Clean Desks and the Workplace: A Guarantee of Productivity and Value?

Your work desk is a platform for judgment.

There’s no way of avoiding it. When people walk by your space and you’re not there, they scan your work area. They see what’s on your desk and what’s not on your desk. And they may, either consciously or unconsciously, form an opinion about you.

In this sense, your desk is like an advertisement for you, a billboard that’s marketing who you are and how you work.

However, you might be surprised to know that professionals across different industries agree that your desk says something about you, but they don’t agree on what it is your desk is saying.

We talked with a trio of professionals to get their opinion on what your work desk says about you:

Is a Spotless Desk a Sign of an Organized Mind?

Our experts were decisive about this one. For the most part, a clean desk indicates some level of order and structure.

“A neat and tidy desk … tells that you are good at organizing work and visual clutter impacts your levels of productivity at work,” Kapoor said. “Attention to detail is one quality that reflects when you keep your work desk tidy than messing it up altogether. Generally, the more you tidy up your work desk; the better is your focus and clarity to your work.”

You don’t want to go overboard on the organization though because an overly minimalistic workspace might seem a little too sterile, Shawe said.

“An empty, spotless desk can demonstrate that you are not committed to a long stay or aren’t that confident you will be accepted or kept,” he said. “That has a lonely, solitary feel and it isn’t good for a congenial, collaborative experience.”

Should You have Photos of Family, Friends and/or Significant Others on Your Desk?

Some of us love showing off our spouses, kids, friends or partners via photos on our desk. It’s a way to share our lives with those around us in a passive way.

But is it a good idea to bring your personal life into your workspace? Shaw says it’s a simple method for making our space – and ourselves – better.

“When your desk is neat but has pictures of family and friends, a few mementos, pens, paper and accessible work needs, it can be indicative of a strong work ethic and strong ties to the workplace,” he said.

Kapoor agrees. He noted that displaying photos of your family, for example, lets you and your coworkers know that your life is more than what happens at work.

“As far as family photos are concerned, it’s quite heartwarming to have them in front of you at your workplace,” he said. “Many people call it an emotional distraction; however, it can actually serve a reminder that your work life has a broader purpose and keeping a balance between work and family is a prerequisite to holistic living.”

Does a Spotless Desk Mean That You’re a Good Employee?

This might be the most interesting question. Many of us see a clean desk as a sign of an organized mind and, it stands to reason, organized employees are better for the company than those with messy desks.

However, Shawe pointed out that your overall demeanor and work ethic has far more to say about you than your desk. Don’t make the mistake of believing a clean desk makes up for a poor attitude.

“Conduct is always king, and cleanliness does not necessarily mean you are a good employee. You need to be pleasant, intuitive, savvy and talented in your field,” he said. “If you are the latter three but unpleasant to be around, cleanliness or not, your conduct defines you.”

Lowe said that, in her experience, a clean desk isn’t a guarantee that its owner is a productive employee.

“The truth is, while a clean desk might be an indication of how you keep your home or preferred spaces there is no real proof that there is a connection between a neat desk and productivity,” she said. “In fact, I’d argue over the years of coaching senior level leaders, and as an HR practitioner the some of the most brilliant business leaders didn’t always have the neatest desk or offices.”

A Beginner’s Guide to Planning a Charity Event for Your Company

The holidays are the season for giving.

At workplaces across the country, employees start charity drives and/or events to raise money and gifts for those who are in need. While the concept is simple, planning an effective charity event is actually pretty complex. To help you ease the stress and ensure a successful event, we talked with several experts, including Jerome Tennille, a Navy veteran and manager of volunteerism at Marriott International.

Start Your Planning by Recognizing the Basics

Tennille said there are three principles you need to understand before you start: Meet the needs of the community you want to serve, have a compelling call-to-action for your fellow employees and make it easy to participate.

Meeting the Needs of the Community

This is the first step in the process. Stephanie Jones, founder of Giving Gal, suggests taking a quick poll during work to find out what’s compelling.

“Ask input from your employees regarding which causes they’d like to support,” she said. “People are more likely to get involved if they feel their voices have been heard.”

Once you’ve identified the cause, then take some time to figure out how you can best meet the needs of those in your community you want to help. Tennille said this step is crucial to running a charity event or drive that is truly effective.

“When I say it must meet the needs of the community, what I’m referring to is the necessity to do research to identify the issue in society, and then connecting with an organization you can work with to set up the collection drive or fundraiser,” he said.

You may find that the organization or cause you want to work with would be much better off if you helped them in, say, July, than during the holiday season.

