More than skin deep: workspace overhauls raise long-term profits

An Advertising Feature

There’s some very old advice given to job candidates, encouraging them to dress the part even when they’ve not a penny left. The same goes for seat-of-the-pants entrepreneurs, working from the spare bedroom but turning up to meet new clients looking reliable, in a not-too-new but expensive suit. Even creative types have to look the part – would you feel comfortable hiring a designer apparently too disorganised to wash her clothes? The same wisdom applies to your premises – the only problem is, many bosses baulk at what they perceive as an unnecessary expense & fail to extend their office refurbishment beyond some squashy leather sofas & a fruit-bowl in the foyer.

A smart foyer & meeting room certainly reassure clients that you’re doing well; that they’re in good hands & their money is well invested. But what about your employees? Management Today magazine conducted a survey across thousands of UK workers. They found that 97% of employees see a direct correlation between the quality of their working environment & how well they’re valued by their employer.

Yet, staggeringly, only 37% of them concluded that their own workplace was appropriately designed. We’re not talking a hankering for flowers & teddy-bears here & there. It’s a question of being too embarrassed to bring clients & colleagues back to the office; of wasting 30 minutes finding what you need to get on with your job; of the temperature being so out of whack that everyone’s either too hot or too cold, & constantly distracted by their discomfort (& that of their more vocal colleagues). Then there’s time lost to RSI, back pain, eye strain, dust-induced respiratory problems, & simple but oh-so-vicious stress.

Research undertaken by Warwick Business School discovered that people work 12% harder than neutral when happy, & 12% less than neutral when unhappy, even when they were paid exactly the same fee. Carry on neglecting your workers & not only will their productivity falter – they’ll start to gossip. Low morale spreads as infectiously as laughter, & HR costs incurred by perpetual new hires & new training over a couple of years can easily outpace what you spend on decent office chairs to keep your existing workforce (& their lumbar regions) happy. Persistent miserliness can also spread the impression that the company is struggling. Your best workers will jump ship, & so might your clients if the rumour reaches them.

Unfortunately, many employers refuse to squint beyond the immediate expense of sorting out their workers’ environment. A well-organised office can save up to £1000 annually per employee, in time spent preparing for work every year. Workspace assessments can identify under-utilized office space & shrink the amount of room needed by the business, cutting rental & facilities management costs. Energy efficiency – sealing drafts, installing efficient climate control, energy-saving fixtures & fittings – can slice zeros off your overheads in the long term.

A refit doesn’t need to be expensive. There’s no need to throw out what does work. Existing furniture & materials can be reused, recycled or even sold to offset the cost of new ones – or given to charity, which will at least be tax-deductible – & the sum you’ll save in the long run is provably greater than what you’ll fritter away while you’re waiting until you feel generous enough.