Tuesday, 6 August 2013

5 Good reasons to re think your office environment


One of the most frequently asked questions I’ve had from ex colleague since leaving the corporate world is ‘Are you renting an office space’. It’s strange that many people consider the need for some sort of defined space we call an office, for serious work to be done!

It led me to think about our working environments and gather some stimulus and inspiration for you to either start a conversation at work or indeed a revolution!

Let me begin by telling you a story close to home.

Since leaving my job to start my own Innovation business I’m now working from a ‘home office’. I’d certainly had the option of working from home previously but never seemed to be able to actually do productive work there. Too many distractions seemed far more important priorities at home ‘maybe I should put the washing on, fill the dishwasher, clear those weeds’ etc. My mindset was stuck in ‘I’m at home I do home stuff’.

However once faced with the prospect of actually having to work from home I decided to focus on making an environment that encouraged me to work.

My first mistake was to try to create an ‘Office’ just like at work! The desk arrived along with a docking station, monitor, office chair and the rest of the paraphernalia I needed to re-create my corporate office here at home.

After a couple of weeks surprise, surprise I was resisting using the space in preference for the kitchen table, garden or even my bed!

My aha moment came when I realized that I needed to change my office into a place I actually wanted to spend time in and stopped thinking that I should only work in a place we call an office. In fact my best ideas came to me in moments when I wasn’t actually doing what people call work!

My work space is now much more like a ‘hang out’ space yes its got a desk but it doesn’t dominate the room and yell ‘You can only do productive work while sitting HERE’. My room now includes my sewing machine, Art supplies, favourite books/pictures, my collection of cameras and various other vintage nick naks Ive picked up over the years. It’s now a place that ‘works’ FOR me. I’m sure others would find the space a little ‘strange’ but that’s the thing is we all work differently.

 

5 Good reasons why rethinking your office environment can boost creativity & culture.

 1.    Bring your whole self to work:  When individual personalities are subdued at work and everyone interacts on a safe, ‘inside-the-box level’, you won’t see a lot of energy or passion and you won’t get ‘out-of-the-box ideas’. People are generally more creative and innovative when they can be themselves at work and a stuffy, stifling work environment also stands in the way of collaboration.  Ultimately everybody including the business will benefit by being able to be more comfortable in their own skin at work. Creating a strong culture of ‘personality’ that aims to give explicit permission to be themselves is a great recruiting tool and you will find people will actually want to work in a place like this.

Examples: Going beyond the family pictures and your favourite mug or pot plant brought in from home, why not as one company does, provide each employee with a voucher to buy something for their workspace they simply love and would want at home.



2.    It’s got to be fun. Our best ideas come when we are relaxed, laughing, socialising and having fun. Connections with other people from diverse functions, backgrounds etc is crucial to real creativity. An element of play can help establish social bonds as get you know people on a different level. Making it ‘acceptable’ to have fun is a must.

Examples: At Google different teams personalise their spaces and competitions are run for the most creative team space. In addition to cubicles, some staffers share white fabric "yurts," tent like spaces that resemble igloos. The average time for moving desks is every 6 months.

 3.    Behaviours trump Culture: An Innovation buddy of mine recently said “Culture is a by-product of behaviour”. Every company has two cultures – the one they aspire to creating and the reality of the one they have created. In truth it’s the sum of every employees’ behaviour that make up the culture dynamic business backed by a passionate, energetic, and engaged workforce is evident from your first interaction at the reception desk.

Examples: Behaviours typically associated with young students are important to Google – idealism, curiosity, creativity and fresh thinking.  To encourage these behaviours and create a focus on learning and problem solving, the Google offices are uncannily like a university campus with a large cafeteria, chill-out games rooms, and lots of informal meeting spaces.



4.    Mix it up. If people generally come to the office, go to their spot, mix with the same people and go home, the organization is not capturing the benefits that come from spontaneous interactions among its ‘thinkers’. “When there are no water cooler chats or meetings popping up in the middle of the space, it’s a sign of a poor culture.

Examples:
To prevent the establishment of silos employees at Innocent Smoothie Company don’t sit with their teams but with a random selection of people from across the business. Every six months the company have what they call the ‘Big Shuffle’ at which people are encouraged to move desks and sit next to different colleagues

There is a very sensible business rationale behind even the foozball table at Google - getting people together and talking. Free food in cafes follows the same idea – if you are sitting with people from different parts of the business ideas will emerge.

5.    Design the space: There’s a key consideration that we should not overlook when thinking about the design of our workspaces and that’s our overall health and wellbeing. We generally spend 8-12 hours in our workspace and that’s a chunk of time we could be improving our overall health. We are not designed to sit for long periods of time so keeping mobile is critical. We need to stop thinking of ‘our chair and my desk’ in preference from a variety of spaces that we can move between.

Examples:

·         ?What If! knows that its employees communicate and work in a variety of ways, and that their needs change from day to day—or even hour to hour. The open plan supports a variety of needs, including the need for quiet. The “Library” features wing back chairs and a large work table, and wallpaper with photographic images of books helps set the tone for this quiet space. There are also several phone rooms for private conversations, as well as a variety of meeting rooms (all of which are managed with iPad signs outside the doors to indicate if the room is occupied and the meeting is not to be disturbed). Conversely, the Extrovert room is furnished with a sectional sofa and custom wallcovering made with a photo of a bustling East Village street scene. It is also equipped with DJ equipment, so making noise here is encouraged.



 

And Finally: Go to Business Insider for a selection of office tour pictures and videos of some of the chicest, cololest and weirdest, even a sneak peak into Warren Buffett’s office!