“Often times we seek to serve over the holidays, when in fact many organizations most often need the support outside of the holiday months,” he said. “So, understanding the needs of an organization or community is key.”

Use Smart Planning to Make a Compelling Call to Action

Fundraisers, whether done over the course of a few weeks or at a one-time event, aren’t going to be successful unless you’re able to get the word out to your co-workers.

You’ll want to do this at least a month before the drive or event happens so that everyone knows who they’re donating to and what they can donate.

“You should plan these events at least a month in advance. This will allow you to set up collection bins and source any materials you need for promoting the event,” Tennille said. “In the instance that this is a collection drive, this gives you time to communicate what you need while also providing time for people to collect those items.”

Work with your team to plan when/if you can make announcements about the charity effort during a meeting. Place flyers in the break room and, when appropriate, send out details via email.

Make Sure the Charity Initiative Integrates into the Workday

The last thing you want is a charity drive or event that interrupts the workday or impedes the focus and workflow of your office.

If you’re running a toy drive, be smart about where you place your donation boxes. You don’t want them to be a distraction but, at the same time, you want them to be visible enough to remind people they have a chance to be kind.

“Depending on the policy at your office you’ll want to ensure that what you plan doesn’t disrupt the business operations, so it must be easy to give, donate and collect items,” Tennille said. “If this is a collection drive you might want to set out collection bins at exits and entrances, so people can
donate as they come into the office.”

If you’re doing a one-time fundraising event, he said, then make sure you plan it during a lunch break rather than another time when everyone usually works. The disruption discourages people from participating and could cause your event to be viewed as an annoyance rather than an opportunity.

A Real-Life Example of a Charity Success

Matt Dodgson, director of U.K.-based Market Recruitment, said his team came up with a gift-wrapping fundraiser that ended up being a positive, helpful experience for his team.

His office was full of creative people who happened to be good at gift wrapping. So, the company decided to run a gift-wrapping drive in which they reached out to family, friends, clients and the community around them, he said.

The event was a success because Dodgson and his colleagues started their planning early, made a concerted effort publicize the drive and they ran a well-organized campaign in which they had a pair of gift drop-off spots. His company used Google forms to allow people to choose a date and time to drop off their presents to be wrapped.

Also, he said they used a tiered pricing model in which smaller presents were cheaper to wrap and bigger presents were more expensive. People were happy to pay for gift wrapping when they knew the funds were going to a charity.

“Overall this was a fun way for us to feel engaged with our community. Sometimes it meant us spending an extra hour at the office at night wrapping presents in order to meet deadlines, but we made a party out of it. We would play holiday music and dance as we wrapped,” Dodgson said. “In the end, we raised about £1.000 for charity, which was great for our small team.”

Transitioning to a New Workplace: Insights from a Workplace Consultant

New jobs are thrilling. Having to incorporate yourself into a new community of colleagues? Not so much, especially for those who tend to be introverts.

The transition to a new workplace takes a certain level of intention and purposeful action to make that transition as smooth as possible. And, according to talent consulting firm Visier, the advice can’t come soon enough. Turnover is highest in January, they say.

We’ve created a series of three articles to help you transition effectively. In this post, we’re featuring the advice of Becky Prideaux, a workplace consultant with more than 25 years of experience in the industry.

#1: Write Down the Reasons You’re Getting Your New Job

We’ve all experienced the honeymoon phase of getting a new job but, if we’re honest with ourselves, there are clear moments when we might second-guess our decision to take a new position. It can be tough to leave the stability and security of your current job for the unknown of a new job.

The best way to manage those moments of doubt is to write down the reasons why you took the new job – what excites you? – and keep that list with you for those moments of doubt, Prideaux said.

“After you have been in a new role a little while most people experience a moment when you feel really unsettled and wonder why on earth they changed jobs,” she said. “If and when you do have that moment, this list will help you stay focused and doing a great job.”

#2: Plan Ahead for Your First Day

You want your first day of work to be perfect. That goal may be unattainable, though, if you aren’t clear on some basic logistics like where to park, how bad traffic is and other factors that could cause you to be late.

Talk with your HR department to find out exactly where you need to park, how early you should leave to get to work on time and which types of paperwork or identification you’ll need to complete the onboarding process.

“Knowing you have these details handled will take the pressure off you and allow you to focus on making a great impression rather than turning up late and stressed because you couldn’t find somewhere to park,” she said.

#3: Hire a Success Coach

Prideaux said this tip is a crucial one for those moving into a senior management position, where demands and expectations are high and the margin for error is minuscule.

