Monthly Archives: January 2014

4 Laws of the Agile Workplace

A LawBooksdecade ago, the buzz word in business was telecommuting–today, it’s a phrase: the agile workplace! According to a recent study published by the MIT School of Architecture and Planning, “(The study) found that agility – the ability of the workplace to adapt to change – has emerged as the single highest priority in the workplace industry.”

With more companies doing real business in real-time, agility or the ability to move quickly and easily to tap into social marketing trends, has gained more importance. It’s not enough score followers with a “viral” video or develop a Twitter following from a trending hash-tag (#). It’s how you annex your popularity that matters in business! New to the term agile workplace? Familiarize yourself with these four laws of the agile workplace.

You must have access! Employees or team members need to have access to the company information from multiple devices. From iPads, to smartphones to laptops, your employees need to be able to tap into company systems from anywhere. To move with agility, this is a requirement. You can further promote the concept of the “agile workplace” with a company floor plan that encourages collaboration. You need roomy areas that accommodates seating and grants access to computers effortlessly.

Scale it up–or down. The agile workplace must be an adaptable one! Depending on your services or products, you’ll probably find sales surge at certain times of the year and slows down at others. In order to be agile, your business needs to curb costs by identifying what you can do to cut back on production, smartly, down the slower periods. For the actual office space, you could consider downsizing or up-sizing your work area seasonally.

Have a stellar Team IT. If you have a rock-star IT team, you’re ahead of the game. Your IT gurus deserve an agile workplace, one that allows them to reach and assist team members without going on an hour hike. Is your company IT friendly? Are there ample rooms for servers, equipment storage and troubleshooting?

Harness the power. If you want to get truly agile, track your social media sites regularly. By effectively following followers’ responses and emerging social trends, you’ll get ahead of the pack!

Make your workplace more agile, please Contact us. We can help get you started finding out about creating an Agile Workplace and how it might work for your company.

Tips to Create a Better, Brighter Office Space Where Employees Want to Work

A simple thing like color can affect your mood. In fact, there is a whole study of the psychology of color, and experts agree that certain shades can calm you down, give you energy or even make you irritable. If a small thing like the color of the walls can make a difference in your daily attitude, just think how other decorative items could affect the mood in your office. Happy and energetic workers are more efficient, and efficiency impacts your bottom line. Spend a little time and money on decorating your office space, and it could pay off in a big way.

Plants

Green plants and living flowers increase the amount of oxygen in a room and make the air healthier. Not only will having plants in your office make you feel better physically, plants soothe the eye and soften the visual effect of linear desks and shelves.

Not every plant will thrive in an office environment. Look for plants that grow well under low light conditions and with some amount of neglect. Peace lilies and bamboo plants do well away from direct sunlight, and cacti and succulents can survive the most neglectful watering schedule. The heart leaf philodendron will thrive in almost any environment, creating long vines or branching into a small bush, depending on how often you prune it.

Motivational Posters

You may be great at encouraging your employees, but you can’t be there boosting their enthusiasm every minute of the day. Motivational posters are a good idea in theory, but most commercial varieties are long on cheesy sentimentality and short on actual motivation. Instead of going for a generic package of cheerful sayings printed on nature scenes, create your own motivational posters featuring your employees. Check out the options available with an online printer such as PrintingForLess.com. You can design your own flyers and posters right in your browser and have them shipped to the office. Employees will love starring in them.

 Personal Decor

It may be counterintuitive, but allowing workers to decorate their own space in a non-businesslike way actually increases office productivity. Uniformity is definitely not better. Give your workers their own space, whether it be a cubicle wall or actual office, and allow them to decorate however they wish. Encourage them to let their personalities shine—let the quilter put up fabric wall hangings and handmade seat cushions, while the Metallica fan can decorate his walls with band posters and framed concert tickets.

Most office leases prohibit painting the walls with unusual colors, but poster boards and cubicle walls can be open spaces that take to bright colors easily. Don’t forget about family photos; having pictures and artwork designed by kids makes parents feel more welcome in the workplace. Once workers turn their space into something that feels like home, they’ll be more eager to come to work and more comfortable working and staying there.

