Wednesday, July 21, 2004

The Corporate Home-Office

Although ad agencies have been using the work environment to promote creativity for years, other business sectors have yet to catch on. Dress-down policies have slowly been creeping through the barrage of grey suits. So there’s hope.
Creating a home away from home work environment has obvious affects on morale. Stocking up a kitchen, offering a selection of ‘current’ magazine subscriptions, a few books, a comfy couch, some desk lamps and a lick of paint, all cost relatively little to introduce and maintain yet do wonders for creating an atmosphere offering a sense of energy and support, yet still making an employee feel relaxed and settled.
The long term benefits include staff retention and overall job satisfaction. Employees are far less likely to think of the company as insensitive and lacking of care. Salaries and benefits are less likely to be judged (providing they are competitive). Additionally, the company becomes more appealing to new recruits.
Medium term affects offer improvements in communication, less sensitivity on the subjects of over-time (time away from home/family), and a reduction in stress levels. The number of sick-days will reduce in positive, thriving atmospheres where employees feel welcome. Naturally, maintenance and consideration for changing trends (d├ęcor, tastes, keeping the fridges well stocked) keep long and medium term benefits on the high side.
Short term benefits will relate to team-building, recognition/reward and entertainment.
Some things to consider: Don’t go overboard. The environment must still be conducive to getting ‘the job done’. Although initially, some novelty may have an adverse affect on productivity, this will quickly wear off providing the changes are not continually distractive. Go for clean modern simplicity with soothing tones, over brash, bright or cluttered where everything is loud. Consider the broad range of personalities that make up your workforce.
To complete the effect, involve employees in the exercise of making the environment feel more personal. A good way to do this is to offer a small annual budget to each employee to redecorate their ‘space’. This could be set against a theme to support the company brand or messages you wish for the different departments to reflect. Invite employee families to visit their loved-ones at work. A spouse, partner or child who knows where and what their significant others do during a day and feels they have access to them during office hours are less likely to apply outside pressures. It’s good to remember that every time an employee works overtime for you, it’s time taken away from their families.
Employees are more able to complete the blur between home-life and work-life when they can feel at home in the office.


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