Entrepreneur
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4 Simple Ways To Create A Better Work Environment

By Joshua Kraus

The modern workplace is experiencing a renaissance.

Following the lead of big tech companies like Google and Facebook, more and more businesses are turning their offices into mini-cruise ships, complete with on-site daycares, nap-pods, game rooms and spa days.

But while we'd all like to take a water slide to our desk and zipline to meetings, not every business has the resources to pimp out their digs so righteously.

Fortunately, there are a number of simpler, more cost-effective ways to create a happier, healthier and more productive work environment.

Here are four perks any smart creative would love.

1. Allow Dogs

If the office in Office Space had a few cuddly puppies running around, it would have been an entirely different movie. Damn it feels good to be a schnauzer.

A dog-friendly workplace offers so many benefits; it’s a wonder more companies aren't getting in on it. Allowing dogs:

Reduces employee absenteeism.

Most of us are more excited to go to work if we know that Ozzy Pawsborn will be there.

Reduces stress.

According to a 2012 study, dog-owners who brought their dogs into work felt less stressed during the day than dog-owners who left their dogs at home.

Triggers workplace interactions.

The same study found that dogs trigger workplace interactions that would otherwise not take place.

Enhances company image.

A cigar-smoking corporate tycoon holding a cat? Evil.

A cigar-smoking corporate tycoon holding a dog? Adorable.

Companies with a pro-dog policy establish themselves as relaxed, flexible and progressive and will likely attract candidates with similar values.

Encourages exercise.

Are you sitting down for this? Because what I'm about to say might shock you.

Sitting for more than eight hours every day increases your chances of dying by 15 percent in four years.

On second thought, don't sit down.

Having a dog around is an extra incentive to get up and get moving.

Whether you're playing fetch, taking the dog for a walk or running for your life as Professor Dumbleroar chases you out of the break room, any degree of physical activity is important for those in a sedentary work environment.

2. Kudo Boxes

To measure the psychological effects of workplace gratitude and appreciation, researchers at University of Pennsylvania's Wharton School conducted a study of university fundraisers.

First, they divided the fundraisers into two groups.

Before they started work, one group received a pep talk from the director, who expressed her gratitude for all their efforts.

The other group received no pep talk.

After a week of fundraising, researchers found that the employees who received the pep talk made 50 percent more fundraising calls than those who did not.

Employees who are shown gratitude and appreciation are often more driven and productive than their unappreciated counterparts. Kudo boxes are a simple way to encourage such gestures.

A kudo is a compliment or expression of praise, and a kudo box is, quite literally, a box for kudos.

Employees who want to participate in kudos write their kudo on a kudo card, and put it into the box. At the end of the week, someone reads the kudo cards aloud.

A kudo box fosters an atmosphere of mutual respect and appreciation. It encourages employees to take stock of their coworkers' accomplishments, as well as their own, and recognize the goodness in people.

Kudo boxes also make the workplace more exciting, and motivate employees to work harder. Did someone write me a kudo? What does it say? Who's it from? I bet I'll get a kudo if I turn this in early. And so forth.

3. Dry Erase Boards

Offering your employees a blank canvass and a bunch of markers might make some bosses uneasy.

They could write anything. ANYTHING!

But any drawbacks that come with the occasional crass sketch are vastly outweighed by all the good that dry erase boards can do, such as:

  • Encourage spontaneous brainstorming sessions.
  • Encourage collaboration.
  • Enhance visual communication.
  • Serve as a creative outlet.
  • Cultivate a sense of community.
  • Lighten the mood with workplace humor.

Pssst: If you like your reusable writing surfaces with a vintage twist, consider getting a blackboard instead.

4. Team Dinners

Throughout history, the act of breaking bread has been a sign of peace and unity.

Sharing a meal is about coming together as equals, and while gabbing about Twitter feuds over pineapple pizza, might not pack the same sacred punch as it did in ancient times, it's still a powerful team-building tool.

Eating together sparks non-work related conversation and makes it easier for employees to form social bonds with each other.

Shared meals often lead to close work friendships, and according to a Gallup study, close work friendships increase employee satisfaction by 50 percent, and employees with a best friend at work are seven times more likely to engage fully in their work.

Here are some tips to encourage shared meals:

  • Have a designated meal area in the office.
  • Institute "free meal days," where the office caters breakfast or lunch.
  • Throw some happy hours.
  • Have an office potluck.

Conclusion

To create a better work environment, you don't have to build a playground in the reception area or set up a chocolate water fountain by the vending machines.

You do, however, need to understand, and address, the root causes behind poor performance (stress, lack of motivation, no personal ties). So institute a permanent bring-your-dog-to-work day or any of the other three ideas listed above.

Encourage demonstrations of gratitude and create opportunities for creativity and collaboration. Throw a pizza party.

It's not so much about the perks as about the purpose behind them.

What perks would your dream company dish out? Tell us in the comments below.

More:
  • http://boblucore.me Robert E Lucore

    I have two family members who are severely allergic to dogs. Some people have life-threatening asthma attacks from animal dander. On child I know had to leave a private school where the employer instituted a “dogs-allowed” policy for the teachers and staff. It is an accessibility issue for allergic customers and fellow employees. Please tread carefully.

    • Phil T Tipp

      Yawn. Christ on a bike, you’re boring.

  • Phil T Tipp

    lolz, moderated by the pencil necks. Dweebs.

  • adaivanoff

    Robert is right, before you allow dogs in the workplace, you need to consider it very, very carefully. I myself had eczema because of friends’ dogs I was spending a lot of time outdoors with. Had it been indoors (i.e. closer contact, closed space, etc.), it might have been even worse.

    Health issues for humans are not the only con of dogs in the workplace. I used to be a dog person for most of my life – i.e. before a bunch of local cats adopted/enslaved me and converted me into a cat addict – so my knowledge might not be very current, but I think the experience can be very stressful for the dogs themselves. Just imagine a bunch of poodles and a rottweiler, pitbull, or any other large and aggressive dog gathered in one place. Even a properly-trained dog won’t always miss the chance of attacking an enemy dog – a friend of mine learned this the hard way. And what about the owners who can’t control their dogs at all?

    Even if you don’t allow physical contact – i.e. the larger dog can’t possibly attack the smaller dog, the barking alone could be way too much. Even if they somehow don’t bark all the time, a pet in the office can be a huge distraction, which is counter-productive.

    You need to think about all this before you allow dogs. In one of the companies I worked for we had an outdoor dog and an indoor-outdoor cat. The dog was kept on a leash during the day because even though she wasn’t aggressive by default, there had been accidents with colleagues. Many of us liked both the cat and the dog and played with them, but this wasn’t the case with anybody. There were colleagues who would even kick the cat and throw stones at the dog!

    The same about team dinners. It depends on what kind of people you try to gather together. In a company I worked for before I became a freelancer, we had a weekly brunch together. The idea to bring into the same room people who can barely stand each other can go nasty – two of the guys almost got into a fistfight. If there is friction in a team, when you brute force close contact, not to mention when alcohol is introduced, prepare for an explosion. Dinners, brunches, lunches, going to the pub, etc. can work really well, but they should be spontaneous, not forced.

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