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The HR Hub: Help! I hate My Office!

There are many factors that motivate employees to commit and perform on the job or generally look forward to coming to work every day. It might be apparent that in our peculiar context, pay and other benefits are key sources of motivation for employees. Also, the level and scope of responsibilities given to an employee can serve as a source of motivation and contribute to making work exciting. However, the need to structure work to be exciting and motivating, beyond mere financial gains, should not be undermined because of the nature and characteristics of talents available to organizations. The millennials and Gen Z talents have a deep need to find value and meaning in their work and it is ultimately to the organization’s advantage to structure work in a way that resonates with these talents’ sources of motivation.

One of the mostly overlooked ways of motivating employees is the structuring of the workplace and this is both aesthetically and otherwise. Organizations overlook the effect that ambience of the workplace has on employees. The organization of the work spaces, the cleanliness of the office, the ambience and structure of an office can make employees proud of their workplace and motivate them to commitment and loyalty, the size of the office notwithstanding. The office structure speaks to the brand and culture of the organization and sometimes plays a huge role in helping employees decide whether to take a job offer. Think about it. An employee spends a huge chunk of his/her day and even years in that workplace and the ‘atmosphere’ is a definite contributor to employee engagement and commitment.

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Seedspace, Ikoyi, Lagos

This is not to say that an organization should go overboard while getting an office space in a bid to attract and retain certain types of talents. The point to be underscored here is the organization, the deliberate effort to make the workplace look nice and appealing to talents. It has a psychological effect on people, so much so that it doesn’t even matter if the pay is not as much as they would like. When the workplace is attractive, you find employees being proud to ‘show-off’ their organization and being eager to get to work. I have had situations where talents have gotten to the final stage of an interview and declined the job offer simply because the office looks and feels undesirable. It may sound like a fickle reason, but it’s a valid one. A disorganized, shabby-looking workplace is often indicative of disorganized business processes or a place where anything goes.

Beyond the physical ‘looks’ of the workplace, it is also imperative to create a certain ‘atmosphere’ that will make the workplace attractive. Talents can smell a toxic work environment from afar and already creates trepidation and dread for work. The onus lies on the HR professional as well as management to create an environment that makes work fun, exciting and productive. There are offices where laughing or cracking jokes seem to be a serious taboo. My first day at work in the bank was unbelievably welcoming, even with the fact that work closed at past 11pm that day! Everybody wanted to help or assist in some way, there was a high degree of camaraderie and although it was a small branch at that time, everybody’s workspace was thoughtfully constructed to give off a feeling of importance and professionalism.

How can you create a workplace that is great in ambience as well as fun and exciting to work in?

  1. Structure the workspaces. No matter how small an office space is, it can be thoughtfully constructed to ensure that the employee is comfortable within his/her space. Simply scattering a few tables and throwing a few chairs here and there will definitely be de-motivating and is indicative of a disorganized workplace. If you are working with shared workspaces, ensure that they are well arranged and everybody is properly assigned to a definite space. There is nothing as disheartening as resuming work and not knowing where to sit or watching the office staff hastily arrange a space for the new staff.
  2. Assign spaces according to job roles/functions. As fickle as it may sound, if an employee’s job title reads ‘manager’ or ‘coordinator’ for example, it is very demotivating to find that the workspace assigned is not ‘befitting’ for the role. This is not about putting the talent in some huge gigantic office that guzzles more cost than it brings revenue. It is about assigning a workspace that makes him feel like a leader, provides a certain level of privacy and somehow differentiates him/her from subordinates especially. This is also true for any level of staff. Just because a staff is within the lower cadre does not mean he or she should have a tiny desk and rubber chair located near the restroom.
  3. Make sure the office smells good at all times. Beyond motivation for staff, the ambience of an office is also critical to how your clients perceive you. There should be careful thought as to how the visitor’s lounge or waiting room is arranged and how the entire office smells. A little air freshener, a nice magazine rack, a little décor, could say a lot about your brand and create an atmosphere that is welcoming.
  4. Design programs and structure work to foster team collaborations and increase camaraderie. This doesn’t have to cost money. Such things as having a nice corner for coffee or tea where staff can gather to chit chat for a bit while getting coffee, or having an office canteen or space where staff can bring their lunch and eat or just having a little ‘TGIF’ bi-weekly, where staff can play a game or two after work and perhaps share a box of chocolates or biscuits? The point is that it doesn’t have to be anything ‘over the top’ – just a way of ensuring that people get to mix and exchange ideas as well. You can also ensure that one of your meetings is a book review, where everyone gets to be interactive, share and exchange ideas.
  5. Most importantly, create an open-door policy. Ensure that the office atmosphere is not one where everyone stops talking or laughing once the boss gets in. It is an unhealthy environment. This is not to say that the office should become a circus, housing clowns and funny acts, but the office environment should be one where staff admire and respect the bosses and not live in dread or trepidation when they are around. Let employees have ‘a voice’ amidst an atmosphere of mutual respect, cordiality and courtesy. Let the office atmosphere be one where bosses are willing mentors and coaches to the employees.

Guess what? These rules can still apply if you run a home office! Ensure that you have a designated space for your office work, decent, well-kept and arranged properly. Although difficult, try as much as possible to dress properly while working from home, knowing that it is the same thing as going to an office space outside your home. While you may decide not to wear formal work clothes, you can at least ensure that you don’t wear your nightwear or anything shabby while sitting in your office corner. It’s simply psychological. You will not be as productive as you should if your work space is uninspiring and messy. There is already the psychological hurdle you have to jump through to be disciplined to work from home. You do not want to add to that burden by treating your work corner in your home, shabbily.

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Soluchi Ogugua

Soluchi Ogugua is a HR Business Partner with a strong passion and commitment to people and skills development. She has a Bachelor’s Degree in Economics and a Master’s Degree in Global Human Resource Management. She has garnered over 15 years of hands-on experience in leadership, coaching and mentoring, assisting individuals and organizations to achieve their development objectives.

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