Working in the right enviornment.

Posted by on March 27, 2009 in Uncategorized | 0 comments

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How creative and inspiring are the work environments we create?

I flew down to Cape Town for the day yesterday to spend some time with my friend, photo-journalist, co-author on my new book, and all-round laid-back nice guy Jacques Marais. He’s fortunate to live in a little village on the False Bay coast, halfway up the mountain overlooking the sea. What bliss.

To be honest, my wife didn’t want me to go, remonstrating that I’d not get much work done and that I’m going down for a jol and for "guys to just hang out". Not so. We spent an incredibly productive morning discussing format, layout, content (we decided to add another chapter) and looked through countless images to augment the text.

Then, at around midday, we got on our runnig gear, put swimming goggles in our pocket and headed up the mountain above Simonstown only to return two hours later. Trailrun and open-water swim ticked. It confirms what I have always known, but not always implemented in my own office and routine. Even though I work for myself, and run my company from my home office with my wife, I’ve become "corporatised". I adhere as closely as I can to "office hours". Why? For what reason? Outputs equal outputs, and should not be confused with inputs!! After all, most nights I’m blogging, researching, writing until strange hours! Why should I train at 6 in the morning with all the lemmings? Why can’t I get rid of the guilt feeling when I’m not in the office, doing office things from 8H00 till 16H00?

Prisoners are sent to prison to remove them from society, and hopefully the prison environment is such that it also acts as a deterrent for wanting to go back there again. Hence, inmates are subjected to monotonous routines, little intellectual stimulus, a sparse living environment, uninspiring visual cues, lack of privacy, over crowding, and having their every move scrutinised.

I find the same thing whenever I consult with most companies. Their work enviornments are simply not motivational. From colour chemes, to layouts, to conversations. Managers manage input (time), employees are forced into routines, workspaces are cramped and the interior decorating was done by … well actually it wasn’t done. So, if one’s environment mirrors that of a prison, should we be surprised that employees are sledom keen to rush to work?

Several top global companies, particularly start-ups in the IT / Web / Media environments have embraced the development of a less corporate, more engaging and "fun" workplace. Think Google, and locally Social Media gurus Cerebra (http://www.cerebra.co.za.). Presentation development company Missing Link (http://www.missinglink.co.za.) are known not only for their great work, but also for reclining on couches while working. And why not? Why should we treat our employees like mindless idiots? I know companies that have scheduled smoke breaks, ban radios from the office, ban audio streaming (even facebook and youtube). I mean get real. If you’re expecting your employees to spend more time in your office than they do at their own home (which they pay for) why can’t the work environment be one that they WANT to be in? That they feel welcome in? That inspires them to do what they’re good at? (They must be good at what they do – you hired them after-all – after an extensive recruitment process!)

Jacques and I got alot more done after our run by the way! We got back to the "office" mentally refreshed and rearing to go!

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