A better office isn’t built out of the latest formica and drywall — it’s built on the shoulders (and spirits) of the people that work there. There are lots of things that a manager can do to make their office a positive place to work, from the immediate and obvious to the longer-term and more subtle.
Build Trust and Communication
Trust and communication are the two basic elements of any successful relationship, whether it’s spousal, employer/employee or mentor/mentee. Building trust means always doing what you say you’re going to do and telling everyone else that you expect them to do the same. Building communication means addressing the least comfortable subjects first, openly, and without hostility, and expecting others to do that as well.
Establish Expectations Early and Check Results Often
One of the most oft-heard complaints across the American business field is that someone didn’t understand what was expected of them, or wasn’t recognized when they exceeded the expectations they were given. Tell everyone in your office exactly what parameters you’re judging their work by, and establish goals for them to meet on a weekly, monthly, and quarterly basis. Check their results against their goals at every one of those intervals and give feedback appropriately.
Offer Inexpensive Amenities and Don’t Fuss Over Them
It’s the little things that separate a good office from a harsh one. A bowl of cookies in the break room. A box of Sprite in the fridge that anyone can take from. Microsoft is legendary for having fully-stocked snack bars on every floor of every building in their main complex, and allowing anyone to take whatever they need whenever they happen by. That kind of thing shows the employees that they’re not just profit machines, and that goes a long way.
Offer Expensive (But Appropriate) Tools and Don’t Fuss Over Them
When you have to make a painful choice in the budget, err toward the side of giving the employees the best tools for the job. If you have to buy a dozen copies of Adobe Creative Suite software and a dozen top-of-the-line desktop computers in order to enable your advertising department to do their job as easily and skillfully as possible, just do it. Your investment in their tools will pay dividends in higher morale, higher productivity, and greater efficiency.
You have control of your attitude — always use it to present an air of availability to your staff. Even if you’re busy or feeling off-put, act like you want to listen, and tell whomever is approaching you that you want to hear them out, but you’ll have to do so later when time better allows. If possible, give them a specific time that you expect to get back to them.
Call people by their name, and memorize one detail about each person that you can ask about later on to give them a sense that you care. Their spouse’s name, the grade their child is in — anything that’s unique to that person will give them the idea that you’re paying attention, and that also goes a long, long way.
There’s a lot that goes into making an office work well, and quite a bit of it consists of sometimes-painful changes that you have to make to your own habits and behavior. Pull it off, however, and you can get your business flowing smoothly and effectively — and it will show in the place that matters most — your bottom line.