106 Communications

6th Sense

Slides, ferris wheels and stories – what makes a great office?

December 2017 | Culture, Employee Engagement

Recently we’ve been looking at our first grown-up office.  We’ve seen a real contrast of places, darkened rooms, tech hubs, hot desks, Alice in Wonderland and more.  It’s a big decision – not just because of the cost, but more so because of what kind of environment you are creating for the team.  We’re only small, but still, if you’re going to commute, if you’re going to spend the majority of your waking hours together, it’s got to feel like a place you want to be.

Recently there’s been a bit of a backlash against slides, ping pong tables and other breakout areas.  But I wonder whether that’s from people that haven’t embraced workplaces like these – or just some great British cynicism.  Shouldn’t we try and make the workplace as fun and as inspiring as it can be?  After all, it’s a great way to engage colleagues and attract new hires.

So what’s the answer?  Yes, design a great place to work, but don’t forget about some of the principles of great engagement.

Rules – yes, rules.  Where there’s a vacuum, people tend to fill it with their own rules and expectations.  So what do you expect of your people?  It could be anything from rules about tidiness to general behaviour.  Importantly, it can’t be one rule for them and another for leaders.  Everyone needs to embrace it.

Story – what’s the story about the office?  Why are you moving or expanding (or even contracting)?  The narrative is vitally important – especially where you are trying to instil new behaviours, such as more agile or flexible ways of working.  This isn’t simply the story about a new, shiny office (because that gloss will quickly disappear).  It’s also the story of where the business is going and how this environment will help everyone in it.

Tech – even in a small team, tech plays its part – from collaboration software like Slack or Workplace to enabling people to do more on the move or away from the office.  This is a huge area of focus for a lot of companies, especially when looking to create a new hot desk or flexible working environment.  Remember, tech is an enabler; not always the answer to everything.

Values – this is a good time to remind people of the values of the organisation – both as a way of nurturing the culture you want, but also embedding the behaviours that are important to your teams and your business.  But, please, don’t just create something pretty on the wall.  Conduct some workshops, have some fun talking about your values and get your people involved.

Flexibility – a new office or workplace offers you the opportunity to look again at the flexibility you offer.  (The centre of London is a lot quieter now on a Friday!!)  Not just in terms of when people come into the office, but also the way they work and how you can encourage greater collaboration – be that where people sit, events you arrange, team meetings and so much more.

One of the most bizarre workplaces?  Headquarters at Acuity in Wisconsin includes a 65-foot indoor ferris wheel.  Maybe that’s going a little too far!!

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