Heard of the phrase “soldier without a gun”? That is how employees, who are put in a sub-optimally designed office environment, are likely to feel. The very least expectation of employees is that they be productive in their work. They will not be able to do that if they are not provided the right office environment.
What does a productive office environment mean? What are the factors that go into making an office environment productive? How will it help employees be productive?
Factors while designing an office environment
What are the factors that employees will think of while judging whether or not his office environment is productive? These factors can be grouped under three major heads:
The physical environment
1.Is my work environment intuitive? Or Am I searching for things?
2.Is it customized to my work style and requirements? Or is it designed to satisfy overall standardization protocols?
3.Is there something vital to my performance that I am missing in my work environment?
4.Do I have to deal with a lot of problems with the equipment that is provided to me?
5.Am I satisfied with the quality of products and service delivered by my vendors?
The supportive environment
1.Are there systems and processes in place in my department that serve as good librating structures? ?
2.Do I have clear instructions and guidelines on how to use the equipment that are provided to me?
3.Are the enough staff in the department to do the work? Or is it understaffed?
4.Do I have access to the information that I need to do my work?
The emotional environment
1.Can I depend on my manager to sort out any problems that I may have in my office environment?
2.Do I get alternatives when I ask for something that will improve my productivity? Or is it only a straight no.
How to design a productive office environment
1.Involve the staff: One of the sure-fire ways to design a highly productive office environment is to ask the employees what would make them productive. The diagnosis becomes easier; the design becomes more relevant and therefore more productive.
2.Customize: Don’t always try to standardize everything in the office environment. People are different. Their work styles are different. Their requirements are different. Their value to the overall process is different. An office design that does not take cognizance of these differences will end up designing an office that is uniform and standardized but unable to satisfy any of the staff to the fullest. It will also result in a bad design – some staff will get more than they actually require; some will get less. It not only results in sub performance of employees but also in underutilization of company infrastructure and budgets for infrastructure.
3.Justify: Ask employees what they need does not always mean that employees are correct in their requests. A lot of employees make requests not because they really need something, but because their colleagues have it or because it makes them feel better. A effective office design has to ensure that employees requests are justified; a cost-benefit analysis is done and there is a definite break-even to justify the granting of a request.
Tips to ensure a productive office environment
An office design is not static, set-up exercise. It is dynamic, because employees’ expectations and requirements are dynamic. Here are some tips to ensure that the office design evolves with employees’ expectations and keeps pace with the employees’ requirements.
1.Check in with the team about the work environment at least once in 6 months. This helps track changing employee needs.
2.Involve the whole team while making decisions regarding purchase or materials/equipment or outsourcing services. A consensus approach will always get better ownership of the office design.
3.Hold a vendor audit periodically to review the quality of outsourced materials and services. This ensures that complacency does not set in in the vendor quality.
4.Hold meetings with vendors and service contractors at least once a year. This helps them keep pace with the office design requirements. They may also be able to add value to the office design by suggesting updates and upgrades.
5.Ensure that all employees are well trained in all aspects of the office equipment and processes.
6.Clarify the logic behind approving design changes or requests. How does it affect productivity? Are there cost savings or quality improvements? This helps the employees think in terms of the whole department rather than individual preferences.
An office environment that is designed towards productivity provides a strong platform for employees to start unleashing their full potential. It sets the stage for higher order performance.
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