Have you ever walked into someone’s office and just felt like sitting down and staring into space? Then, there are the hectic offices which are so crazy you just want to get out of there as fast as possible. Then there are “open-offices” with no privacy where desks are all in one big room which is the new trend. There are other offices where everyone chats with each other all day instead of working which might be termed “people-friendly but work-unfriendly” spaces. Google likes to create office spaces where people bump into each other all over the place including halls, restrooms, lunch, billiard tables, and more to stimulate interactive innovative processes which makes sense in their industry. But, what is the ideal type of office for your type of industry?
The BPO industry
Most of the people reading our blog are in industries that have large office spaces for back office tasks and phone work. I have visited such offices and will say that there are too many cubicles, too many people crammed into small spaces, too much noise, and too many people mulling around which is distracting. In short, call center and BPO offices are designed to be stressful, distracting, and cramped — at least in India where I have traveled. So, what is the solution?
Stress is the number 1 killer of BPO workers. They deal with uptight complaining customers, deal with tough programming tasks that relentlessly go wrong, unreasonable managers, and too many hours. To top this off, they have to work in a very distracting and stressful office space. They have a layer of stress from the work on top of another layer of stress from the customers, with a third layer of stress from management with a final layer of stress from the type of office they are in. My philosophy is to combat stress with the opposite of stress.
If you have a stressful job, do it in an un-stressful environment.
I realize that this is not always possible, but I often take my work out of the office. I work at home in my room. It suits me well as there is almost no noise, no other people, and no distractions. I work well during the day and even better at night. I rarely answer my phone as that will take me off course in my work. But, I found that working from the beach is the best place to make stressful calls. The beach relaxes me. I work in my car near the beach on a cliff actually. But, the atmosphere from being near the water calms me down which counteracts the stress of dealing with dumb customers who can’t answer a question unless you ask the same question four times to each of one hundred people on a list. Dealing with the same type of stupidity over and over and over makes me impatient and mean. So, choosing an ideal environment really helps.
But, what about your office layout?
You can’t put your office next to the beach unless you are really lucky. But, you could arrange trips to the beach from time to time to do work, or build a mini-office near the beach, or even use someone’s home near the beach to do calls. Another solution is to have an office where workspaces are more private. You could have rooms instead of cubicles and not have more than one person on a phone in any particular room which would cut down on distracting chaotic noise. I realize it would be more expensive to create such rooms and would be less space efficient. However, for senior employees, this would be a great way to reward them for their loyalty and provide a pleasant environment which might entice them to stay at the company longer.
Creating spaces with views or trees?
If you are in a cramped city, this might not be possible. But, what if you can have an office in a more remote spot? I would take advantage of nature and integrate trees, water, and gardens into your office theme. Imagine having office suites where each room has windows overlooking beautiful natural scenes. You could have a Japanese Zen Garden with Bonzai trees out one window, and a forest outside the other. You might design a small waterfall to be 30 feet North of your boss’s window for good feng-shui and grass to be next to someone else’s window. Having windows that actually open is much more healthy than breathing recirculated air. Perhaps we should all be like Google and have customized offices based on our industry’s individual needs.
Retreat offices in the mountains and shores
I think it is a great idea to get away from the office from time to time and work in a completely different environment. This won’t work for those of us who have children. But, for singles, it is wonderful. I work so much better when I can get away to the mountains, beach or desert. Not all remote environments work for me, but some work miracles and make me feel recharged. I can actually get 50% more done in the ideal remote environment just because the energies stimulate me!
What is right for you?
Most managers are very closed minded about what is right. They want to do the same old thing and make excuses about why change is too difficult or won’t work in their unique or not so unique situation. I think the world will learn that companies with Google type consciousness that involves innovation, customization, and optimization of environments (and everything else) to be companies that get ahead while companies that are closed minded have limitations for their growth. A good worker experience will decrease attrition, increase engagement, and revolutionize productivity! It is worth a try at least as a pilot operation. Let me know how it goes!