Each year, best-in-class employers spend thousands and even millions to keep their best people happy. The food is catered, the chairs are ergonomic, the gym has experimental exercise equipment and the team-building exercises are better than most people’s summer vacation.
The point of all this extravagance: making their employees forget that they’re at work.
When your people forget they’re at work, they won’t mind staying late and they won’t get that “worky” feeling of dread when they think about coming in on Monday. If you can improve the way that your employees feel about their working lives, they will be happier, more productive and more likely to include your company in their 5 year plan.
Everyone has a different version of an ideal work arrangement, so making your office awesome will require you to understand your people and what they want out of their “free lunch.” As you start making your office a more awesome place to work, remember to ask for feedback and take it into consideration. You want your employees to brag about the awesome office where they work, not grimace whenever they come through the front door, so getting their opinions regularly will be very helpful.
Now, you may not have the budget or the inclination to put a Jacuzzi in your office, but there are plenty of ways in which you can make work feel more fun without breaking the bank. Here are some ways to make your employees brag about how great your company is to work for.
5 Steps to Make Your Office Awesome
1. Make Work Feel Less Like Work
The main focus of work still needs to be working, but making some fun changes to the environment in which work is done will help everyone to enjoy their jobs more. By making some fun changes to the non-public-facing areas of your office, you can make your employees feel more comfortable and relaxed, which will improve both their productivity and mind state.
Just make sure that new additions or decorations aren’t disruptive or inappropriate/unprofessional. For instance: having a playlist or the radio playing during work hours can make working more enjoyable, but it can also be a distraction. If you have an employee who thinks they’re the office DJ or your Pandora Station is just out to get you, then your “fun” office environment may be grating on the nerves of some of your best employees.
And then there’s professionalism to consider. To keep with our radio example, having potential investors walk into your office to the accompaniment of death metal, dirty rap or pounding techno music might get you high fives from said investors. Then again, it might not.
Your industry and the number of non-employees who see a work area will determine how fun you can get with a space, but you should be sure to have a few areas around the office where your employees can relax and forget they’re at work for a second. Getting a few comfy chairs for the break room, ordering takeout on Tuesdays, devoting a wall or a whiteboard to a fantasy sports draft, the key is to give your employees what they need in order to feel at home while they’re working.
You may have many business needs associated with your workspace, but you should have at least one sanctuary where employees can hide out for a few minutes to enjoy a snack and/or a crucial sanity break.
If you can make work feel less like work, your employees will be singing your company’s praises instead of complaining about their jobs like all of their friends.
2. Get Out of the Office!
One of the best ways to make your office awesome is actually getting out of the office!
Going out as a group from your workplace will nurture the connections your employees have to your workspace and the connections they have with each other. Instead of looking at your office as a place where they are trapped, they will start to see it as home base and the base-camp for a variety of fun outings.
Work can be stressful so, when the heat is on, an unexpected or much anticipated office outing is a great way to keep everyone happy. No matter where your company operates (on a plane, on a train, on a boat with a goat, etc.), your goal is to improve the association they have with their daily environment. Venturing out as a group on a consistent basis will help you all to maintain a healthy work/life balance and can show your employees their co-workers in a new, fun light.
Just be sure that you aren’t scheduling outings that your employees secretly dread! Building in employee feedback will improve engagement with group activities and will ensure that you aren’t wasting money on awkward outings that are out of line with who your employees are. Don’t take nerds to nightclubs, don’t take jocks to the Opera and don’t take vegans to STEPHEN’s STEAMIN’ RIBS. Pick activities that you know your employees enjoy and take them out when work starts feeling too much like work.
Having a weekly or monthly office outing, (going out to a restaurant, bar, baseball game, movie, ice skating rink, park, carnival, museum, etc.) is a great way to improve the work/life balance of employees. It may sound counter-intuitive, but getting out of the office is actually one of the best ways to make your company an awesome place to work.
You all work together every day, so shake things up! Get out there and have awesome time with the people you work with! When you all return to the office, everyone will be happy, refreshed, and ready to get back to business.
3. Address the Elephant in the Room
So, you’ve talked to your employees about how to make your office more like home for them, made changes where you can and have started getting out as a group every once in a while.
This is a good start, but the next step in making your office awesome is addressing the elephant in the room. This is done by answering a simple question: “What is the biggest obstacle to your office being an awesome place for everyone to work?”
The elephant in the room can be a manager who is intimidating or an office environment that is too noisy to think in. The elephant in the room can be a culture of cliquishness or off-color jokes that makes work feel like a high-school locker room. The elephant in the room can also be the room itself, which might look like the office of a company that sells brown paper bags.
