Innovative Ways to Change Your Working Environment

By August 2, 2011Blog

Dear Kathleen:

Our company has gone through a lot of change in the last five or six years. Thankfully, we’ve  grown tremendously, but now it seems as if our innovative culture is somewhat stuck in a rut. I’d like to get some ideas as to how to give everyone an uplift in attitude and innovative thinking.

Thanks,

Nancy B.

Dear Nancy:

One of the hottest and most cutting-edge components in business today is creating an innovative and creative workspace. The space around you affects mood and attitude tremendously, and employers are starting to realize this. The best companies to work for have taken a calculated and innovative foot forward when it comes to the company’s environment, perks, culture and workspaces, realizing that they are all tied together to discourage or promote productivity.

There are many things you can do at your company that can give the culture a revitalization toward innovation and collaboration; some can be expensive and some can be quite inexpensive.

As always, everything starts with your people, so when you hire, hire those who have the qualities that fit into your culture. Structure the interview so that identifying questions are part of that process.

Create workspaces that inspire. Remember the old Apple commercial with the IBM drones walking in single format? Yes, that’s what you want to avoid! A cheap and easy way to brighten attitudes is to brighten the office. Swap out traditional drab colors for bright splashes of color on the walls. Use colors that inspire and stimulate the brain versus the “mental institution green” commonly used to subdue the brain.

I recently found a fantastic product called Idea Paint. In my humble opinion, every office in the country should have this product. It’s a specialized paint that can make any wall or surface a whiteboard. The product is flying off the shelves to companies such as yours. Paint an entire wall in offices, hallways, the refrigerator or anywhere you staff need to collaborate or brainstorm. Find it here.

One of the best examples of a creative workspace is from Red Bull. If you haven’t seen this, it’s worth a look: Red Bull Office Slide. Red Bull has installed slides for employees to move from floor to floor in their multi-level office. I have to say it’s as cutting edge as you can get. Not every company has the money or space to install slides in their office, but here are some examples of what other companies are doing:

  • If you have wireless, allow employees to work in spaces other than at their same old desk. If you have access to outdoor space, set up areas for employees to work outside in the fresh air.
  • Arrange for spaces to be open an unobstructed, even if that means moving cubicles around and adding some open meeting spaces.
  • Install a climbing wall (Google).
  • Many companies now have free snacks and drinks.
  • Bring your dog to work days.
  • Convert an unused office to a company wellness room where employees can take naps on their lunch break, keep up with the news, watch a movie, or meditate and de-stress.
  • Offer health perks for gym memberships or have mini-gym in your offices.
  • Have creative team building events.
  • Free flu shots(Wegmans)
  • Free fruit on Tuesdays (Netapp.com).
  • Use online meeting services that incorporate webcams. GoToMeeting now has the beta version coming out to incorporate into their current web meeting software.
  • Reward and recognize creativity and innovation. If the company does not actively recognize these qualities, employees won’t strive for them.
  • Reward for referrals. Employees who work for you know the drill, so when the refer an applicant for an open position, most are pretty sure that they will be a good fit, especially if they themselves like working there. The apple doesn’t fall far from the tree and referrals from employees have a lower turnover rate. Cisco topped the list as one of the best companies to work for; 47% of all new hires are from employee referrals.
  • Make the employees’ lives easier for little or no cost to the company. Negotiate costs for a weekly on-site car cleaning service or dry cleaning pickup. Even if the cost is on the employee, this makes life easier. As a result, employees are more likely to be productive and creative.
  • Meet in creative spaces. Check out the “conference bike.” http://conferencebike.com/
  • Use office flexibility. This product creates a temporary wall wherever you need it. http://grapedesign.dk/molo/softwall/textile-softwall/ Just roll or unroll as needed.
  • Add art. What a better way to inspire creativity? Art doesn’t have to be expensive but makes a huge difference in an office setting.

In the end, the movement toward creativity and innovations comes from the top. If your leadership values these qualities in the employees and this is communicated in the way your company works, you will in turn have that culture. It’s the “build it and they will come” philosophy.  Good luck!

“Dear Kathleen” is a monthly Human Resources advice column written by Kathleen Weiss, SPHR, Human Resources Manager for SWK Technologies, Inc.

SWK’s HR Advisor services provide cost-effective human resources solutions to small businesses. If you want more information on how to change your current vacation and sick policy to a PTO policy, or have an outdated employee handbook that needs to be revised, please contact Kathleen Weiss, SPHR, at 973-758-6122, e-mail hrdept@swktech.com or visit swktech.staging.wpengine.com. Kathleen’s HR blog can be found at www.advisor-hr.com.

Disclaimer: Information provided is not intended to be and should not be considered legal advice. As always, please consult your attorney regar

SWK Technologies, Inc.