Category Archives: Productivity

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A guide to professional office communications

Every person understands the power of efficient communication and its impact on daily life and processes. The quality of communication impacts how well we resolve issues, establish relationships, network, and fit in the surrounding societies.

At work, communication not only impacts the well-being of the employees but directly affects the quality of work. If people are stressed, annoyed, or even scared to speak their minds out, that will inevitably lead to poor performance, frequent errors, and a high level of employee turnover.

So what should every employee know about professional communication? Here’s a quick overview that covers the key areas of office communication in a little more detail.

Personal communication

In the office, people interact with dozens (if not hundreds) of colleagues on a regular basis. In order for these interactions to be valuable and with no interference in the actual work process, it is important that all employees know the basic communication principles.

Watch the body language

Even though we are not always aware of our body language, we need to pay attention to it as it impacts the way people perceive us. A person with crossed arms and tense posture seems much more distant and negative than a relaxed person who looks you in the eyes and smiles.

Some of the basic areas to keep in mind when talking to colleagues are:

  • Maintain the eye contact but don’t turn it into a “dead stare”
  • Smile!
  • Try not crossing arms
  • Look at the person, not at your mobile phone or tablet during the talk

Another important thing that needs to be addressed is over-familiarity. Some enthusiastic employees constantly hug their colleagues, tap them on either shoulders or back, shake hands, and overall, get too close to someone’s comfort zone. Such behavior is often uncomfortable, intimidating or annoying so the best option is to restrain from it, except for when talking to close friends or people who do not mind it.

Listen, then talk

Listening is an obligatory skill for efficient communication. Busy office life often implies rush and people try to express themselves as fast as possible in order to be heard and understood.

However, by listening to the other person without interrupting or hurrying them is a sign of great respect and professionalism. It shows that you value the opinion of your colleague and are willing to hear it.

Use your body language to show that you really listen to a person: react to their words, mimic some of their gestures (it helps win them round) and watch the facial expression (it should not be deadpan).

The biggest things to watch for during a personal conversation with a colleague:

  • interruption
  • pointless arguing
  • dishonesty
  • deadpan face
  • crossed arms and tense posture

Phone calling

Another frequent form of communication that we often see in the offices is phone calls. When you need to reach someone really fast or urgently solve a certain task, the best way to do so is to call a person. Though seemingly easy, there are still certain rules to follow when making phone calls.

First, always introduce yourself. There might be hundreds of people working in your company and most people don’t even know the people who work on the same floor but in a different department. Therefore, at the beginning of the conversation, introduce yourself and clarify which department you work in.

Second, clearly state the reason why you call and never hesitate to ask for clarification in case you did not understand the person very well. It’s better to clarify the issue once then resolving possible issues in the future. Another good idea would be to take notes during the call to ensure no important information is missed.

Finally, thank the person for their time when ending the call – this will show that you treat your colleagues with respect and value their time.

Remember: your colleagues are people who work on the same goal as you do which is contributing to the company’s development and growth. So one should invest in nurturing good communication skills so it will bring benefits in the future.

Written communication

Most of the in-office communication happens via texts, emails, or chats. So it’s important to know the basic rules of professional communication via the messengers in order to never miss the important information and get heard in return.

Emails

Emails are great because they allow you to share information with different people, exchange documents, schedule meetings and pretty much organize and manage most of the internal processes.

At the same time, emails are often neglected, ignored, deleted, or lost – simply because the sender did not care much about crafting a professional email. Here are the essentials of a good email:

  • Informative and clear subject: a receiver should immediately understand what the email is about from its subject.
  • A well-balanced copy: not too short but not too long either. Write all the needed information and any useful comments.
  • No misuse of emojis, GIFs, memes, etc. Keep the email professional.
  • Appropriate tone: start with a salutation and end the email with a professional signature (i.e. “Best regards”). Do not use slang or jargon in the email.

The problem of many emails is that the sender does not know how to create a professional and informative email. As a result, the email looks more like a message from a social media that was sent to a friend but not to a colleague.

Work chats

Different companies use different messengers and project chats, with Slack, Trello, and Skype being the most popular ones. The cornerstone of professional communication in such messengers is respect for your colleagues and an ability to listen without interrupting.

