We all know money can’t buy love — the Beatles have a whole song about it. As it turns out, it can’t entirely buy workplace happiness either.
More and more employees are eschewing larger paychecks in favor of a culture that makes them feel valued and appreciated.
Companies, on the other hand, are eagerly seeking creative ways to cultivate a more positive company culture and improve workplace happiness. After all, a happy employee is a productive employee.
The good news is that some of these solutions don’t cost a dime.
Incorporate Lessons Learned from Remote Work
Although no one will miss breaking up sibling fistfights while on conference calls, there are a few benefits of remote working that you would do well to recreate as you reopen your offices, such as a flexible schedule and a more comfortable work environment.
Health and well-being should also rank high on your list of priorities. Mark McClain, author of Joy and Success at Work: Building Organizations that Don’t Suck (the Life Out of People) told ValueWalk that making employee health and well-being your first priority is a key way to create a better workplace culture in 2021.
"If you respect (employees), value them and treat them as professionals, they will go through walls for you," said McClain.
You have to decide what will and won’t work for your company, but here are some ideas:
Reinvent the Coffee Station
One of the perks of working from home is that employees can drink their coffee exactly how and where they want it.
Whether on a break in a comfy living room chair or working at the kitchen table, they had control over their schedule and environment.
Employers can give their workers that same feeling of freedom while in the office:
- Provide a variety of coffee brands, roasts and flavors and a range of flavored creamers, along with other beverage options. (Tea drinkers, we see you!)
- Have a variety of snacks on hand. Because the pandemic caused many people to take stock of their physical well-being, include plenty of healthy options. As a bonus, foods containing complex carbohydrates, healthy fats, and fiber (such as popcorn) provide energy that can help employees increase productivity.
- Give your common area a coffee-shop feel with tables and chairs for those who want to work and a couple of cushy (but spaced-out and easily cleanable) seats for those who want to relax on a break.
Are your employees going to stage a mass walkout if you don’t have 12 flavors of coffee creamer and 18 kinds of snacks on hand?
Unlikely. But small comforts like a well-stocked breakroom is one of the ways an employer can show they value their employees.
Lay It All Out
A recent article by the Society for Human Resource Management (SHRM) notes that a post-pandemic return to the office might be the perfect opportunity to shake up your employees' routine, starting with the office layout.
Make an effort to do so in a way that promotes workplace happiness and increases productivity.
Focus on Agility
Your newly revamped coffee area/breakroom is a step in the right direction toward an agile workspace, which usually favors an open plan in which workers choose where they want to set up camp each day.
If you’re not sure an agile workspace is right for your company, consider incorporating just a few elements of the concept into your office design.
Keep individual desks, for example, but add some common spaces where employees can socialize and collaborate while they work, along with partitioned-off areas for those who need to focus without interruption.
Let the Sunshine In
Even the best lighting experts have nothing on Mother Nature. And sunlight isn’t just nice to look at. Natural light positively impacts health, including mood and sleep. So why not take advantage of natural light when rethinking your office floor plan?
The most obvious way to do this is by placing desks near windows. You can also maximize the amount of natural light in the office by using lighter wall and furniture colors and incorporating glass and metal surfaces into the decor.
Better yet, maximize the amount of natural light by 100% by providing your employees with outdoor spaces where they can set up shop when they need fresh air and inspiration.
Flexibility is Key
Rather than sit in their remote workspaces from 9 to 5 each day of the pandemic, employees — especially parents — most likely worked before, after, and in between caring for children, helping with online school, and dealing with whatever else this topsy-turvy time threw their way.
Why not offer some of that same flexibility as the office reopens?
A recent Forbes.com piece makes the case that productivity, not the amount of time an employee spends at the office, should be what companies focus on when judging performance.
Leo Pharma, a Denmark-based company with a location in the U.S., is considering eliminating requirements for workers to be in the building on certain days or times.
This is to allow them to focus on "purposeful interactions" and "intentional engagements" when they do come into the office.
If these ideas sound like a big leap for your business, start small.
If your company had a strict start and end time for the workday before the pandemic, consider offering a window in which employees can arrive each day. That way, they can balance their work and home lives and work when they feel most productive.
It All Adds Up
Does workplace happiness live and die by what kind of chairs are in the breakroom or whether desks are close enough to windows? Maybe not.
But making an effort to ensure your employees’ comfort while in the office, along with empowering them as much as possible to make their own choices about when, where, and how they work best, are signs of respect. And respect goes a long way.
Want to gain more insights about increasing workplace happiness? Download this resource.