Trends in Office Space Planning

When it comes to choosing office space the space, size and configuration are serious considerations. As technology and ways of doing business have changed so has the needs of an office. Trends seem to be emerging. Offices are becoming more flexible with an emphasis on shared space. There is also an increased desire for amenities.

According to an article in CIRE Magazine, “Eventually the shell of a building and its infrastructure will link together. The walls will have technology that talks to the furniture, which talks to the post and beam system and the floor…the walls will be personal property that define private areas but can be taken down and moved.”

Work Community

Office spTeamace configuration now needs to be designed to accommodate how people interact. Work teams are becoming popular work strategy. Offices are being replaced by work stations and they should be close enough to one another so that they can create an enclave to promote teamwork and the sharing of ideas. The conference room at the end of the hall is now in the middle of the work station enclaves. Doors can be provided for when privacy is necessary.

Touchdown Space

There are many employees who spend a great deal of time outside the office. When they are in the office, these employees need a functional space that’s set up for their individual needs. This is referred to as touchdown space. It doesn’t need to have all of the furnishings of an office space that is used daily. Office hoteling software can be used for scheduling use. The purpose for it is to be used effectively on the few regular occasions when a particular employee is in the office. This helps reduce the amount of office space needed.

Embrace Technology

Office space now and in the future must be prepared to accommodate the need for the latest technology. Effective integration of technology must be considered when designing any modern office space. Work is shifting from a place to an activity. Performance is measured on  productivity, not hours in the office. Everything from computer tablet docking stations around the office to large screen monitors designed to handle remote work, Skype calls and more are now essential.

If you would like to know more about the trends in modern office space planning we can help. Contact us today and learn more from one of our local tenant representatives.

Photo Credit: kevin dooley via Compfight cc

Creating a Happy Workforce in Today’s Workplaces Part 2

Last week, in Part 1, we started this two part series discussing the hiring and retaining cream of the crop employees. We said that it is, to say the least, very challenging in today’s competitive marketplace. Creating a happy and productive workforce is not an easy task, Workplaces have up to 4 generations in the workplace with different values and this presents some big challenges.

There are ways employers can create a happy workforce. A happy workforce leads to better productivity. Here are a few ideas that lead to happy employees:

Agile Workplace: Many of today’s younger employees don’t want to be tied down to working in one place. They want the flexibility to be able to where where and when they want. If you want to attract and retain them, consider implementing an agile workplace strategy that focuses on productivity rather that time at the office.

Minimal “Hassles”: Employees become frustrated with unnecessary paperwork, endless reporting requirements, complicated or confusing expense reports, and other administrative tasks. While these types of requirements can probably not be completely eradicated, they can be made as simple and easy as possible and required only if there is a true, useful purpose. Too often, three reports containing the same information in differing format could easily be replaced with one report that is delivered to three departments needing the information. Look for ways to remove useless repetition or needless reports and design those that are required to be easy and quick to accomplish accurately.

Sense of Purpose and Achieving Something Important: No everyone can be brain surgeons, but every employer needs to help employees feel they are achieving something important other than making money for the organization. The happy employee will have a clear understanding of how their part in the company matters to the team, the customer, the community, or perhaps even the world. No one should feel  as if they are just a  tiny cog in a big machine and that they don’t really matter. A person needs to have a sense  that their daily efforts matter.

Variety and Challenge: People are happy when their work is challenging, making them use their skills and learn new skills. They also enjoy a variety of tasks in a day or week so that they do not become bored and mindless about their work.  Employees that perform challenging work  that stretches them to use their skills to the max, but are not  outside their abilities completely, almost always tell others that their jobs are satisfying.

Feedback: Employers should provide feedback, both positive and negative. Without feedback, employees feel neglected or think they must be doing poorly  at their jobs since  employees may think “no news is probably bad news”.  A simple stop by a desk or a phone call to tell someone they did a good job and are appreciated can go  miles in building employee satisfaction and happiness. Periodic formal employee reviews  and goal setting are important and should be used as one means to  justify pay increases, but the format should keep the idea of minimal hassles in mind so that employees don’t dread when evaluation time rolls around again. Compensation should be perceived to be fair and indicate clearly that  dedication productivity, innovation, and goal achievement results in satisfying  pay increases while  marginal performance by doing the minimum will result in small  or no pay increases.

