Tuesday, August 19, 2008

The Need for Creature Comforts at Work

We all have our own personal comfort zones, and things which help us adjust and adopt to things which may occasionally fall outside those zones.

In an office environment, companies and organizations have different ways of helping us make those adjustments.

The most common is to provide free coffee and tea. Most offices these days have lunchrooms, full of various coffees, teas, and even hot chocolate. The fridge has free milk and cream, and sugar and those artificial sweeteners are also provided. All you need usually, is to bring your own mug.

Some of the high tech companies have been known to provide slightly more caffeinated beverages than others, in an attempt to increase productivity. Microsoft and Google provide free soft drinks, including Coke.

I’ve been to offices where they have televisions in the lunchroom, so employees can keep up with the current state of the world during their lunch hour, play foozeball on a free foozeball table, or pray in the prayer room.

By providing these creature comforts, companies and organizations get the best out of their people, because they make those doing the work feel more comfortable being at work.

Then there are places like a current client, where the only thing they seem to provide plenty of is work. There isn’t any free coffee, tea, and forget about television in the lunchroom. The lunchroom has been designed to be cold and not very welcoming to encourage people to eat at their desks – I go out for lunch whenever I’m on-site.

It does cost money to provide those pleasant creature comforts – but the return on investment outweighs the cost many times over.

Studies show that people are more productive when they are not only comfortable at work, but enjoy being there. Warm, inviting offices, with even the smallest token (such as free coffee) increase productivity, because those doing the work don’t want to leave as fast as they got there.

People that are treated like robots, and expected to show up, do the job and nothing else, aren’t very happy, friendly, or productive at the office. They usually arrive early, so that they can escape just as early.

And that is very evident here – most people arrive well before 8A.M and are long-gone well before 4P.M.

I bring my own tea to the office, luckily they do have hot water and microwaves. But aside from that, you are always left on your own – to fight for your own survival.

That is what it feels like here – like it is a constant battle to survive. Probably because people here aren’t comfortable, and so they aren’t happy or friendly to their co-workers.

I’m an anomaly – I always say good morning/good afternoon as I pass people in the halls. They usually look up in bewildered uncertainty of my intentions. Though I have no intentions, I’m just being friendly – which isn’t the norm in places where they expect you to do nothing but work.

I sometimes even feel taking the much needed bathroom break here is in violation of some protocol or rule. Which is outrageous, because that’s not just a creature comfort, but a biological necessity.

So next time you are taken on a tour of a potential employers workplace – take note of what they do or don’t do for your needs. It can make a big difference in not just how you feel, but how others there treat you.

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