“Research has shown that having a specialist coach to work with you in your first three months can double the chances of being rated as successful in your new role after your first year,” she said.

Your coach can also help you handle your new relationships by strengthening your view of yourself and helping you navigate the various personalities in your new workplace.

#4: Set Boundaries on Your Work Hours

During the first month of a new job, you’ll be motivated to show your new co-workers and bosses that you are reliable and educated. This mindset may lead to you working more hours than you normally would.

However, Prideaux said, this can backfire on you because it may give your new employer the impression that you always want to work late and are willing to sacrifice your work-life balance for the company.

Therefore, you should consider hard boundaries in your first month that define your priorities. Once those boundaries are set, you can deviate when needed.

“Especially in management and leadership roles there is often a pressure to be at work or available for very long hours,” she noted. “Important though it is, work is only part of your life and it needs to work for you in conjunction with everything else,” she noted. “For example, being clear about how late you are willing to stay and sticking to it from the start is much easier than trying to pull back from long hours later.”

Looking Ahead: More Tips for Transitioning to a New Workplace

Getting a new job is exhilarating and taxing at the same time. As we mentioned in the introduction to this post, it helps to set clear goals for your first month in the workplace.

We’ll help you meet those goals in two subsequent posts in which we provide insight from a multitude of experts and workplace consultants.

New Orleans Business Growth and Solutions for Office Expansion

Over the past few years, New Orleans-based companies have made strong showings the annual Inc. 5,000 List, a collection of the country’s fastest-growing companies based on year-on-year revenue.

In 2017, 16 companies placed in the Inc. 5,000, with two companies—Palmisano and Revelry Labs—placing in the top 500 of the fastest-growing companies in America.

In this post, we’ll talk a little bit about each company and then provide examples of how The Office Planning Group can help you plan an office expansion as your company grows.

#241: Palmisano, 1,779.35% growth over 2016

Palmisano is a construction company whose projects include hotels and restaurants. Besides being No. 241 on Inc.’s list, they also made the cut for Inc.’s Best Workplaces 2018, further strengthening their position as one of New Orleans’ most exciting companies.

The company’s roots, according to their website, go back to 1950 when Warren Palmisano Jr. started the company after returning from World War II.

“Today, his unparalleled reputation for giving 110% until the job is done still drives our growth, and his common-sense approach steers our judgment,” their website says.

In addition to their top-500 ranking, Inc. named them the No. 13 top construction company and the No. 4 company in Louisiana.

#375: Revelry Labs, 1,155.85% growth over 2016

While Palmisano is building things with brick and mortar, Revelry Labs is doing it with cloud-based custom software solutions. Their list of clients is impressive: Amazon Web Services, Strype, Facebook, Ruby and more.

In addition to their software services, they also help entrepreneurs turn concepts into companies through innovation sprints and a studio startup.

The company was founded in 2013 and their current CEO is Gerard Ramos, a web developer and entrepreneur who, according to his Revelry bio, likes to farm and fish.

The New Orleans native made history in April 2017 when he became the first Louisiana-based tech CEO to join the Forbes Technology Council.

“As a New Orleans native, it’s exciting to become the first official Louisiana member of the Forbes Technology Council, and to be granted the privilege to advocate for our vibrant tech community on a larger stage,” Ramos said in a Revelry press release about the achievement. “We believe Louisiana has a lot to offer, not only to our local communities, but to the broader technology industry. We look forward to shining a light on the great work being done by the talented and passionate people who live here.”

In addition to their inclusion in the top 500, Inc. also ranked them as the No. 8 fastest-growing company in Louisiana.

The Best of the Rest

The other 14 New Orleans-based companies that placed in the top 5,000 included:

  • Three in advertising/marketing.
  • Two in government services
  • Two in construction.
  • Two in media.
  • Two in travel and hospitality.
  • One each in food/beverage, government services and IT services.

Among the interesting companies included in the above list are a trio of companies who’ve made the top-5,000 more than once: Hernandez Consulting (five times), Civic Source (five times) and Search Influence (seven times).

Inc. will release their 2018 list of top-5000 companies in August.

Managing a Growing Labor Force

Growth in company revenue brings an inevitable growth in your workforces. As companies expand, they face many challenges, including how to expand or reorganize their current office to accommodate new employees who will help continue the growth.

While the prospects of expanding your workspace and adding more individual workstations may seem overwhelming, we make the process simple and straightforward.

Every project we approach follows a three-step progression:

  • Free space plan and design consultation.
  • Design your office based on the first step.
  • Installation and maintenance.

