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Gemma Harding


Head of Client Services

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Do your staff hate their office?


Gemma Harding gives us a few tips to up the office productivity levels. 

The Google headquarters in Mountain View, California, with its primary coloured beanbags and well-stocked fridges, has become the stuff of legend. Notorious for their unorthodox and relaxed attitude to work spaces, with 'fireside' meeting pods and sofas that you can call your desk, it’s no wonder that Google receive around 75,000 job applications a week.

Is this really what staff look for, or is it a gimmick? One thing is for certain, providing staff with some comforts and considering the ins and outs of your working environment can go a long way. Most employers can’t provide a free of charge canteen like Google can, but they can sit up and listen to some facts about the way our bodies and brains react to environmental factors. A study conducted by Cornell University looked at how temperature can affect the levels of productivity amongst staff, and found that when temperatures were turned down to about 20ºC 'employees made 44% more mistakes than at optimal room temperature'.

And it’s not just about temperature or lighting, the way you design, fill, organise and present your office space is also crucial. Even if you don’t have Google’s funds (which you probably don’t) we can still take a leaf out of their very innovative book and strive to make all of our working environments both pleasant and functional.

Understand the importance of meeting spaces

Skype’s office in Palo Alto, California features small meeting areas dotted around the large, airy, open plan space. The Path HQ in San Francisco has deep sofas and wall-to-wall blackboards that are perfect for brainstorming. With plenty of seating and accessibility, these areas are great places for colleagues to share ideas and discuss things. Business is built on ideas, so generating more and getting the juices flowing is essential.

No matter what your budget, it’s important to consider where your employees can actually go to sit, talk and collaborate. An office that doesn’t value this runs the risk of looking a bit too authoritative and old-fashioned, which will attract neither new talent nor experienced pros. Having a meeting area with some resources, plug sockets, room for refreshments, and attractive, comfortable furniture will help a tired team re-energise, and it’s surprising what bright ideas can come from this.

Give everyone the chance to move around

There have been numerous studies over the past year that have highlighted the potential dangers of sitting down all day long, so giving staff the space and opportunity to move around when necessary can do wonders for their health and happiness long term.

The brainstorming blackboards mentioned before are an ingenious way to get people standing, pacing and thinking. Sitting while you write on a blackboard is just plain awkward, so everyone will be encouraged to stretch their legs away from their desk. Not only does this appeal to kinaesthetic learners, who learn by doing, but movement stimulates brain activity in everyone, whether they realise it or not.

It’s an opportunity to impress guests

It’s a truth universally acknowledged, by property programmes on TV and various experts, that a well-decorated, well-presented house with flowers and fresh coffee on the dining table, will sell faster than a house that’s just so-so and doesn’t really make an impact. We remember the effort that goes into it and we’re far more likely to put an offer in. There are even companies that offer a 'house staging' service and it’s become an industry in itself, because impressing someone as soon as they walk through the door and making them feel at home already, is a sure-fire way to make them want to live in your house.

This also applies to your office space. Most of these multi-million dollar Silicon Valley companies aren’t solely thinking about aesthetics when they have ‘INSPIRATION’ embossed on a wall - the look of their office will have a huge impact on what people think of a company and its ethos. Whether we like it or not, we all make up our minds about a place within seconds of seeing it. And though people’s minds can be changed, it’s difficult to transform that first impression. Having a brightly coloured wall or an eye-catching rug doesn’t have to cost the earth, and can quickly become a memorable talking point when clients, customers and other visitors come for meetings.

What business owner wouldn’t want to impress a rival company with their happy staff and bright walls, or make potential staff members’ eyes widen when they arrive for their interview? So if your office does neither and currently resembles a grey chessboard of carpeted cubicles, it might be time for a radical change. Your colleagues will certainly thank you for it.

Gemma Harding is the Head of Client Services at CallCare, an outreach call centre based throughout the UK.

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Gemma Harding

Head of Client Services

Read more from Gemma Harding

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