Remember: there should be absolutely no harassment, jargon, or inappropriate wording in all forms of written communication in the office. As well, always remember to address the person you are talking to, thank them for their time and provide as much information as needed.

Final word

The topic of professional communication is really vast and specific to every company. What we can say is that the efficiency and quality of office communication between the employees heavily depend on the internal company culture.

If a company has well-established culture, based on mutual respect and trust, there will be no or very little issues related to communication. Thus, while optimizing the quality of communication in your office and educating people about it, take some time to work on the internal culture as well.


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How to Keep Non-Commission-Based Team Members Motivated

Sales teams have very traditionally been motivated by commission-based pay, where they receive a percentage or cut of total sales. At the same time, commission-based pay can be counter-productive, in that it forces team-members to focus on aggressive sales, rather than important aspects such as customer service, customer satisfaction, and ease of administration.

Dropping the commission-based model can result in better customer service, a calmer and happier environment, and happier employees, but how do you continue to motivate team members to make sales without commission rewards?

The following techniques will allow you to continue to motivate sales teams without offering commission.

Create Team Goals

Team goals, purpose, and physically achievable tasks work to boost productivity because individual employees have something to focus on. Here, it’s important to set goals at several levels, starting with high-level targets for total sales and performance.

These targets should be based on data, such as how many sales you achieved last year, what you have to achieve to reach a minimum viable income, or so on.

It’s also important to ensure that sales have the manpower, information, and resources to achieve those targets.

Once you’ve set targets, you can break them down into smaller, more achievable goals. However, it’s important not to set standards for how many sales to make in a day. This can be demotivating if it isn’t reached.

Instead, you should set goals around your sales funnel, with an expected number of signups for a free trial, an expected conversion rate, and an expected return on value over a quarter. You can create benchmarks for expected number of sales, but as your final goal is still profit, that should be your focus.

You may want to introduce daily, weekly, monthly, and quarterly goals, which will allow teams to achieve something every day. However, if goals are too difficult, teams may not achieve them, which will be demotivating.

Introduce Team-Based Performance Rewards

Dropping commissions doesn’t mean dropping performance-based rewards. However, it is often a good idea to avoid individual performance rewards simply because they create disparity in income inside teams. This can be hugely motivating or demotivating to teams depending on the individual. However, rewarding the team as a whole for achieving goals will motivate everyone to step forward and continue to achieve.

Recognize Top Performers

Whether you’re tracking sales, conversion rate, customer satisfaction, or comparing the individual’s performance to existing job profiles, you can very easily tell when an individual is a top performer. It’s important to recognize performance, even when you’re not doing so fiscally.

Taking a minute in meetings to recognize someone’s good work, calling out an individual for making a good decision, or otherwise simply recognizing that an individual has achieved something good will help you to boost motivation and performance across your team.

Sales teams are often difficult to motivate because they have a relatively thankless job, in which they are constantly driving prospects into the sales funnel.

No matter what you sell, sales is the hinge between marketing and customer service. Ensuring they have the data and definable goals to support continuous improvement and sales is the easiest way to ensure they stay motivated and performing.


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How to Keep Your Sales Team Motivated

Your sales team is instrumental to driving new customers to your organization, but no matter how productive, most sales teams will eventually see a drop in performance. At the end of the day, selling to strangers is hard, demotivating, and often very poorly rewarded. Sales teams have to predict what customers want, pitch products accordingly, and hope both match up with what product development and the organization are doing internally.

Keeping sales teams motivated involves creating a culture of transparency, rewards, and changing how performance is measured and handed out, so your teams feel appreciated, rewarded and motivated to do more.

Give Sales the Information They Need to Boost Conversion

Sales teams are often asked to perform near miracles by converting customers with little to no data. The result can be poor conversion, customers who expect things that just aren’t part of the product, and a lower satisfaction rate across both sales and customers.

Modern technology allows you to integrate everyone into the same apps, so that sales teams see the product, see customer wants and needs, and can see what customers are actually doing with the product. Tying everyone into the same tooling such as a Customer Relationship Management (CRM) tool will ensure sales have access to information from customer service, marketing, product development, and actual customers, so that they have as much information as possible to drive sales. Here, it’s important to create a feedback loop between customer service, marketing, sales, and product development, so that everyone knows what customers are saying, what is being developed, and what to offer or promise, so that everyone is kept in the loop.