We’ve served the New Orleans and Baton Rouge areas, as well as the rest of Louisiana, for nearly four decades. Along the way, we’ve learned what works and what doesn’t. We’ve seen trends come and go. And, amid all that change and discovery, we’ve been able to provide solutions for companies big and small that empower them and fit the concepts they have for their office space.

Our catalog of office furniture features more than 300 manufacturers, ensuring that you can find a solution that’s tailored to your company’s space and style.

If you’d like to learn more about what we do and what we offer, give us a call at 504-267-1731 or send us a message through our contact page.

Expert Tips for Productivity You Can Use Today: Part Two

In a perfect world, we’d be at our peak productivity every time we walked into work.

Unfortunately, that world doesn’t exist. If it did, there’s a good chance you wouldn’t be on your phone and your coworkers wouldn’t be stopping by to interrupt your work cadence.

In our first post about productivity, we highlighted five tips that included learning how to say “no,” taking mini-breaks, avoiding over-scheduling, cutting back on emailing and cleaning up your desk.

Each of these bits of advice is easy to implement. However, they aren’t the only ways to augment your creativity. The experts we reached out to were more than happy to share their wisdom with us, so much so that there was too much advice to fit into one article.

So, in this post, we’re going to list an additional seven tips straight from the experts’ mouths.

1) End Your Multitasking: Marc Prosser, Co-founder of FitSmallBusiness.com

“Numerous studies have found that multitasking does not enhance productivity. In fact, multitasking reduces productivity. However, we often need to accomplish personal matters while we are ‘at work’ or during the workday.

“Instead of trying to do ‘personal business’ while listening to a phone call or making evening plans on your phone during a meeting, take a five- or 10-minute break to handle personal matters. Those around you will notice that you are more focused and less distracted as a result.”

2) Plan the Night Before for the Next Day: Suzanne Brown, Founder, Mompowerment.com

“Use the night before to play the upcoming day. If you’re in an office environment, take about 10-15 minutes before you leave to understand what your next day will look like. Understand what your most challenging tasks or goals are and prep for those.

Gather any resources you might need or put headings on a few slides. The idea is to take the time the day before so that you know what the flow of your day needs to look like and so that you can hit the ground running.”

3) Wean Yourself Off Social Media During Work Hours: James Pollard, Owner, TheAdvisorCoach.com

“Use a browser extension that blocks social media sites. There are horror stories of how much time—many hours—workers spend on social. You can solve this problem by completely eliminating the temptation

“If you’re using Google Chrome, I recommend installing extensions like StayFocusd, which allow you to block certain sites”

4) Plan Your Week Ahead, Not Just the Day Ahead: Samantha McPhall, Marketing associate, Aciron

“At the beginning of each week, create a weekly check-in where you make a list of the tasks you want to complete during the week as well as the time you think it will take to complete each task.

“Throughout the week, categorize and track your time not just by to the tasks your set for yourself at the beginning of the week, but also by the unforeseen tasks that arise on a day-to-day basis.

“At the conclusion of the week, compare your weekly check-in to the actual time you tracked to give yourself a better understanding of where you’re spending your time in the office.”

5) Monitor How Much Time You Spend on Tasks: Nellie Akalp, CEO, CorpNet.com

“A real downer on productivity is spending too much time on one certain task. Spending hour after hour on one thing can make your eyes blurry and your brain go radio silent, which doesn’t help that project get done any faster!

“I’ve found that if we have large-scale projects that take a lot of time, my team is much more productive when we divide and conquer the tasks between employees and for only a certain amount of time at once. This ensures the job gets done but morale stays high with everyone.”

6) Block Off Time During the Day for Focused Work: Jessica Watson, President, Points North

“When we are interrupted by phone calls or emails during a time when we should be productive, we have to start all over again with getting focused back on our project.

“If you are able to and your company allows it, block time on your calendar (maybe a 2-hour window in the morning or afternoon) that is uninterrupted time for some of the more complex tasks you are working on. This will allow you to get focused, stay focused and be more productive in a shorter amount of time.”

7) Front-Load Your Week: Lindsay Satterfield, Founder, Satterfield & Company

“Figure out what you most want to accomplish that week and begin working on it on Monday. What often happens is you know what you want to accomplish and you start thinking about it on Wednesday. And then, it’s Friday and that important thing is still untouched on your to-do list, hijacked by all those everyday ’emergencies.’ But, if you start making progress on that high-impact work on Monday, you start out ahead of the game.”

