality.
Staff and executive decisionmakers have to communicate and place trust in each other for the best possible outcomes. Details like dress codes, restrictions or freedoms on where to work, and perks like benefits create a positive or negative culture as noted in a write-up on culture in Investopedia.
If you’re wondering how to improve the office work environment, now you can read on and learn how.
Photo: HON Voi Workstation
Company Culture Impacts Personal Energy
Company cultures form from the existing needs. A start-up in fast-paced do or die moments is quite different than a mature corporation where departments are neatly laid out and each person’s work is clearly defined.
Let’s say there’s a younger company moving into Hollywood, intent on disrupting the entertainment industry. They’ll have an entrepreneurial buzz and excitement that’s missing in an older organization.
Start-up offices and mature ones impact people and their energy. Any work setting can help someone thrive or suck the energy out of them and the room.
Not every person wants to work in a frenetic, high-stakes office unless stability and profitability are in sight. Working in a tried-and-true cubicle environment, in an area like the Mid-Wilshire District, where the most exciting event is the second hand ticking away on the clock isn’t a career dream, either.
Tricky, isn’t it?
Now let’s look at how two basic office layouts impact workers.
Photo: OFS LeanTo Lounge Seating
Consider these two layouts and their challenges:
- Open Offices — can dilute the energy that people bring to their positions
- Walled, Private Spaces — can make employees wonder what secrets are shared behind closed doors
Photo: HON Empower Open Plan Benching
Photo: Krug Artemis Height Adjustable Executive Desk
How do you make sense of it all?
Realize that you can plan and design an office to have different environments.
The open office should utilize modular furniture to create private areas. Employees can take phone calls, type on their laptops and have small group discussions without disturbing others.
Providing a range of workspaces helps create a positive work culture.
Give team members freedom to work from a part of the office that best suits their need. If someone wants to step away from the desk and work in a lounge chair, then let them. Infuse an entrepreneurial spirit into the office and let people take responsibility for how they work.
This doesn’t mean the office space becomes like one giant recess time Monday through Friday. Instead, you’re respecting the qualifications of each employee and trusting them to handle their tasks. After all, if they earned undergraduate or graduate degrees and are responsible for their families why not trust them on the job?
Trust and working together toward a clearly defined goal boosts morale and that keeps the energy vibrant.
Make sure the physical space supports the work with the proper layout and equipment. Here’s how to create an office that supports everyone’s work.
Start with knowing what you want to and need to achieve. Don’t just rely on architects or interior designers to do it for you.
The 2010 Space Planning Strategy weighs:
- Your company’s goals
- How your team interacts to reach those goals
- How their personalities affect their work habits
Doing this creates a relationship between your company’s brand identity and the workplace. Customizing your plan takes you to the next step in creating the best possible work environment.
Photo: Global Swap Tables, FreeFit Workstations & SAS Seating
Proper Space Planning Creates Identity
Here’s a tip to improve the office environment: focus on space planning.
Office space planning provides a plan for workflow and balances that with the needs of employees.
Done well, can you predict what happens?
Your staff will develop a connection to the space.
This personal tie, one that’s internalized, is an important step in creating the best work environment for your company. It’s a principle that transcends industries.
Whether you have an engineering firm in El Segundo or a growing, small business in the Inland Empire, be deliberate in how the space is laid out. An article in the Harvard Business Review, How to Make Sure People Won’t Hate Your New Open Office Plan, describes a concept called “place identity.”
If employees believe the space “aligns with their self-image and enhances their sense of belonging” then this is typically what happens:
- They’ll become more engaged
- They’ll build their personal brand
- They’ll be more likely to cultivate a positive work environment
Photo: OFS Brands Dallas Showroom
This is where leadership has to channel the energy by sharing the vision for the office space, being enthusiastic about it and letting people adapt the space to their needs.
Use these principles to guide your planning:
- Determine which employees have to talk with each other on a daily basis
- Count how many employees need extended hours to focus on projects
- Know which employees need to sit close to printers and copiers
- Note how often small group huddles or large group meetings are needed
- Do clients visit often now or will they visit more often in the future? If so, is there adequate space to host them if inter-office meetings are happening?
- What growth and changes does the company project? Will this include using temporary workers when demand is high?
Planning for change creates a positive office workspace while reacting to circumstances eventually makes people tired, creates uncertainty and leads to a negative workplace culture.
Now that you have a map of interoffice communication and workflow you can supply your great work environment with the right furnishings.
A Welcoming Space Helps Form a Positive Work Culture
Every morning when your team walks through the front door what’s the vibe that they’re bringing in and what’s the vibe that will greet them?
Once they leave the work setting at night and walk in the next morning you’ll have no control over their personal lives. People will experience some type of family crisis like the death of a relative while others are bragging about their kids’ sports achievements.
Moderate the personal highs and lows by creating a comfortable place that provides positive energy and channels conversations. Little things matter.
Present a welcoming atmosphere beginning with the office reception desk. An inviting and stylish design versus a boxy, bulky fortress can reinforce your company’s brand.
Open office plans have plenty of critics but some of the positives include not feeling boxed in. Let as much natural light as possible flow throughout the work setting. Make sure there’s adequate storage space at each workstation and for each department.
Bring in cozy and comfortable accessories to define space like attractive bookcases with embroidered pillows on the shelves and soothing artwork on the walls.
