4 Off-Beat Ideas for Making a Small Office Comfortable for Employees

Work in an office long enough and you’ll surely have a laundry list of aspects you’d love to change. Perhaps one day you’ll have a small office for a company you run. Then you can make it the way you envision.

Not long ago my partners and I got that exact opportunity. For the first time we put our names on the lease for office space, so we called the shots. The first thing we did was articulate the aspects of office life we hated. From that came a list of off-beat ideas that we thought would make employees happier.

While there are too many to list in a single post, here are four of my favorite ideas we’ve implemented in the office — ones that employees have most enjoyed.

1. Kick off your shoes

While many small businesses accept or even encourage casual attire, that can sometimes send the wrong message. We operate with the philosophy that when you’re at work, it should look like you’re at work. A suit and tie might be over the top, but business casual presents an effective compromise. Yet, as we all know, business casual attire can get a bit uncomfortable.

To mitigate this issue, we installed a simple shoe rack at the front door. Employees are free to kick off their shoes when they enter, retrieving them only when they venture outside. Over two-thirds of our employees take advantage and those who don’t feel any resentment for those who do. It’s a nice little way to make the office slightly more comfortable, even in business attire.

2. Flexible work areas

Cubicles have gained the reputation as soul-sucking prisons, so we decided to not employ them in our office. Why would we willfully make our employees less productive? The only real solution, then — since we don’t have offices for everyone — is to use the bullpen method. The open air and room for communication really do bolster staff morale. Yet it omits one crucial aspect of the workplace.

Sometimes you just need to sit down, by yourself, in complete isolation, and get some work done. That’s just not possible in a bullpen environment. Our solution: a room with three stations where employees can bring their laptops and just work. These are pretty much like cubicles, so employees can have that feeling of privacy and isolation that can lead to some great work (when used sparingly). We even face the stations so that passers-by can’t glance at their computer screens.

3. A full kitchen

Back when I was working at someone else’s office, one big turn-off for me was the lack of cooking amenities. I try to eat healthily, but that becomes nigh difficult when there is only a mini fridge and a microwave available. When I opened an office of my own, I vowed to provide employees with a greater space to prepare their own lunches. (Though there is certainly a selfish element here.)

When we sought out office space, we ruled out any place that didn’t have a kitchen that resembled one you’d have in your own home. (Some great ideas at that link.) That means a full-sized fridge, oven, and dishwasher, for starters. We stocked it further with some simple china, flatware, appliances (coffee maker, blender, small food processor), and some pots and pans. Now our employees can eat almost anything they’d like for lunch, saving some money in the process.

Of course, such an arrangement can lead to a sloppy kitchen. The rule is: if you dirty it, you clean it before eating. If it’s hot, you clean it after eating. If someone violates the rule, they do everyone’s dishes the next day before leaving the office. So far we have very few offenders.

4. Laundry service

Another healthy habit we promote is using the lunch break to hit the gym. In fact, we give employees an extra half hour break if they go to the gym on their lunch hour (so they can work out and get lunch without pressing for the time). This is greeted with much enthusiasm, though there is just one issue: sweaty gym clothes fester in a bag until the employee gets home.

Our solution is to eat the small cost of doing laundry for our employees. They toss their gym clothes into a hamper that we provide. Every Wednesday and Friday after lunch we send the hamper to a local laundromat, which takes care of the whole load for us. That actually provides two advantages. Not only does it mean employees don’t have to deal with stinky gym clothes, but it allows them to leave their gym clothes at work.

These strategies might not work for your employees. That’s not really the point, though. The idea is to think about ways to make your office a more amenable place for people to work. The more comfortable they are, the more they can focus on the task at hand, rather than on their discomforts.

Joe Pawlikowski is a writer, marketer, and small business owner. When he has a spare moment he maintains his personal blog at JoePawl.com.

Dragan Sutevski

Posted by Dragan Sutevski

Dragan Sutevski is a founder and CEO of Sutevski Consulting, creating business excellence through innovative thinking. Get more from Dragan on Twitter. Contact Dragan