Wrapping It Up: It’s All About Focus

Productivity is a matter of discipline: Can you remove distractions and plan ahead? According to the experts we interviewed, it’s well worth the time to have a plan of action each week with the proper protocols in place to help you avoid social media and email distractions.

One of the things that defines the way we handle our interactions with our clients is planning and protocol. We meet with you to find out what your office needs, then we apply our expertise and meticulous installation standards to provide you with a finished product that matches the dream office you had in mind.

Part One Link

Expert Tips for Productivity You Can Use Today: Part One

Productivity is that elusive quality that few seem to master.

The Golden Age of technology hasn’t helped. Our tablets, phones, and smartwatches constantly beg for our attention. We try to ignore them, but it can be an effort that requires just as much energy as your work.

Reaching a high level of productivity can be a tough task but it’s not an impossible one. We talked with workplace consultants and coaches to find out what you can do this week to strengthen your productivity.

1) Learn how to say “no”

Workspaces should have a certain level of privacy to them but, even if they do, your colleagues may have a knack of popping in right when you’re finding your groove on a project.

Alison Haselden, a marketing consultant at www.canirank.com, says a well-intentioned tendency to be too accommodating can crush your productivity.

“Getting distracted from the task at hand is a sure-fire way to ruin efficiency and productivity. It can be difficult especially in a busy office setting with co-workers constantly dropping by your desk for advice or assistance on a different project,” Haselden said. “As wonderful as it is to support your teammates, it’s necessary to learn to say ‘no’ and set boundaries to enable you to complete your own work first.”

2) Take Mini-Breaks

Your mind is a terrible thing to waste, especially at work. However, that’s exactly what can happen if you lock yourself in the office for hours on end and don’t get some fresh air.

To help your mind stay fresh and focused, make a habit of getting away from your workstation, said Zana Amin, co-founder of Canadian lifestyle company Continual Growth.

“Every 50 minutes, get up and go for a short walk, perhaps to the kitchen or around the office or to the other side of the office. Just make sure you get up and move around; you’ll come back to your work refreshed,” he said.

3) Don’t Over-Schedule Your Day

One of the age-old bits of advice for productivity is scheduling. Write out your day and there’s a good chance you’ll be more productive than you would be without a list.

However, there can be drawbacks to getting so intense about your scheduling that every quarter-hour is mapped out, says Harrison Doan, director of analytics at mattress company Loom & Leaf.

“Don’t try to go overboard with your scheduling. Mapping out every 15 minutes of your day may seem productive in theory, but things rarely work out as we plan,” Doan said. “I’ve found success by writing out weekly and daily to-do lists without specific time constraints. That way, I’m able to prioritize my tasks and get them done in an order that makes sense for that day.”

4) Cut Back on Your Email Time

Imagine what your day would be like if you answered every email the moment it arrived in your inbox. Nothing would get done outside of clicking the “send” button dozens of times.

That’s why Mark Lavercombe, founder of The Productive Physician, calls email “the destroyer of modern workplace productivity.”

“Close your email app/browser for as much of your day as possible. Email is the destroyer of modern workplace productivity, and by taking back control of your time and attention you will become far more effective,” Lavercombe said. “Set an autoresponder that explains that you process email between certain times each day and provide a phone number if you need to be reached in an emergency. Then work on the tasks that truly matter.”

5) Clean Up Your Desk

If you’ve got planners and calendars on your desk amid a sea of staplers, papers and all sorts of other office-related knick-knacks, it’s time to clean up a bit.

Doing so can clear your mind and it will also help you to focus on one task at a time, said Nicky Peachment, a business coach in the U.K.

“Tidy your desk so you can easily reach what you need to. Keep the project you’re working on out, and put everything else away,” Peachment said. “This helps you to focus on what you need to do next, rather than allow other tasks to distract you. Multi-tasking is a myth. You can only do one thing at a time, so do it and move on.”

Looking Ahead: Part Two of Our Series

We received an overwhelming response when we reached out to experts about things you can do to increase productivity. In our next post, we’ll review what was shared here and provide 10 more tips we think you’ll enjoy.

Return of the Cubicle: Why Walled Workspaces Are Making a Comeback

It wasn’t but a decade ago that open offices became the choice for startups who wanted a workplace conducive to creativity and collaboration.

The open office wasn’t just a workplace decision; it was a generational decision, too. As startups brought new ways of thinking to their industries, they happily left old methodologies. Cubicles were tossed out along with cumbersome business models and traditional power structures.

Cubicles are making a comeback, however. Employers have realized all the collaboration and ingenuity open workspaces were supposed to provide didn’t quite meet expectations.