Here’s an example of how this works. Do you know why real estate agents stage homes for sale instead of simply showing an empty shell of a house?
Staging gives the potential buyer an understanding of the home’s potential. Furnishing the office helps your team members experience the potential of working together to achieve the goals that are set before them.
Creating a nice look in an office can be done in a budget-friendly manner. No one has to feel like the office is being decorated at the expense of their salaries or bonuses.
Attitudes brought in from the outside can mesh into a work atmosphere that’s pleasant and supportive. People will feel valued instead of feeling like they’re forced into a survival mode so they don’t get fired.
Furnishings set the stage for a positive workplace. You also create brand equity in people.
Remember, your employees are dedicating themselves to the company. Yes, they need a job that pays the bills and lets them enjoy a decent quality of life.
They also interact with the brand promise every day. They see what happens on the inside and can tell if your company does or doesn’t live up to what you tell customers.
A well-designed office setting positively reinforces the brand among your team. The result is achieving the best and most positive work environment possible.
Photo: DeskMakers Overture Reception Desk
Define Key Areas
Use workstations that help people do their best work. Modular furniture is a strategic purchase since it’s easy to re-configure spaces as changes take place.
Evaluate what works best for the work that needs done and the personalities of your employees. Work surfaces that accommodate several people, known as open plan benching, has one type of functionality while cubicles provide another type of function and form a certain atmosphere.
Your team’s introverts will thank you for the private break areas so they can withdraw as needed to get refreshed.
Meeting spaces are important and architectural walls create clean, well-defined areas for trainings and larger groups. These can be clear ceiling-to-floor walls or a cubicle-style room for small group huddles.
Now that you’ve designed the space for positive productivity, take it a step further to encourage healthy living and reduce absenteeism as much as possible.
Make Office Wellness a Priority
A healthy workplace includes how our bodies react physically to the surroundings and our emotional well-being. Productivity and positive energy face setbacks when people are struggling with bad backs and aching joints.
Here are two ways to take care of the body:
Ergonomic office furniture adapts to a worker’s body and physical needs. Height-adjustable desks help people set the work surface to a position where they can work comfortably and maintain good posture.
Quality ergonomic chairs allow feet to be flat on the floor and keep the knees relaxed. Ergonomic chairs will swivel easily based on a person’s natural movements. Arm rests reduce strain on elbows and shoulders while the chair provides proper lumbar support. Leading manufacturers of ergonomic chairs include 9 to 5 Seating, SitOnIt and Friant.
Computer keyboards and monitors should be at a height where wrists don’t have to be bent to type. Adequate lighting and screen protectors reduce eyestrain from computer monitors.
Encourage your employees to stretch or get up and take a brief walk every 90 minutes to two hours. The purpose isn’t to burn calories but to keep blood circulating well. That reduces foggy brain syndrome by getting oxygen flowing to the brain.
Care for emotional states by providing break areas with healthy snacks. Decorate with plants to bring nature indoors and create a positive ambiance.
You may have a manufacturing facility, legal office or direct a program at a university. Your core strength is turning out a quality product or service, but you should also offer resources for employees who are in a personal crisis.
Ask local gyms if they’ll offer group discounts. Provide chair massages once or twice a month during lunchtime.
Check on counseling and mental health services if you offer insurance. Your local city in Los Angeles County, Orange County or the Inland Empire may have a local college, university or faith community where graduate students need clinical hours for a degree like a Marriage and Family Therapist. Counseling services can be accessed for low costs.
Put it Together for a Positive Workplace and Culture
All of this shows employees that you value them and you’re dedicated to their well-being. This is an important way to keep them engaged on a day-in, day-out basis.
Creating a positive workplace doesn’t just happen and it’s not the result of having a charismatic company president or entrepreneurial founder. Those personalities set the tone, but it’s the setting, furnishings and small perks that show people that they’re important.
This will encourage buy-in from them and that makes it easier to retain top talent. Engaged employees who want to do their best leads to a tremendous competitive advantage in the marketplace.
What creates a great office varies from one industry to another and from culture to culture. This leads to a feeling of “We’re in this together” and the forms cohesive units.
Studies by the organization Great Places to Work reports that a sense of community is the biggest driver of employee engagement in the United States and Canada.
Photo: Trendway Semi-Private Workstations
Several companies in California made the Great Places to Work’s list of small to medium-sized companies including Network Capital in Irvine; WestPac Wealth Partners in La Jolla; and Invoca in Santa Barbara.
In Europe, fairness is critical and “psychological safety” is prized in Latin America. Workplaces in Asia and the Middle East were shown to be the unhappiest work environments.
Photo: Trendway Workspaces
Get Expert Input
The 2010 Space Planning Strategy helps you prioritize and create a positive work environment.
Get input from 2010 Office Furniture on your space planning needs. Call or submit your questions.
Our team has more than 45 years of experience serving corporations, universities and small businesses throughout Los Angeles, Orange County and the Inland Empire.
Read Also: Creating Ergonomic Workstations for Office Well-Being and Productivity
Main Photo by: Trendway
Resources & Special Thanks to: Investopedia, Harvard Business Review, Great Places to Work & Respective Product Manufacturers: Trendway, DeskMakers, Global, HON, Krug and OFS