Anyone who has managed a team has likely encountered issues of employee productivity: Are you empowering them to make decisions on their own? Providing them with sufficient resources? Removing efficiency barriers?
For good facilities managers, it turns out "removing barriers" might have a literal impact on employee productivity. In fact, facilities managers may actually have a bigger impact on employee productivity than many organizations give them credit for. From office layout, to food and beverage considerations, to aligning in-office perks with employee demographics, the decisions a facilities manager makes every day can have an enduring impact on organizational outcomes.
Desk and Office Space
For anyone that works in the tech community, debating the merits of standing desks vs. treadmill desks is commonplace. But facilities managers don't need to worry about the efficiency of each desk type so much as they need to understand the needs of their employee base when designing employees' working spaces.
"I don't like to use the word cubicle, because there's a negative connotation with those," says Facilities Director Kenneth Papa. "People automatically think Dilbert. But there are functions in the workplace that they help with, like acoustics and privacy, and some roles -- like inside sales reps -- will be more productive with work stations designed around that. But for R&D or dev groups, I'll design something more open and collaborative, with low walls if any."
Designing productive desk space isn't just related to job roles, either -- Papa notes different personality types may thrive in workstations with more or less privacy. Think of the introvert to your left and the extrovert to your right, and consider whether they get more or less done in solitude. Generational factors may come into play, too, with older demographics coming to expect their own, private space in order to get more work done.
In-office perks that help employees lead a more efficient life can work wonders for their productivity. It makes sense: The less time employees have to worry about tedious things, like errands or going to the gym, the more focused they'll be while they're at work. In fact, Forbes contributor Victor Lipman cites "flexible support for a reasonable work-life balance" as a critical management practice that leads to more productive employees. How can facilities managers support that initiative? With executive buy-in (with buy-in, hopefully, comes budget) facilities managers can provide perks that make their employees lives more efficient, like discounts to nearby gyms, onsite dry cleaning, or free coffee. Although, remember to tailor those perks to the issues that matter for employees: on-site daycare will matter less for companies with a largely child-free workforce, for instance.
Speaking of coffee as a driver of productivity, caffeine can help your workforce be more productive in more ways than one. Yes, having coffee onsite removes the need for a stop at the local Starbucks in the morning, but it can also help people focus (as the caffeine addicts out there surely know).
Taking it a step further, though, facilities managers can consider more alternatives than just coffee for their workforce; tea drinkers need their caffeine, too, and there are even options that provide all the caffeine of coffee without the associated jitters or crash. Because they offer a slow and steady release of amino acids, even coffee drinkers can get the energy boost they need in the afternoon without the crash and burn they usually experience around midday.
With coffee, often, comes food. Facilities directors won't always have the budget to implement a food program that offers an array of healthy choices, but Papa advises that it isn't always necessary.
"It's about the little things you can do given your specific situation. Not everybody can implement a fresh fruit program with expensive options and an over the top display, but you can get by on the cheap via purchasing cases of product from a vendor, or buying other snacks in bulk. Whether it's all healthy or not doesn't necessarily drive productivity as much as offering options and allowing your employees to choose based on their own likes and dislikes. If you only provide healthy food options, employees that make unhealthy decisions outside of the office probably won't change their habits while at work. The best you can do for productivity is provide an array of options that introduce the plausibility that employees will make choices that have a positive impact on productivity."
Facilities managers make dozens of little decisions every day that make life easier for employees and, by extension, improve morale and productivity. These are just a few of the considerations anyone designing office space should take into account -- but for more in-depth help designing a more productive working environment, you'll benefit from consultations from experienced facilities professionals.
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