We talked with marketers and consultants about their experiences with open offices and asked them if there is any value to moving from expansive, borderless spaces to more defined workstations with walls.

What we discovered was quite interesting and affirmed the fact that, while open offices may never disappear, they’re under fire from both the young and old.

Open Office Proponents Overplayed the “Cubicles Are Prisons” Hand

In an article about the changing work world, marketing speaker and columnist Samuel Scott pointed out something that we’ve known all along.

Open offices aren’t nearly as infallible as the work world thought and, conversely, cubicles weren’t nearly as awful as the common stereotypes made them out to be.

Here’s what he wrote in a Jan. 2018 article for The Drum:

“The most eye-rolling claim in the tech world is that open offices encourage collaboration – as though no one ever worked together until they were all crammed into rows in single, large rooms like sweatshop factories,” Scott wrote.

He went on to point out that one of the main motivations of an open office may not be creativity – it may be price.

Referring to a post on LinkedIn by branding consultant Geoffrey James, he noted that, while the average open office will save you money up-front, they’ll end up costing about three times as much in reduced productivity.

As we’ve discovered in our own research, open offices tend to have more cases of sickness and, as a result, more employees taking sick days.

Of course, not all open offices are bad. Companies who take the time to sit down with an expert and plan out an office layout that matches their company goals for productivity and workflow tend to have better outcomes than those who do an office because it’s the thing to do.

A good example of this is an office redesign we did for New Orleans-based accountant firm Bruno and Tervalon. They wanted to transition their workspace from an open office to a hybrid design. We were able to incorporate elements of an open workspace along with private workstations.

 

Contrary to Popular Belief, Cubicles Promote Productivity

As we mentioned earlier, cubicles became the punch line of jokes about offices being more of a dungeon than a dynamic arena for growth and progressive thinking.

However, multiple studies over the past 30 years have shown that humans need a sense of spatial and auditory privacy for their brains to feel secure enough to focus, think critically and generate new ideas.

Matt Dubin, a workplace expert and leadership consultant, noted that as introverts’ unique needs have come into the consciousness of employers, cubicles have become a necessity.

“Cubicles can be quite productive, especially for introverts,” Dubin said. “While open floor plans have been glamorized recently as being the layout of choice for progressive companies, they usually work best for extroverts who draw energy from constant interaction.”

Introverts need a quieter space to excel, he said. Enter the cubicle.

“For employees who are more introverted and are energized by more quiet spaces that promote internal thought and reflection, cubicles can be more effective for their productivity,” Dubin said.

Ideally, he said, offices would implement a floorplan that includes a mix of cubicles and open spaces similar to what we did for Bruno and Tervalon.

“All offices should have a combination of cubicle-type areas and open spaces that encourage both focused, deep work and in-person collaboration,” Dubin said. “Office plans that incorporate both will maximize the unique strengths and personality of all employees.”

We’ll Help You Make Your Cubicle/Open Office Decision

The Office Planning Groups implements a three-step process for crafting the right office for your business. We start with a free space plan and design consultation, work with you to come up with the perfect office and then install that office with our trademark efficiency and professionalism.

That first stage is where we can help you decide if an open-office, cubicle or hybrid layout is best for the type of culture you want to create and the level of productivity you expect.

Contact us today to take the first step in designing the perfect office.

How to Improve Office Communication: Part 1

We’ve all had that Michael Scott moment, haven’t we?

You’re sitting in a meeting that seems to be going on forever and whoever is leading the discussion seems to be rambling on without an end in sight. It’s reminiscent of one particular scene in The Office in which the hapless Scott says, “Sometimes I’ll start a sentence and I don’t even know where it’s going. I just hope I find it along the way.”

Lack of a clear goal is one of the quickest ways to undercut office communication but, as experts have pointed out to us, bad communication habits aren’t permanent.

There are dozens of ways you can improve the way that you transmit information in your workplace, whether it be an important meeting, a brainstorming session or an intra-office email with details about a company picnic.

This post and the upcoming one for next month will offer some excellent reminders on how you can rehabilitate and strengthen the communication in your workplace.

Invest in a Strong Intranet

Intranets are a classic double-edged sword situation. Having one is a great way to ensure clear communication about events and benchmarks but it can be the bane of your team if it’s not properly designed and optimized for fluid communication.

Darya Afonava, a marketing specialist with software development firm ScienceSoft, says it’s time you make your company intranet the fulcrum of correspondence.

