Tag Archives | workspaces

Don’t Blame The Office – Let’s Recreate Our Workplace

To open his opinion piece on CNN called Why the office is the worst place to work, Jason Fried writes,

Companies spend billions on rent, offices, and office equipment so their employees will have a great place to work. However, when you ask people where they go when they really need to get something done, you’ll rarely hear them say it’s the office.

Further, he writes,

I don’t blame people for not wanting to be at the office. I blame the office. The modern office has become an interruption factory. You can’t get work done at work anymore.

Sorry Jason but you completely wimped out in this article. “The office” is an inanimate object and an easy target for scorn. Why not call out your peers in the executive suite for their apparent lack of interest and commitment in making the workplace better? Why not at least start to address the real reasons for why many offices don’t work right now? Maybe that’s not fair to ask considering that CNN probably asked for a typical fluff piece.

The “office” is just a container for all the human interactions and emotions that take place within it. If the office is seen as nothing more than a place for constant interruptions, for unproductive meetings, and for pointless interactions, is that really the fault of a place…or the fault of those individuals who inhabit it?

Here’s another thought: instead of just dumping on the workplace experience, let’s be more adventurous in how we try to fix it.

1. Let’s stop with the idiotic band-aids. Electing to skip a meeting, spend a day not talking to anyone, and collaborating solely through IM isn’t going to solve anything – short- or long-term. Actually, it just makes a mockery of the real issues that keep business from functioning full throttle.

2. Let’s realize what the workplace actually is. From the C-Level down, there must be a renewal in how we think about the value of employee interactions in business. What we’ve come to know as the “workplace” is an organic community, not a machine that can be engineered, where employees are just simple cogs. But that’s what most execs and managers have been trained to believe through decades of traditional organizational thought.

3. Let’s start dealing with the real problem. Improving the workplace isn’t merely a matter of action, it involves a change in thinking. But if we ignore the problems of poor communications, ineffectual relationships, and meaningless work, they’ll continue to persist. So what do we want to see more of in our workplaces? It’s time to stop putting on the band-aids, folks. Are you with me?


Find Our Own Adventure Playground

Continuing my thought process from yesterday, how’s this for adventure? WebUrbanist tips Lia Sutton and the concept of the Adventure Playground:

In short, adventure playgrounds are places where children can create and modify their own environments, rather than relying on rigid equipment that only serves a limit set of programmed purposes: “In a sense, you and I have always played in ‘adventure playgrounds.’ We created a fort in the kitchen cabinets, jumped from couch to couch across oceans; we snuck out through a hole in the fence to a new world. We climbed trees and hid in bushes. We played in the mud and the rain. We chased each other, made secret worlds …”

Yeah, the concept here applies to kids, but it’s also a rich source of ideas for us adults, too. How often do we just accept our surroundings as fixed, non-transformable environments? What if we altered our everyday areas to match our moods, needs, you name it?

If you’ll excuse me…I’m off to turn my cubicle into a fort.


The Work’s Lousy But Look At All These Cool Perks

It seems the ‘war’ for talent is still at a fever pitch at some organizations…at least if we gauge it by the corporate perks offered. Okay, maybe it’s not quite at the same level of the heydays, but we’ve all heard about the companies that offer gourmet cafeterias and concierge services for their employees. All of these additional perks still conjure up concern that they’re fooling employees into working more and spending greater time at the workplace. For the latest, see Can A Workplace Be Too Enticing? at the Fast Company Experts Blog. Are we really still experiencing a hangover from the days?

Let’s consider the true purpose of the ‘perk.’ In the non-profit world, these benefits help make up for the lower-than-standard salaries. In the corporate world, perks may be what set two similar companies apart. At organizations that are great places to work, cool perks add to this feeling…they’re the cherry on top of the hot fudge sundae. On the other hand, cool perks at a crap job aren’t going to make that job any more palatable. It’s idiotic window dressing that won’t fool smart people for very long.


Workspace Matters: Three Ideas for Creativity

Many thanks to John for pointing me to an older post from Alexander Kjerulf at Chief Happiness Officer. I must have missed this when I was on my fall hiatus.

One of the guiding themes behind workplay is cultivating a playful workplace. This isn’t just about creating a working environment where people enjoy what they do. It’s also about creating workspaces that match the need for creativity and inspiration that are essential for success. If you think about it, it’s rather naive to expect a lot of fresh insights and ideas when you’re sitting in a gray cubicle, surrounded by white walls and neutral colored flooring. Which is why I was happy to come across Alexander’s examples of organizations who seem to understand the connection between space and creativity. As he writes:

Physical space matters. It’s easier to be productive, creative and happy at work in a colourful, organic, playful environment than in a grey, linear, boring one.

Exactly. Here’s his post and flickr set.

So, so perhaps you’re thinking, “Hey, this is a pretty good idea. Our folks need a more stimulating, engaging workspace. Where do I start?” Good question. Glad you asked. Here’s some ideas to get us started.

Pimp the Office Day
So, you have boring, white walls throughout your office space. Time to liven them up and what better or easier way to do than through a new paint job. Go to your local home improvement store and pick up some paint. Get employees involved in selecting colors, even themes for different areas of the workspace. Then, tell your customers that the office is closing for a day, turn off the phones, computers, etc, and go to work.

Why stop at just walls? Time to pimp out those mind-draining conference rooms. Need some inspiration? Check out Alexander’s more recent post: 12 Ways to Pimp Your Office. The point here is to start getting folks involved in building their own creative spaces.

Work on Wheels
Even if you have a stimulating environment, it’s hard to be creative if you’re stuck in the same place in the office floor plan day after day. One way to bring out the creative juices is to change your scenery. So, rather than an office space of fixed cubicles, turn your most valuable creative assets loose by giving them the freedom to roam. Give them laptops with wireless connections. toss out the cubes for more free-floating kiosk-like tables. Put file cabinets on wheels. Whatever it takes to get them up and moving around.

Org Chart Milkshake
Creativity doesn’t occur in a vacuum. Sparks of creativity are also generated by shifts in thinking and being around folks who are different from us. So, shake up that floor plan by creating workspace pods where each person is from a different department. In nearly every organization, people are clumped together by their function: marketers sit together, salesfolks sit together, account managers sit together…you get the picture. This may have made sense in the days prior to IMs, emails, and videoconferencing. Now, we tend to do it because it’s mindlessly ingrained in our business thinking. Time to get mindful again. If your organization appears to be siloed and you can’t figure out why, take one good look at where folks sit every day.

There are many more ideas out there. If your organization does something cool and innovative to shake up its office space, I’d love to hear it. The one thing we all need are more business cases to prove what we intuitively know: Workspace matters when it comes to being creative, stimulated, and engaged in our work, which is always good for the bottom line.