Help Individuals Set Personal and Professional Goals

Sales can be a demotivating process when there are no goals, no real achievable outcomes other than meeting KPIs, and nothing by which to track real progress. Here, it’s important to work with individuals to help them set personal and professional goals. This can include helping individuals through personal development as well as guiding individuals onto a path that supports growth, increasing skills, and changing perspectives.

Development is a type of reward for performance, but it’s also something that shows employees you are invested in their growth and that they have a future with your organization.

Introduce Team-Based Performance Bonuses

Many organizations want teams to work together which will boost performance as a whole, but still offer individual performance bonuses. This naturally conflicts, as individuals are motivated to show higher performance than the rest of the team. Delivering team-performance bonuses, where everyone wins or no one wins is one way to ensure everyone is on the same team and everyone is working to support each other.

You can continue to measure individual performance and highlight those who are not performing to standards using ongoing assessment, competency models, and actual performance frameworks, but most visible rewards should be given to the team as a whole. Why is this important? Any given potential customer will likely interact with several members of your sales team, being able to share and manage customers together increases your ability to manage them well, and driving sales as a team is logically more effective than as individuals.

Create a Culture of Recognition and Rewards

Sales teams are often taken for granted when things go well. As long as they meet performance standards, they’re just doing their job. When things go badly, they’re often pressured to boost conversion or numbers. Taking steps to reverse this psychology and to actively recognize and reward good performance will help to boost motivation and long-term performance. Simply integrating emotional intelligence, recognition, and compassion into your culture will go a long way towards improving performance.

For example, highlighting individuals who did exceptionally well during a weekly retrospect or meeting will boost morale. “I want to point out how Dave handled that case on Thursday” etc,. You can integrate tangible rewards as well, but simple recognition goes a long way towards providing motivation.

Motivating a sales team is important if you want that team to continue driving sales, but often, your approach should be in improving structure, available information, and how performance is measured and rewarded rather than in simple goal setting and increasing personal rewards. Changing culture will create a team where everyone feels like they are achieving something, has the information to improve what they are doing, and can work towards goals as a group.


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A basic checklist for business travel

Traveling for work is something that many professionals will have to do eventually. To avoid problems and ensure a smooth work experience, HR should double check this quick and simple checklist during the planning process, before someone departs, and after they return.

If you’re the one doing the traveling, double check this list as well and send it to whoever is responsible for organizing the trip.

Before the trip

Most of the preparation that needs to be done is before someone actually gets on a plane. Here’s what you need to pay special attention to.

Passport expiry date

Ensure the passports of everyone going on the trip are valid for at least 6 months after your intended return date. This is to make sure no one gets stuck in a country with an expired passport.

Double check this requirement, since it may vary from country to country.

Visas

There are some countries you may need a visa to travel to, depending on your passport. Check your eligibility and attain the valid visas if needed.

Tickets to event

Flying to attend an event or conference? Make sure you purchase tickets beforehand and each attendee has a copy of theirs.

Check your flight

Double check your flight landing time, timezone difference, and length of stopover. Having too long of a stopover is an opportunity for some work, but it’s better to get someone to their destination as soon as possible. Avoid flight layovers that are more than 4 hours.

Pay attention to the change in timezone. If you’re flying over the day before a big meeting, make sure the timezone change doesn’t cause you to miss it. Look at the landing time in the destination country to make sure you can meet any scheduled appointments.

Location and WiFi

When booking accommodations, pay attention to location and amenities, specifically, WiFi. Find a place that’s in a safe area, close to wherever your obligations or purpose for traveling is. WiFi is also important because it’s likely you will need to do some work while you are traveling, and having Internet at your home base will help with this.

Share the schedule

Does everyone know where they need to be certain dates while they travel? If you’re traveling for a conference, this is easy. What if you’re traveling for client or investor meetings? Make sure you share out the schedule with everyone, including sending calendar notices to the people you plan to meet with to confirm meeting times.

During the trip

During the trip itself, it’s important to stay organized and focused, and travel prepared.