“They offer solutions that optimize connecting employees with their teams, managers, HR, etc. For example, personal pages can be helpful for task distribution and progress assessment,” Afonava said.

Another advantage with intranets is that they can be a platform for team projects, accessible from the office and at home.

“They can also facilitate joining working groups, sharing professional experience or discussing business issues,” Afonava said. “It is especially important for newcomers, since they need to navigate in a large flow of new people and information.”

When You Need Clarity, Don’t Be Afraid to Call

We’ve gotten so used to sending emails back and forth to our colleagues that phone calls seem almost antiquated.

However, many an issue can be resolved with a three-minute phone call instead of a carefully crafted email that takes up at least 10 minutes of your time.

Email was intended to be a quick way to communicate, but it’s not always the best solution for getting clarity, says Ayesha Gallion, senior communications editor at Inteplast Group.

“Sometimes a phone call is more convenient for one party, or even all parties involved – but if one person shies away from this kind of fluid communication, completing projects or collectively finding solutions may take longer than needed,” she said.

Gather Data About Personalities and Use It

The golden age of personality tests is slowly fading but there are still uses for tests like the Meyers-Briggs and Enneagram.

For career coach and TEDx speaker Tracy Timm, a test called the Predictive Index is her go-to assessment tool when she consults with businesses about how to improve workplace communication.

The test highlights various aspects of each employee’s personality and helps everyone understand that while one person may need to talk out solutions to a problem, another might need to think it out first.

In fact, she encourages those who take the test to leave the results on their desk or in common areas where their co-workers can see it.

“I find that because these profiles are readily available they can be used in the moment to remind someone of the similarities and differences between herself and her coworker,” Timm said. “This allows for real-time change in behavior and analysis of self. But it all comes down to a person’s willingness to modify their behavior and communication for someone else.”

Employees who aren’t willing to communicate undermine the process, so it’s important to bring in talented people who are coachable, Timm said.

Looking Ahead to Part Two of Our Series

In our next post, we’ll go over four more expert insights into how to improve office communication.

While many of the tips we provide are related to communication methods and theories, remember that office communication also includes the choices you make about workstations.

We specialize in providing solutions for your office, many of which improve productivity and communication through simple choices about desks, cubicles and furniture.

How to Plan a Work Event: Tips from the Experts

Summer is nearly upon us.

Before you know it, you’ll find yourself slapping on the sunblock and getting ready to bat cleanup at your company softball game. Afterward, you’ll all feast on a picnic and share stories. You’ll revel in the fact that you’re together with your co-workers in the warm sunshine and not in the confines of your office.

While planning a work event like a picnic may seem simple, there are plenty of nuances you want to keep in mind.

We reached out to workplace experts across the country for advice on how to plan a successful work event.

Never Forget the Fun

Even if you’re just hosting a picnic at a local park, you should invest some planning in events that serve no other purpose than letting everyone have fun.

Jeff Kear, owner of online event planning software Planning Pod, says fun is a catalyst for a great event, as obvious as it may sound. Summer is the season of good times and your event will be competing with epic family vacations and weekend getaways.

“Most employees and their families have a lot of activities on their plate in the summertime, and many of them involve doing something fun, like going to a ballgame, or going hiking, or a trip to an amusement park,” Kear said. “Unfortunately, your work events have to compete with these other activities, so you need to give your employees incentive to attend your event.”

Carnivals are a great way to get kids involved, Kear said, along with raffles and booze, as long as they fit within company rules.

“Just make sure that you are offering fun activities that resonate with your audience,” he said.

Nail the Creature Comforts

Planning a memorable work event is all about mastering the details, says MaryBeth Hyland, founder of consulting firm SparkVision.

You should consider everything from the temperature of where the event will be held to providing enough food and drink for everyone and making sure everyone knows where and when to go.

“These are the most basic yet most important aspects of any environment,” Hyland said. “Believe it or not, they are often overlooked, which is why they are the very first thing to take care of. Creature comforts are the things that we need to stay physically comfortable.”

Make the Food Free or Do a Potluck

As great as the actual event may be, every employee hopes that food and drink will be on the house. When that actually happens, there’s a sense of relief that enhances the enjoyment of the event.

Laura Handrick, a workplace analyst at FitSmallBusiness.com, says companies should make every effort to provide a free meal.

“The best way to get employees engaged in after-work events is to provide food and drink,” Handrick said. “If it’s in the budget, have the event catered by a popular restaurant nearby. There’s nothing like ‘prime rib sandwiches’ or craft beer to entice employees to show up at your summer offsite work-sponsored event.”

