When I was working in the law firm, the festive period was heralded by the appearance on reception of a tin of Quality Street (other chocolates are available) from the bosses.
|Ah, Christmas. Absolutely no effect on the workload whatsoever.|
If we had been good employees, we would also receive a bottle of something non-vintage and possibly some chocolates to take home.
Reactions would be mixed. Happy employees would be grateful and secrete the gifts straight into their bags to take home to share with the family.
Disgruntled employees would spend hours (possibly days) moaning about how a box of chocolates was never going to make up for being asked to work late in June nor the terrible state of the office microwave.
Which rather begs the question, what Christmas gift would make employees happy – apart from a pay rise and an increase in their holiday allowance of course.
These days I’m responsible for ensuring my own working environment is safe and efficient, but when I was a practice director, I well remember what a fraught time Christmas could be in an office where morale was not at its highest.
Commercial furniture specialists, Sketch Studios have been inspired by the song “On The 12 Days Of Christmas” and come up with 12 suggested presents they think would generate more good will from the work force than a Quality Street jumbo purple sweet.
Here are their suggestions.
Day 1 – better tea/coffee/refreshments
Fundamental to the well-being of every worker, isn’t this what gets us through the day? Adopt the same cafe-style culture as those on the high street and invest in some decent beans/tea and equipment. It’ll make staff feel valued and will draw them back to the workplace for their refuelling.
Day 2 – plants
As well as great health benefits – they generate oxygen and reduce the amount of carbon dioxide in the air, aiding concentration and lifting spirits – plants are a calming influence and great to look at.
Day 3 – a height-adjustable desk
One size will not fit all – it creates poor posture, a major cause of back pain, stress and repetitive strain injury.
Day 4 – a decent ergonomic chair
Humans are not designed to sit all day, so invest in chairs that aid posture. It may be tempting to invest in trendy tub chairs or modular seats to spruce up the office/reception, but they will not help those who are desk-based.
Day 5 – more flexible space
Today’s workers are expected to multi-task so create environments that help them do this. Tasks may include undertaking focused work, reading, attending meetings and collaborating with colleagues. Then there’s a need to squeeze in a break away from work and have some social interaction.Those with a variety of spaces to choose from will be more productive (who wants to sit behind a desk all day?).
Day 6 – headphones
Noise can be a major irritation. It prevents concentration and adds to stress levels. If you’re unable to provide appropriate spaces for the task in hand, such as a quiet room for reading/individual focused-work, these may do the trick.
Day 7 – better temperature control
If it’s fine for men but too cold for women (as the recent gender debate suggested), set the temperature between the two and adjust to the daily outside temperature as opposed to what it should be for the season. Otherwise winter woollies will have to suffice.
Day 8 – improved lighting
Access to natural light is a must, particularly during the sun-starved winter season. Shift furniture to make windows more accessible and where natural light is limited, invest in office lamps to prevent eye strain.
Day 9 – a computer upgrade
With more people using mobile technology it’s easy to overlook the fixed desktop equipment, yet for those who are office-based it’s their professional lifeline. A revamp will make staff more productive as they’ll spend less time waiting for their machine to perform tasks.
Day 10 – more storage space
Staff who bring in their own equipment need somewhere to put it. The same applies to those who exercise; set aside a storage area for kit, it’s more secure and keeps the place tidy.
Day 11 – an office clean-up
Initiate a tidy campaign and give staff 30 minutes or so to clear up their working areas. Office-based workers can un-clutter desks, file away paperwork, clean-out draws, move items from the top of filing cabinets, smarten up those wilting plants and remove out-of-date food from the fridge. Flexible staff may want to check the leads/chargers they borrowed for their laptop, tablet or mobile are back where they should be.
Day 12 – pimp the small room
Spruce up the toilets/washroom for Xmas; give them a lick of paint or re-tile, pipe in Christmas music, add a plant or two and some decent accessories. If there are high-level water tanks, turn them into mini-aquariums or encourage employees to contribute to their mural.
I’m not sure an office clean-up would find much favour unless there was an incentive involved (mulled wine and mince pies?) but these are sensible suggestions to make the time spent in an office environment more enjoyable.
But why should these be kept for Christmas? A better ‘present’ would be the inclusion of a sensible amount for ongoing office maintenance in the annual budget, together with decent investment in staff training and HR support.
Then the office moaners might be a little happier with their Chateau-Collapse-A-Rhino and the bosses might even get offered a Quality Street.