  • Remember to bring your portable WiFi with you when you go out
  • Set alarms for important meetings
  • Stay hydrated
  • Try to sleep and eat on time, especially helpful if there’s been a timezone change
  • Review your schedule for the next day the night before

After the trip

You made it through! After a trip, debrief the rest of the team on what happened, and submit a post-mortem report. This report should detail what went right, what went wrong, and suggestions for next time.

Document any additional expenses needed for reimbursement, and congratulate yourself on getting through business travel!


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Are Competencies Enough to Build Strong Teams?

Employee assessment tactics like behavioral competencies are extremely popular in HR, and often for good reason.

Recognizing how and why an individual will react and act in any given situation gives leaders the opportunity to put those people into work environments where they will excel, to offer training to help people excel, and to recognize when people will and will not work together.

Behavioral competencies are also more and more often used to find and root out characteristics that will allow teams to work well together.

But, are they enough to ensure teams will work well together? That depends on the competencies and the people involved.

In most cases, behavioral competencies can add a great deal to team-building,

Building Around Key People

In most cases, the ideal way to build a team is to set its purpose, define a team objective fitting into larger business objectives, and identify key roles and responsibilities that will fulfill that.

For example, if your team is set up around the goal of improving UX, you know you need a UX manager and supports for that person.

While not every team has a key role, many do, and you should select your key role and build the team around that person when possible.

Here, employee assessment to determine behavioral competencies becomes extremely valuable.

Balancing New and Experienced People

While it’s not always possible to put together a completely internal team, it’s always a good idea to ensure that most of your team has experience in the organization, experience with processes, and experience with company culture. You can achieve this by onboarding new hires into other teams so they can build experience before moving them into an existing team, by creating a new team from existing employees, or by creating teams composed of about 75% experienced people and 25% new.

Here, you can use tools such as employee benchmarking and success profiles to determine when new people are or are not ready to move into a new team, which will obviously have much less in terms of established work-methods and goals.

Leveling Emotional Intelligence

Ideally, everyone on your team should have a high level of emotional intelligence. However, this isn’t always possible. Your goal should be to review the needs of key roles and move people into the team who can meet those needs.

For example, if someone is largely in a supportive role, they have to be good at collaboration and understanding communication.

However, they also have to be able to take on some autonomy, complete work to get it out of the way of the key role and be able to speak or up discuss when they think things are not going well.

Fitting Skills and Competencies Together

Behavioral competencies do not typically include hard skills such as software design, which means you will have to balance both hard skills and competencies to create a strong team.

Someone who is very good at their job may miss competencies such as dedication and creativity, which may be necessary for the team. If you have an excess of skills and not enough behavioral competencies, you may find that work slows through lack of drive, creativity, or motivation.

If you have people with desired behaviors but not enough skills, you may have to actually pause the team to train employees. A balance of both, so that everyone has time to catch up while still contributing, is likely your best option.

No matter how your teams work, it’s important that they be able to work at the same level, be able to communicate in the same ways, and that they all contribute to team goals. This may be realized through creating a support network for a single employee, creating a team of equals who each contribute in different ways through different behaviors, or through creating a balance of hard skills and behavioral competencies. In every case, simply looking at behavior won’t help you to create your strongest team.


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Are you all set for a successful 2019?

As January draws to a close, it’s important to make sure your company and employees are set for a successful 2019. This includes understanding your company’s values, goals, and resources, as well as knowing what is expected of them.

Understanding values

The values of your company are important for everyone to know, because it’s what your brand stands for. For example, if you value transparency, your team should know to always default to transparency rather than secrecy.

Values are important so your team knows how to act professionally, and what values they must align the decisions in their role with.

Knowing overall goals

The big goals of your company can be considered your mission statement. These goals are vital to keep the business defensible, unique, and sustainable. When the entire company knows and strives to hit your company goals, it drives your overall success.

This is important for everyone to know so that they can ensure every action they make pushes the company further towards their big goals. It’ll also show each team member how their role is vital for reaching those goals, which creates a sense of purpose.

Using your resources

Each company has a set of resources that are available to different departments. Each team member should know what resources they have access to. This helps keep everyone well-equipped, knowledgeable, and capable of doing their jobs well.

For example, if someone is working on your ads team, give them access to their budgets, software tools, and any consultants your company may use.