Autonomy: The word autonomy as applied to a job simply means having some degree of control over how the work is accomplished. In today’s agile workplaces, autonomy is becoming more common but even in desk jobs, allows employees to do the ir assigned tasks in ways that work for them, as long as the outcome is positive and meets all the needs of internal and external customers. Even in mundane jobs, people who are allowed to  have as much control over how they do their tasks as possible have a sense of  power and satisfaction. . Micromanagement of workers is a sure killer of autonomy, Instead, assign, empower, and check that delivery occurs on time in with quality.  According to a report from the University of Kent, UK, “Studies have suggested that autonomy is twenty times better at predicting happiness than income. People with high income but little autonomy are usually much less happy than people with a low income but control over what they do…” Further, The Whitehall Study, a United Kingdom study of civil servants, reported that workers with little or no autonomy about their work actually developed poor health more often than workers that had more control over their work, even though the person with little autonomy might have been in the upper pay grades.

Support and Caring: Employees that know their employers truly care about them as people and support them in their efforts to achieve and improve  tend to feel happy.  Employers that provide a work-life balance to employees through agile workspaces and  where practical, schedule flexibility, tend to have satisfied, happy employees.  Having a bond  with other employees and feeling as if there are friends at work also lends to employee happiness, so those 5-10 minutes at the coffee pot , if not abused, may well end  up increasing production throughout the day rather than be a waste of a few short minutes.

Reasonable Stress: No job is totally without stress but jobs that place unnecessary stress on employees are sure to create unhappy team members.  Noted author Natalie Goldberg put it quite well: “Stress is an ignorant state. It believes that everything is an emergency.”  Emergencies do arise but avoid creating undue stress by avoiding creating emergencies — enough of those will arise on their own.  Recognize outstanding accomplishment when employees do rise to an emergency and succeed in dealing with it.

Holidays and Vacations: Holiday time with family and friends is important to employees but not every job can stop and let every employee have every holiday off. Be sure that every employee gets a fair share of holiday time or ask for volunteers to work the holiday. Oftentimes single employees with no local family will readily volunteer to allow their colleagues to be with family. . Acknowledge their sacrifice with kind words and appropriate holiday pay. Provide employees the ability to earn enough vacation time to refresh themselves from long periods of work, whether they like to take a long weekend here and there or schedule a full week or two weeks off once a year.

In Closing: It can be the little things that matter the most.

  • A kind word telling someone you know they are working hard and doing well.
  • A meeting where employees can say what they would like to see change that might improve processes or reduce stressful tasks.
  • A few minutes in your office behind closed doors to say how much it meant that they offered to work overtime on a project so that another employee could be off early to pick up his sick child.

Those things go a long way to make an employee extra happy and satisfied with their job. These are just a few ways to help your company create loyal, satisfied, and truly happy employees that will want to work for your firm for years to come.

Find Office Space

By: James Osgood

Six Design Ideas for Inspiring Greatness in the Workplace

Creating a productive and stimulating office environment – one that really fosters the creativity of its workers – is easier said than done. Bland, sterile décor can lead to low morale, yet too much pizazz can be distracting, thus, finding a proper balance is crucial.

Whether you are working from home, in a shared space with a small group, or supervising a large staff in an equally large office, sprucing up your workplace might just give you that boost in productivity you’ve been looking for. This is where a few simple tips might come in handy.

Address Your Color Scheme
While whimsical, psychedelic décor may not be the best fit for an office. Likewise, off-white walls, bland carpets and cubicle dividers may not be the best option. Try bright colors, but not noisy ones like orange or red. Calm yellows, greens or blues are a good fit for daytime productivity.

Make sure your color scheme is consistent to avoid a sense of disarray. Avoid different colored walls, floors, etc., by sticking with a theme. A feeling of order is important in a place of business!

