Natural light, phone signal, speedy broadband and caffeine are the bare necessities for a workplace. But a space that can offer more will give you the edge in the hunt for talent and retention.
Call me touchy-feely but, anyone expecting staff to work eight hours a day, 236 days a year, from the office should think about what the reward for the commute is, beyond PAYE. Because your employees certainly will be.
Nailing the working environment involves both implementing careful hiring policies to protect against any imbalance in the dynamic, and addressing the bricks and mortar.
During round one interviews at LinkedIn, for example, an interviewer will spend an hour on the phone with a candidate just checking they're a decent human being. Many small business owners do the same, aware that a single bad egg can prove toxic.
But while many SMEs are hot on team dynamic and atmosphere, they don’t always consider that their workspace could be an employee benefit, and a visually marketable perk, too. Nor are they aware that ergonomics, psychology and comfort are applicable and viable on a small scale.
In other words, you don’t have to be Google to offer an enviable working environment.
Some serviced offices are offering small businesses a piece of the pie. Boasting many of the same perks as gargantuan dotcoms, WeWork offers free beer on tap, memorable parties, networking opportunities, mobile manicures and massages, a wellness room for yoga, a roof terrace with a view, and weekly breakfasts. The obvious downside – and the major barrier for most start-ups – is the high price tag, not least because locations are central and square footage is at a premium.
Fortunately, employees can see past superficial (and unhealthy) perks like all-you-can-drink beer, but there are elements that can be used to good effect in a small space. Here are five ideas to get more out of your existing space.
1. Respect different working practices
It might be the norm, but not everyone likes open plan working, or sitting down all day. Partitions on castors like this design by Opendesk create instant privacy, a place to brainstorm (one doubles up as a whiteboard), or a quiet corner for when the mobile massage therapist visits.
Or why not create a private ‘phone booth’ within your existing office, where employees can make long, difficult or private calls without the rest of the room listening in?
Desks that can be moved from sitting to standing height will make staff healthier. Research shows that standing for just four hours a day burns 130 extra calories. Do that every working day for a month, and you’ll have burned the same number of calories as running a marathon.
2. 'Green' your office
A 2015 report by Human Spaces suggests foliage coupled with natural light in a workspace boosts productivity by six per cent and increases well-being and creativity by 15 per cent. Plants help purify the air and, if that wasn’t reason enough, it looks good too.
One of the best examples of this is Lisbon workspace Second Home, which houses 1,000 plants, positioned to create a feeling of privacy in its communal space - and to stunning effect. Choose low-maintenance plants and non-flowering varieties in case of allergies.
3. Treats, not perks
Facebook offers free dry cleaning, haircuts, and bike repairs. Twitter offers acupuncture and improvisation classes. Freebies that make life easier, improve wellbeing, or boost confidence will be well received, but don’t have to be offered round the clock.
Book your employees a treat through the one of the many services that will travel to your office to deliver on-site treatments to staff, and order healthy takeaways for late nights in the office. As for team bonding, no one likes orienteering. Think creatively to get your team excited about the next event. How about laughter yoga, sushi making, or learning to whittle a spoon from a piece of wood?
4. Promote healthy living
Book a fitness instructor to come to your office weekly and take your team out for a different activity, from running or cycling, to bootcamp or pilates in the park. If you have extra budget, give your team sports vouchers to be spent on new trainers or kit.
5. Happiness is flexible working
Many employers underestimate the value of flexi-time but most humans are not programmed for productivity between nine and five and many would do anything to take part in the school run or avoid rush hour, however fabulous their offices.
A 2016 survey by Randstad revealed 62 per cent of UK employees want to work remotely or from home and 34 per cent would like to work variable hours every day. Not only is this easy and free to implement, it is also demonstration of trust.