Staying accountable

Finally, make sure every team member knows what s/he is accountable for. This is important so that they can take ownership of the metrics and tasks they’re responsible for, and analyze what went wrong if something isn’t done. It will also help prevent them from stepping into another department’s resources and tasks, unless asked, to avoid confusion.

When your team understands their responsibilities, overall company goals, brand values, and the resources they have available to them, they’ll be best equipped to do their jobs well this 2019.


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How Presenteeism Hurts Business: Using Sick Leave and Time Off to Boost Productivity

Most people assume that the more time you spend at your job, the more work you’ll complete. Today, we know this isn’t true. We also know that spending more time can actually reduce productivity. This is especially true in the case of presenteeism, where employees are physically present but not really “there”. This happens due to illness such as a cold or flu, chronic illness, stress, sudden disasters or emergency, or even emotional turmoil such as a heartbreak. Presenteeism is also a very real problem, costing U.S. businesses an estimated $150 billion in lost work productivity each year.

While this problem is well-understood, most businesses still don’t have policies in place to create the emotionally intelligent processes that would work to combat presenteeism while boosting productivity through increased employee motivation and trust.

Practicing Emotional Intelligence

In many cases, employees will go to a manager or boss with a problem, will ask for time off, and will be denied. Leaders can also listen to clearly traumatic or problematic instances and respond with nothing. Giving time off can logically slow processes, can actually create bottlenecks, and may incur additional costs or other problems.

At the same time, if someone is focusing on something else, whether their own physical discomfort or emotional turmoil, they logically won’t be focused on work. This can result in reduced productivity, bitterness, or even decreased safety in the workplace depending on the location.

Creating a policy of emotional intelligence and recognizing other people’s needs is an important one. Here, a team leader could be trained to respond to emotional trauma with “Take a day off and recover”, giving employees room to actually process problems.

This applies to sick leave, family trouble, trauma (accidents, attempted mugging, burglary, natural disaster, etc.), and even chronic pain. Leaders should be able to recognize when an individual cannot focus or concentrate on work because of a problem, and then simply give them time to cope with that.

Developing Secondary Measures

While it’s nice to be able to say that employees can take time off whenever they need it, this can be difficult to allow for inside of small organizations and small teams. Taking a single key person out of play can result in bottlenecks and delays. How do you compromise?

This often requires creating business processes that allow for individuals to take time off. This can include structures moving immediate work to another team or qualified individual, allowing the individual to work from home or work half days, or having an agency or freelance team on call to fill gaps when necessary. While each of these will naturally be costlier than simply making someone work through illness or emotional turmoil, it will pay off in the long term.

Making Investments in Reducing Problems

Most presenteeism is caused by very preventable issues surrounding stress management, fatigue, lack of healthcare, substance abuse, and even lack of knowledge of how to take care of themselves. Making small investments into improving insurance availability, offering eye testing, offering stress management classes, and so on, can decrease presenteeism. Similarly, creating programs for more affordable healthcare for diabetes, programs to help people get treatment for substance abuse, and so on can greatly help you to reduce it.

Offering programs including time off, training, and better healthcare can and will reduce presenteeism. It will also work to boost employee morale, motivation, and company trust by showing that you are willing to take care of them. This will, in turn, boost productivity, reduce employee churn, and increase loyalty, which will benefit your organization.


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How to Use Humor to Inspire Employees

Humor is an emotion that’s often left out and even avoided at work, but research increasingly shows that humor is a powerful, motivating, and inspirational thing. Utilizing and encouraging humor at work can inspire and entertain, build camaraderie, and drive team spirit, so that employees are happier and more productive. While it’s often something that cannot be forced, and something that must be used with respect, understanding how humor works to inspire employees will help you to leverage it across your organization.

Attracting Attention and Engaging Listeners

In “The Psychology of Humor”, two psychologists share how humor is one of the most powerful tools for driving engagement in listeners. Simply using humor during meetings and discussions brings levity, attracts attention, and keeps individuals more focused on what is being said. Here, the effect relates to building rapport with the listener, where individuals are more likely to trust and be willing to invest time in someone who has brought them a positive emotion (joy or laughter). Building rapport with listeners is a primary goal of nearly any manager or leader, because it is the easiest way to inspire, to drive engagement, and to get teams to be truly passionate about what they are doing.