Take Advantage of Natural Light
That’s right – a little vitamin D can go a long way. If possible, make sure your office is equipped with properly oriented windows and glass doors. Casement windows are a good bet year-round, and screens can help keep the airflow circulating in the warmer months. Make sure you have quality, double or triple-glazed windows for the colder months.

Get Creative With Hardwood
If you’re like me, flimsy, plastic office furniture just doesn’t cut it. Depending on the size of your workplace, consider new or recycled hardwood for desktops, cabinets, and other office furniture. Such projects will not only encourage that creative spark, but might even save you a few bucks in the long run.

diy-door-room-dividers[1]Consider using recycled doors as room dividers. Doors can be attached with piano hinges so they can fold in both directions. Getting creative with this can add a lot to an otherwise bland office!

Spice Up the Office Message Boards
Working as part of a team should nurture a sense of community. While the all-purpose, business-related notice board is certainly important, why not make another for the purpose of boosting camaraderie? And why not frame it? And decorate it? Consider having a monthly, themed bulletin board – one with pictures, quotes, or anything else to make office life a little more personable.

Consider Office Plants
Something about having living plants in a room can really add a touch of serenity. Creating a peaceful environment while improving the oxygen flow in the room is sure to jumpstart that office morale. While too much artwork might be a bit distracting, plants give that sense of comfort without attracting too much attention.

Take Pride in Your Doors
What is the first thing most folks are likely to see when they come to work? That’s right – the front door. While it may often go un-pondered, doors have the subtle ability to shape your psyche. They can be intimidating or they can be inviting. They can push you away or they can pull you in. They can frown or they can smile. I prefer doors that smile!

Consider the doors at your facility. I prefer glass, but wood and fiberglass doors may be better suited for your particular needs. Sliding doors afford more space and add a general appeal to a room. Replacing existing doors is easier and less expensive than one might think, so be aware of what is out there.

The average American spends a third of their life at work. No matter your particular work environment, it is important to take pride in your personal surroundings. After all, where you work can play a major role in who you are. Work together. Sprucing up an office as a team can build community, boost camaraderie and ultimately strengthen how you feel about your job.

Depending on the size and purpose of your workspace, preferences will surely vary. What works for one might not work for all. Finding that balance can be tricky, but with a little creativity and ingenuity, any workspace can be transformed into one that inspires greatness.

Chris Long is a Home Depot on-the-floor store associate in the Chicago suburbs. Chris also writes on DIY windows and doors projects for the Home Depot website. He has been working at Home Depot since 2000.

The Hawthorne Effect: Valuable Workplace Productivity Lessons

One of the most revolutionaries scientific studies ever conducted on the issue of workplace Workplace Productivityproductivity took place in the 1920s, but still holds true today. The Hawthorne Effect is a business management discovery that initially focused on that initially focused on efficient use of office space by studying the effect of lighting on workplace productivity. Ultimately, the science switched from the biological to the psychological with surprising results that open up broad avenues of possibilities for office workers of all types.

You would think that Hawthorne was the name of the social scientist who discovered the titular effect, but that would be the wrong assumption. The Hawthorne Effect was named after Western Electric’s Hawthorne plant near Chicago. The scientist was Elton Mayo and Western Electric had hired him in 1927 initially for the purpose of determining whether lighting levels impacted workplace productivity. As the study continued, however, Mayo realized something much more subtle was going on. Over time, Mayo expanded his research on workplace productivity to include additional stimuli ranging from more flexible schedules to increased daily breaks and other incentives.

By the time Mayo wrapped up his research in 1932, the conclusion was a foregone piece of simple common sense. The Hawthorne Effect essentially asserts that the one single constant when it comes to increasing workplace productivity is increasing the perception among workers that management is making them feel important by observing them. 

A direct result of the development of the Hawthorne Effect was the development of a number of incentive programs designed to address worker needs while also instituting the belief among the workers that management was willing to tend to their future. The 21st century version of this workplace strategy that was the offspring of the Hawthorne Effect study can be found in every office that features an on-site gym, child care nursery, fully functioning kitchen, gourmet coffee shop, comfortably designed smoking area and basketball court.

