Offices are not synonymous with comfort. Even when companies move to brand-new spaces or renovate their existing offices, they tend to concentrate on how the building looks to guests and clients, and largely ignore the needs of the hapless folks who toil away in the office cubicles day after day. So what’s a well-intentioned office manager to do? Below are a few of the most common worker complaints, and what you can do about them — without convincing the powers that be to re-design the whole place.
Half the staff says it’s too cold; the other half says it’s too hot. The first thing to do is to fix any serious oversights. Seal the windows (so that folks who sit near them don’t freeze in the winter), and make sure no one is sitting directly below a vent (so that the AC isn’t blowing straight down on their head). Hint: the printer never complains about drafts, so if possible, rearrange the space accordingly.
Then split the difference on the thermostat. Chilly people can bring sweaters and use space heaters, while warmer workers can dress lighter and use fans. Provide both options, so that you have control over which appliances are being used. No one wants a faulty space heater plugged in next to a stack of papers.
Too much light, and you get glare; too little, and you get eye strain. Wherever possible, skip the overhead lights and offer individual lamps. That way, everyone can customize their lighting to suit their needs.
It’s a funny thing: aromas that smell delicious when they’re coming from our lunch are downright disgusting when they’re wafting over the cubicle wall from our neighbor’s midday meal. Cut down on the fighting by setting aside a dedicated area for eating lunch. As an added bonus, you’ll decrease the chance of sharing your work space with pests. Plus, we could all stand to take more actual breaks away from our desks, anyway.
Our offices get louder and louder as companies move away from private cubicles and toward open plan offices. To keep things down to a dull roar, make sure you set aside plenty of smaller conference rooms for informal chats. If you have the money, consider investing in a white noise machine — or encourage workers to bring their own noise-cancelling headphones from home.
Sometimes, the modern office feels like a bee hive. But unlike the bees, most of us are not too thrilled to find ourselves working on top of each other. That’s another good reason for setting aside conference rooms for smaller meetings, or even just to get a change of scenery. Many companies also offer storage lockers for their employees’ personal belongings, both to keep their stuff safe and to get it out of the way during the workday.