At the same time, humor makes people more open to new ideas, more open to considering new perspectives, and less like they’re being forced to learn something. Taking a humoristic approach to messages that would normally spark arguments can also reduce them, simply because it’s difficult to switch from a positive emotion to disagreement.

Reducing Stress

Humor is proven to reduce stress, benefiting the nervous system and how people process and handle stress. Integrating humor into everyday work will eventually reduce stress by creating distraction, stimulating and relieving the stress response, relieving pain, and improving mood. Over time, consistent humor also works to improve personal satisfaction, resulting in individuals who are less stressed and more able to handle stress as it occurs. This will, in turn help individuals to stay inspired and engaged, because they’re in a better mood and better able to focus on and commit to what they are doing.

Creating Approachability

Approachable leaders are easier to work with, can help their teams more, and inspire individuals to be open and transparent about what they are doing. Creating a culture of approachability means that individuals will be more likely to engage with leaders, to listen to them, and to bring problems, questions, and even new approaches to them. This will create an environment where people are inspired to do their best and to create new solutions and ideas, because they can bring that higher up and receive recognition and credit for it.

Building a Culture People Want to Work In

While humor can impact nearly every level of work, its largest impact is on culture. If people feel safe and able to have fun with humor, you are building a culture that is pleasant to work in. While humor (obviously) has to be respectful of everyone involved and not at anyone’s expense, humor increases personal satisfaction, builds camaraderie, and helps people to enjoy being together. It also sparks creativity and inspiration, creating an environment that is actually pleasant to work in.

No matter what industry you work in, humor can be a valuable addition to your work floor. While you cannot force humor, and simply telling people to be funny won’t result in a real culture where humor can be effective, giving people room and hopefully examples to use humor as part of leadership and everyday work will have a positive impact across your organization.


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How to Build a Workspace for Maximum Productivity

This is a guest post from Aaron Schaffer of Taktical Digital.

Anyone who has worked in multiple offices during their career knows that some are more conducive to productivity than others. An employee who gets a lot done in one office may complete significantly less work over the course of a day if their office doesn’t provide the resources they need.

This is very important to remember when designing a workspace, be it an all-in-one coworking space or a more traditional office setting. By reviewing employee surveys, you can better understand what elements the average worker needs in an office to maximize their own productivity. The following are some of the more important features they cite.

6 things to pay attention to for workspace productivity

Comfortable & Functional Workspaces

Obviously, an employee’s desk should offer enough space for any items they use regularly, like a computer, writing materials, phone, and files. Just make sure you don’t prioritize functionality so much that you overlook comfort.

It’s also important to focus on the ergonomics of the chairs your staff will be sitting in when planning an office design. Physical comfort can have a major impact on productivity, so it’s important to choose models that keep everyone comfortable.

Amenities

Providing employees with the tools they need to get work done is certainly important. That said, you also need to offer amenities that make the office a more appealing place to be in general. Research indicates that happy employees are more productive. Offering coffee, tea, and designating areas where people can socialize will help ensure workers feel satisfied on the job.

Cleanliness

Make sure the office design isn’t so cramped that cleaning it regularly is a difficult chore. A messy office will absolutely impact a worker’s mood. Additionally, if you can’t regularly sanitize the office, workers are more likely to be exposed to bacteria. They can’t be productive if they’re sick.

Necessary Equipment

You’re likely already aware that your office should provide computers, internet access, printers, communications tools, and similar resources employees regularly use to get work done.

That said, you also need to make sure those tools work reliably. Do thorough research when deciding what equipment to include in your office. Taking the time to install functional equipment and resources will have a very positive impact on productivity in the long run.

Access to Fun

If you’re still deciding where your office should be located, keep in mind that workers also report wanting easy access to restaurants or bars they can visit after work. Having a chance to unwind and socialize at the end of the day can significantly impact employee satisfaction. If the area also offers abundant parking and easy access to public transportation, even better.

Natural Light

A well-lit office makes getting work done easier than it might be in a different space. However, don’t rely solely on artificial light. Installing large windows to let in sufficient natural light is also a smart idea. In fact, studies indicate that exposure to natural light can boost productivity.

Proper office design plays a major role in how much work an employee gets done on an average day. That’s why it’s crucial that you take your time to consider what employees want when planning your office design. The long-term rewards are very much worth the time and effort involved.


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