The downside to this landmark study in workplace productivity is just as vital to understand when designing a strategy for your office workspace. While management should take any steps that make economic sense to design an office that make the workers feel valuable while also allowing them their behavior to be openly observed, keep in mind that there is always a shelf life involved. While the Hawthorne Effect has been proven effective whether the office was populated by a half-dozen workers or a hundred, the effect is bound to wear out without consistent stimulation. Employee production rises when management addresses a workplace issue, but as that issue gradually evolves into the status quo, new issues must be dealt with whenever they rise to become obstructions to workplace productivity.

Only if management deals effectively with those new workplace issues in a way that increases the perception that their observation and recognition of worker issues is genuinely about care for the office employees will the Hawthorne Effect takes over and make everybody happy and productive once again.

If you are looking into ways to make a more efficient use of your office space,  Contact us today to learn more.

Creating a Happy Workforce in Today’s Workplaces Part 1

Hiring and retaining cream of the crop employees is, to say the least, challenging in today’s competitive marketplace. Creating a happy and productive workforce is not an easy task, Workplaces have up to 4 generations in the workplace with different values and this presents some big challenges. Employees that are happy and satisfied with their jobs are less likely to actively seek other jobs. Studies show that hey are more productive. They come to work with smiles and those smiles make their interactions with clients and customers pleasant and effective.

Unhappy employees, on the other hand, continually seek other work, often sneaking office time in to submit resumes online or search online job databases for jobs.  Often their unhappiness with work flows over, impacting their health and family lives in negative ways.  This can easily turn into a vicious cycle, with the employer paying for sick days, vacation and personal days that the employee isn’t using to recover from illness or, in the case of vacation, to truly refresh them and return to work ready to produce.

Much research has been accumulated on the topic of what motivates workers and how to maintain a productive yet happy workforce. Over the past decade, research results have shown that businesses, from the smallest start-up to the largest corporations, people produce more if they have positive emotions about their work.

Gallup, the highly respected data collection and comparison experts, put the link between employee emotions and corporate outcomes into dollars and cents. Their research revealed that lost productivity because of employee disengagements (read employee unhappiness) costs more than $300 billion annual in the US. James Harter and colleagues, in another Gallup study that a business unit’s sales and profits at a point in time are directly predicted by how the employees feel about the organization at earlier points in time. In other words, how the employees felt about their jobs while doing the work that generated the profit and loss statement directly showed up in the P&L figures at the end of the period.

This indicates that maintaining a happy, satisfied workforce is critical to any business’s success. Unhappy employees simply don’t produce more than the bare minimum to keep their jobs while happy team members are innovative and do their very best for the company.

Compensating employees fairly is, of course, a factor in maintaining team happiness. And during the past years of the economic downturn, people pretty much accepted whatever job conditions they had to put up with to earn their paychecks. But today America’s marketplace is  well into recovery and the future looks brighter and brighter, especially in the knowledge based marketplaces.

While every organization is different and every company can’t provide campuses like Google’s or Microsoft’s. Almost all jobs have some tasks that are tedious or boring. But there are ways employers can promote happy employees. Next week, in part 2, we will present few of these factors that lead to happy employees.

Go to Creating a Happy Workforce in Today’s Workplaces Part 2

Congrats on the new office space! Now What?

Facebook is considering developing a $120 million, 394-unit housing complex in Menlo Park, California so employees can live nearby and walk to its offices, The Wall Street Journal reports. Of course, since it’s Facebook, no perk will be left forgotten. The rental property will feature doggy day care and a sports bar, among other necessities. The company will also be upgrading to a 100,000 square foot facility for its New York office.

Don’t worry about keeping up with Zuckerberg if you just opened your first office. Congratulations are in order whether your office is designed for one or one thousand employees. Now that you’ve moved in and popped the champagne, what’s next? How do you set up your new office for success and a little fun?

We’ll keep from overstating the obvious and assume you already know you probably need a desk, chair and some computers. But what about creative and efficient gear for your new work pad?