Sophia Borghese, an SEO and content specialist with NOLA-based Online Optimism, says renting food trucks is also a great way to build excitement about an event.

If your budget doesn’t allow for the company to pay for the cost of food and drink, then consider doing a potluck.

Handrick pointed out that if the event is a sporting event, a potluck is a great way to tailgate. Also, getting people to sign up to bring a dish is a good way to get commitment.

“Once employees agree to ‘bring something’, it’s more likely they’ll attend, as they won’t want to let their peers down,” Handrick said.

If You Can, Keep Everything Free

There’s nothing that says “employee appreciation” like an event that will cost your employees nothing, says Bill Fish, co-founder of sleep site Tuck.com.

As a Cincinnati-based business, Fish says a common work event is going to a Cincinnati Reds game. And, when the events are planned, he makes sure his employees don’t have to pay for tickets, parking or food and drink.

“I believe the key is to not ask the employee to spend a dime once they make it to the event.  Thus, we always find tickets in a hospitality area that includes food and beverages,” Fish said. “The goal should be to have everyone in a relaxed fun state and get to know the team on a personal level.”

 

Five Tips for Improving Teamwork in the Workplace

There are few things more frustrating for employees than being in a workplace devoid of collaboration and connection.

This past year, Financial Times reporter Emma Jacobs noted the importance of identifying loneliness in the workplace.

Her article referenced a joint study by California State University and the Wharton School of Business that noted, “management should not treat loneliness as a private problem but rather one that affects the business.”

With that in mind, we reached out to various experts to get their advice on how individuals and management teams can foster an environment of teamwork.

Be Intentional About Building Friends

Many of us have become accustomed to keeping our work life separate from our private lives. But, according to Shawn D. Madden, CEO of corporate events company FunCorp, building those connections improves your frame of mind and strengthens the workplace.

“Friends will do more for another friend in a week than they will do for a co-worker in a month, so your teamwork and productivity will improve as you build social connections,” Madden said.

See Yourself as Bigger Than Your Job Description

Harvey Deutschendorf, an emotional intelligence expert and a regular contributor to Fast Company, said part of building a team is having employees who look beyond themselves when they walk into the office every day.

They see their role as helping in any manner they are able to and are always willing to give of their time and knowledge. They view their role as larger than their job description and look for ways they can contribute to the organization,” Deutschendorf told us. “When they see something that needs to be done, they step up and help out.”

An employee who sees themselves as larger than their role should be handled with a genuine, positive spirit, though. Someone who becomes obsessed with overachieving for overachieving’s sake will most likely alienate their team instead of bringing them together.

Do Whatever It Takes to Arrive with a Positive Attitude

As we mentioned in the previous section, overachievers who push themselves for the wrong reasons will be a detriment to their team, not a benefit.

One of the best ways to avoid that is to come into work with a genuinely positive attitude; not a façade, but a genuine spirit of optimism, says Deborah Sweeney, CEO of MyCorporation.com.

“Do whatever you need to before arriving — whether it’s exercise, grabbing a coffee, or meditating — so that when you arrive you’re in good spirits and ready to work with your team,” Sweeney said.

See Your Coworkers as Individuals, Not Roles

One of the quickest ways to turn your workplace into a purposeless void is to treat coworkers as roles and not as real people, workplace engagement strategist and coach Lisa Barrington told us.

“Employees should work to see their colleagues as individuals, with unique needs, not just as the person who does ‘xyz’ task,” Barrington said. “By humanizing their colleagues, they will be inclined to step up to help them, support them, find ways to enhance the team’s success over their own, individual needs/goals”

Know When You Need Help … and Ask for It

We often view success as something that happens when you accomplish your goals on your own. Asking for help is seen as a weakness.

However, says Dan Stones, a team dynamics and workplace culture specialist, asking for help is a crucial element to building a strong sense of teamwork among employees. Exactly why is asking for help so powerful?

Stones said it’s a matter of trust.

“The largest benefit that asking for help brings is actually tied to trust. As soon as the employee asks for help, they immediately put themselves in a position of vulnerability,” he said. “This sort of openness is what’s required for a higher level of trust to develop among team members.”

A Reminder What Can Happen When Teamwork is Devalued

There’s a lot of good sense in what the experts told us about teamwork. Some of it may seem idealistic and nearly impossible considering the environment in your workplace.

But, as Tephra Miriam, a communications expert and author, reminded us, the price of a fragmented workplace is dangerously high.

“Without true cohesion and unity, the system falls apart,” Miriam said. “This can literally kill an organization.”