Are you afraid your employees are hanging around the water cooler wasting time? Don't be! It's actually a good thing. Why?
Experts are finding that face-to-face interactions - whether planned or unplanned - are the most important office activity. They tend to increase engagement, productivity and creativity within a company. And it may not be as hard to implement as you think. Here are a few ideas to transform your employees into an innovative force.
Get Back to the Office
The trend toward moving employees from expensive company-owned real estate into inexpensive home offices was popular in the early days of the new millennium. But that idea is being reversed by a number of forward-thinking multinational organizations. That's because working from home isolates employees from casual or unplanned interaction with one another. While that may increase individual productivity, it also reduces innovation, according to management and human resources expert John Sullivan.
While it may be necessary to provide flexible options to employees on a case-by-case basis, getting them to interact at least part of the time is vital. New communication technology can help provide options for including necessary remote workers.
Some companies have experimented with a break from the traditional office layout that includes assigned cubicles or closed offices grouped by department. These older layouts limit interaction with outsiders, often isolating groups within the company. New layouts often include large open spaces that encourage chance encounters and unplanned conversations with other departments.
How can you encourage such collisions among your employees?
- Create unassigned work areas. Rather than viewing office space as sedentary real estate, treat it as a way to get employees to communicate with one another.
- Make shared work areas. Reduce the amount of individual work space per person but increase areas with more than one work space. Add in additional computer plug-ins and large work tables that give people places to collaborate.
- Encourage exploration in foot traffic. Many cubicle designs create one or two major traffic routes through which all employees are generally forced to travel. This means that workers encounter the same people or groups rather than mingling. Adjust your floor plan to provide many routes through the area and provide spaces for people to converse to the sides.
- Reduce allowed exits. This forces people to come and go together at the beginning and end of the day or at lunch, increasing chance conversations.
Shared Break Spaces
Even coffee breaks can be utilized to increase engagement among workers. Many departments have small coffee machines that service a dozen or fewer employees limited to their own group. But by creating fewer, larger coffee break areas that serve many groups, some companies have seen an increase in both productivity and sales dollars.
Viewing your office or building layout not only in terms of productivity and efficiency but as a way to get - and keep - your valuable employees talking through things may be a new way of seeing things. But it can have a positive impact on even the smallest business and carry your company into the future.
To learn more, contact a company such as Midwest Commercial Interiors with any questions or concerns you have.