The most successful companies tend to be the ones with the happiest employees. Why? Happy employees are more motivated, productive, and creative—and will often do the extra mile. Not because they have to, but because they want to. Additionally, happy workers are 48.4 percent more likely to stay with a company, which reduces costly turnover. On the other hand, staff who don’t enjoy coming to work costs U.S. businesses $300 billion per year in sick time, days off, and on-the-job mistakes. A happy workplace is not something that happens by accident. It’s the result of both physical and intangible changes that create a harmonious workplace. Here are some of the ways to follow:
[Photo: Ways to Improve Office Environment]
Not only does natural lighting look better, but there is a strong connection between natural light in the workplace and employees’ quality of sleep and energy. Neurology researchers at Northwestern University found that people who work in offices with windows receive 173 percent more white light (i.e. light from the sun) during work hours and sleep an extra 46 minutes every night. Workers were better rested and therefore in a better frame of mind.
It doesn’t take a psychologist to tell you that when you are in an area that is attractive, comfortable and pleasant, you feel better. This is true of both the home and the work environment, so be sure to clear away clutter and broken equipment, and mend flickering lightbulbs and temperamental air conditioning or heating units. And though it may not seem like a big deal, invest in new, ergonomic furniture, plants, updated equipment, and quality coffee and snacks. Your staff will not only appreciate that their well-being is important to you, but they will be energetically affected by the space in a positive way.
In this year's Top Small Company Workplaces, Leigh Buchanan interviewed Bill Witherspoon about his open-book management and leadership style at Sky Factory. His employees not only love the clear and open communication structure, but also love helping each other. Witherspoon explains why: "I think of our factory as a community, and service is the core of community. There are two kinds of service. One is: I do this for you, and I expect a return. For example, I provide good customer service, and I expect loyalty. The other kind of service is selfless. I do something for you without thought of a return. I help you spontaneously and without thinking about it. That second kind of service is powerful. When someone has a moment of free time, how wonderful if she automatically thinks, Now, what can I do to help someone else? At the start of our Friday meetings, the leader for that week tells an appreciative story about someone at the company and presents the person with $25. Often, the story involves an unselfish, unsolicited offer of help.”
In study after study, workers consistently report that meetings are their biggest productivity killer. The average professional goes to 61.8 meetings per month, 63 percent of meetings don’t have an agenda, and 73 percent of people are doing other work at meetings. Whenever possible, communicate through email, a centralized whiteboard, or other methods that don’t pull people away from projects.
Be cognizant of how you are interacting with employees. Team members and upper management should consider the flow of communication and whether it's affecting the office environment.
"Employees are motivated and feel valued when they are given positive reinforcement and shown how their work contributes to the success of the business," said Dominique Jones, chief people officer at Halogen Software.
This means going beyond a 'Hey, good job' and making the time to regularly offer employees specific feedback on how their work is feeding into the broader business objectives, she noted.
When the basics of a functional office work flawlessly, and when complaints regarding technology and equipment malfunctions are answered and remedied quickly, that goes a long way to making employees satisfied with their surroundings. But you'll want to go several steps further. "Companies should take advantage of the research and give thought to furniture design and how it fits the needs of employees and their work habits," writes Goodell, who also suggests the space should be wired to support Wi-Fi to maximize the space's flexibility. But don't let utility override personality: Remember, your employees spend more time at work than almost anywhere else, so "it should be a comfortable and inspiring environment," with wall colors and art that support your company's image and culture.