Whatever is preventing some or many of your employees from having an awesome work experience, you want to know about it. With employee lawsuits against businesses on the rise, you need to address dysfunctional workplace policies and dynamics or leave yourself vulnerable to potential legal trouble.
Just like you asked your employees to help you decide on your office outings, you should poll your staff to see what their biggest obstacles are for having an awesome working life. Again, you can’t make everyone happy, but consistently polling your employees in this way will make them feel like they have a voice. As long as you tell your employees the purpose of this poll (discovering the elephant in the room and making your office a better place to work, for everyone) then you can focus their answers to be more useful than “less work, more snacks!”
Look for patterns in the responses of your employees and collect evidence of any disrespectful/disruptive behavior that happens in your workplace. If you see that a particular person or policy is causing most of your staff to pull out their hair, then you can take steps to correct the problem before your best people quit on you. Addressing the elephant in the room may be uncomfortable, but getting everything out in the open is the only way to make your office truly awesome to work for. Sweeping issues under the rug might work right now, but people are going to wonder about that elephant-shaped something under the carpet and your more frustrated employees are sure to spill the beans.
The last thing you want is for your company to develop a bad reputation among the best talent in your industry. Step up and address the elephant in the room before it starts being too much for your employees. Just because you don’t talk about it doesn’t make it any less awkward, so address the people or the policies blocking your office from being an awesome place to work.
Creating a culture of equality and transparency is crucial for retaining top talent, especially as we see more gender and race diversity in all areas of the workforce. Once you’ve addressed the elephant in the room, and politely asked it to move along, your office will be free from the uncomfortable dynamics that plague so many companies today.
4. Let People Work Their Way
One of the employee policies that can put your company on the “awesome” side of the fence, is allowing your employees greater flexibility in the way they get work done. Flexibility is becoming more and more important to employees, and offering more flexibility will help you to attract and retain top talent.
Just be sure that your “flexible” work environment is the real deal. According to the 2015 Workplace Flexibility Survey:
“67% of HR professionals think that their employees have a balanced work-life, yet almost half (45%) of employees feel that they don’t have enough time each week to do personal activities. One in five employees surveyed spent over 20 hours working outside of the office on their personal time per week – a clear indicator of suboptimal work-life balance.”
As with other steps, asking your employees about their workload and their work/life balance will be the most direct, effective way to learn how flexible you need to be. If your hardest working employees are saying that they are still forced to bring their work home with them, you may have to invest in another employee or a time-saving technology to pick up the slack.
Even if your employees aren’t over-worked, offering more flexibility is one of the best ways to make your office an awesome place to work. Now, the level of flexibility that you can offer to any employee will depend on their job and the demands of that job. Not every job can be done from home, and it is important to offer flexibility to employees at all levels of your company. If you’re only giving some of your employees the option to leave early every other day or do their work from home, it can make the rest of your staff resentful.
Offering Flex-time and expanding the number of sick/vacation days allowed by your company are great ways to increase the flexibility of employees at all levels of your company. Additionally, adopting an official policy of flexibility will be a strong talent attractor and will help you to retain talented hires for longer.
5. Keep Everyone’s Eyes on the Prize
The last step in making your office awesome is making sure that all of your employees are engaged with their jobs and understand how their work helps to create the big picture. From their very first day on the job, your employees should know what purpose their job serves, why it’s import and how to brag about it at a cocktail party.
If your company has a large number of employees, it can mean that some of them have a very specialized portion of the workflow responsible for turning out the final product. For these employees, it is very important to tie their work to other work that is done at your company. For instance, you could encourage your support staff to identify common complaints/problems that they are receiving so that this information can be passed to the people in product development.
Everyone chooses the job they take for different reasons. Some people value money over everything, while others are only interested in changing the world around them. No matter why someone chooses their trade, everybody wants to feel good about the work that they do. Make sure that everyone at your company feels like they’re part of the team and that they work they do is important. While an individual employee may only be a small part of the big picture, their job exists for a reason and it’s your job to make them feel connected to everything else that’s going on at your company.
Making your office an awesome place to work isn’t that hard, but it isn’t as easy as cramming a ping-pong table in next to the copy machine. Ultimately, your goal is to make your employees happier about showing up in the morning, so asking your employees how to make this happen is always the most direct solution.
As long as you can follow these 5 steps, you can make your office an awesome place to work and, as your reputation grows, you can attract even greater talent to your company.