Keep it Flexible

Did we say you needed a desk? With laptops, smartphones and tablets, traditional desks are no longer a necessity. Get up and running with a few desks for team members who require more space and large set-ups. But leave plenty of room for flexibility. Design spaces where team members can curl up with a tablet while testing new apps and reading fan mail from your customers. Incorporate more couches, communal tables and over-sized workspaces designed for two.

Photo by lab604 via Flickr

Create communal and flexible space for spontaneous meetings. Giving your employees the opportunity to run into each other all day encourages dialogue and bursts of inspiration they can share on the spot. Keep the communal space comfortable and minimalistic with plenty of room to pace and think, relax or grab a tablet off a nearby table.

Make it Fun and Inspiring

Photo by andrewarchy via Flickr

Creative companies like Google are known for video games, Ping-Pong tables and game rooms. Dedicated space to blow off steam can help with company morale and give employees something fun to do during downtime. But interviewing new candidates over a hot game of ping-pong can also get them away from their prepared speeches. Games and competition also helps employees stay in the moment and gives you an idea of how they compete and interact with a team.

Go Green

Photo by joeyanne via Flickr

Incorporating green space can also boost your employees’ moods and give them a breath of fresh air in between meetings and deadlines. Consider office space with plenty of windows or hire an urban landscaper to help with a rooftop garden, patio or indoor greenhouse. Rumor has it Facebook’s new office will feature a mini-forest and full vegetable garden. Embrace all things green by creating a composting area at work and full recycling area for the eco-conscious company.

Bottoms Up

Photo by mrmatt via Flickr

Take casual Friday to a whole new level. Many creative companies like ShipWorks in St. Louis serve up free beer every Friday to its employees. Spontaneous Nerf ball wars are also prone to breakout at its office. Letting your employees indulge once in awhile sets a tone for togetherness and lets them know you appreciate their time. Letting employees relax and blow off steam keeps morale high and communication open.

If you’re not sure about letting your employees imbibe on the clock, think about other perks like catered lunch and free snacks, or bring in a masseuse to give chair massages once a week. There are plenty of ways to give your employees a perk or say thanks without resorting to employee of the month certificates to hang on their cubicle wall.

Put the Ease in Legalese

Now that your fabulous new decor and gadgets are strategically scattered throughout the office, think about what the government needs to see. Unfortunately, the United States Department of Labor might not care as much about your super cool new indoor garden. It will want to know about your workplace posters like job safety and health protection signage.

Just about every business is subject to labor law posters, but you can contact you may contact the U.S. Department of Labor at 1-866-4-USA-DOL to inquire. Next, pick up Intuit labor law posters available in English and Spanish. The site can also help with poster requirements for multiple business locations.

Get help finding office space

Ways to Maximize the Benefits of Office Hoteling

A growing practice in the business world is that of office hoteling. Office hoteling involves providing work space to employees on an “as needed” or “first come first serve”  reservation basis rather than assigning permanent office space for each person to work in. It can be very effective in businesses where employees frequently work from home or otherwise spend time outside the office. Even so, it must be managed effectively if it is to work well, so here are some things you should consider before making the switch:

  • Reserve private cubicle or offices for managers before opening up the rest of the space for employees in order to ensure that managers have a private area to hold meetings and one-on-one conversations in.
  • Be sure there is ample meeting space available, as people may avoid coming into the office for meetings if there is not a private area to hold them in.
  • Develop clear policies on the use of space, to include how they should be left when workers are finished using them.
  • Provide a safe place for employees to keep their belongings in, and make sure it is readily accessible. Many companies who engage in hoteling provide a three-drawer wheeled cart known as a “puppy” for their employees.
  • Think about how work space will be prepared for workers ahead of time. Will you need a concierge to reroute phone service or make other preparations beforehand?
  • Since work space is provided on a first-come first-serve basis, think about whether or not you will require the use of hoteling software in order to keep up with reservations.
  • You could find that workers need more than one type of work space based on the tasks they are performing. Consider all the different types of space that could be needed when coming up with your floor plan.

When used effectively, office hoteling can allow you to reduce costs by creating an agile workplace resulting in your business renting a much smaller office than what would otherwise be necessary.

If you are looking into ways to make a more efficient use of your office space,  Contact us today to learn more.