Counselor Commentary: Invest In Your Surroundings

Upgrade The Office Surroundings To Boost Employee Productivity

Investing In OfficesThinking about investing for growth this year? Forget expanding your staff or sinking a fortune into a new customer relationship management system. Instead, consider upgrading the office surroundings. That’s right, it’s time to snazz up the office. Install a state-of-the-art kitchen complete with Keurigs for your staff members, or put together truly collaborative conference spaces with comfortable seating and creative surroundings. Frivolous, you say? Why waste the money, you say? Don’t be so quick to judge.

Some of the fastest-growing companies in the industry have office spaces that would rival Google’s, and employees say an engaging office environment is one of the keys to employee productivity. Indeed, many of the companies on this year’s Counselor Best Places to Work list have office spaces that are more like swanky Madison Avenue ad agencies than typical ad specialty companies. Take Proforma Albrecht & Co. (asi/116308) in Ohio, number two on this year’s list, where co-founder Suzette Albrecht has made it her personal mission to create a workspace, complete with colorful barstools and ergonomic seating, that makes employees comfortable.

“I’m really picky about how this place looks,” she said. “I want people to feel comfortable here.” The company also regularly invests in the latest gadgets for new employees, and surprises them by installing them in their workspaces overnight. These enhancements aren’t just “nice to have,” Albrecht says, they motivate employees to work harder. “I hear people talk about motivating employees by giving them free products they’ve gotten from suppliers, and I’m amazed by that,” she says. “That’s not motivating. For me, motivation is creating a real nice workspace for people.”

Another side effect of a well-designed workplace: an increase in creative collaboration. So says Phil Reilly, president of CMD (asi/170680) in Portland, a full-service marketing agency that also made Counselor’s Best Places list this year. The 150-employee firm has 11 different conference rooms (all named after board games like Clue and Pictionary), and staffers work in sleek, open-air spaces to foster collaboration. “It’s a true team atmosphere,” contends Reilly, whose company took in $50 million last year.

There’s no denying it – aesthetics matter, and can be a key productivity-driver. So take a walk around the office, and look – really look – at employees’ surroundings. Are people comfortable? Does the design, and furnishings, foster collaboration? Does the décor send the right message to employees and clients? If not, perhaps it’s time for an office makeover.