Keeping your workforce happy

Tips on keeping your employees happy and engaged in the office

Let me preface this piece by making it absolutely clear that there is no need to start purchasing hammocks, vintage arcade games or a chrome toastie-maker to make your work environment more comfortable and stimulating for your employees. No one is expecting your office to turn into a misty-eyed vision of a Silicon Valley institution, where fresh-faced genius graduates rub shoulders with world-renowned stalwarts of their profession, knocking out inspirational TED talks on a day-to-day basis.
Instead, we can start by looking at the physical layout of the humble office space. Without going too Feng Shui, the importance of how you arrange your working environment for yourself and others is vital and so often overlooked. Having worked for several companies that outwardly encourage a reputation of being “vibrant” and “creative”, these are most often the environments that do not have a setup that fosters collaboration or openness. I can think of at least three offices over the past five years where I have been hastily stationed on a desk in the corner and spent the next few months getting to know the backs of my colleague’s heads more intimately than their faces. The result was that, despite my grand junior titles and the promise of advancement, I never felt that I could really put my best foot forward. An oppressive layout, even one created by accident, does not make for a happy or engaged worker.
We love to talk about how useful delegation is, yet it is something that seems to rarely materialise. One of my colleagues in a former position was ambiguously and hastily given the task of organising a Christmas party. He was not trusted to make decisions, given the company card or even offered a rough budget. With no indication for available possible dates from senior management, the party never happened and everyone was left feeling rather devoid of festive cheer.
The same feeling was true of another space where my co-workers and I were stationed, a large but separate space to the senior managers. It seemed to mostly resemble a childs attempt at building an office in Minecraft, and was filled with abandoned and obsolete pieces of tech and a treasure-trove of unused stationery. Employees generally don’t require a working environment that is more like a soft play area or science museum, as much as the odd article that features treadmill desks and the like might encourage office envy. Instead, they will flourish and remain loyal and engaged in a more open and collaborative working culture that is articulated by an inclusive physical space.
You must be proactive in anticipating and removing anything that might start to resemble a barrier. If a younger employee is filled with dread at the sight of the frosted glass on the door to your office, or feels like they are stuck in a corner with only a computer monitor to talk to, they will be far more likely to treat their position as a stepping-stone towards moving on to somewhere that they can feel more comfortable.