Jerene Ang speaks to HR and business professionals to uncover elements that make a great office environment.
As I looked around the office for inspiration on what to write for this edition’s column, I thought why not write something about the office environment.
During our Employee Benefits Asia conference earlier this year, speakers affirmed that with organisations getting leaner, employers expect a lot from employees. With this, HR leaders need to make sure the right environment is created to help employees meet these expectations.
To dig into what makes people happy about a workplace environment, I turned to my LinkedIn contacts and asked: What is one thing (preferably tangible) in your office that makes you happy?
Aesthetics are certainly important, as can be seen from the various offices featured in our Spacial Awareness section. Richard Silveira, Recruiting Co-Ordinator for Granite Solutions Groupe, notes this includes the physical arrangement to make the place feel less cluttered and suffocating. Elements such as flowers or a tranquil pond can be refreshing to look at, especially if the work involves a lot of mental/emotional labour. While some may call this feng shui or balance, there’s no denying it provides a happier/serene workplace.
One example of aesthetics in play is at Malaysian creative agency, Forefront, which creates a visually harmonious and warm environment by encouraging colleagues to bring part of their homes into the workspace. COO Jeff Chang explains: "Our creative team set up a plant nursery where employees may keep their houseplants, enabling team members to exchange useful gardening tips while being able to take their minds off work when they experience any creative blocks."
Additionally, a dedicated space is maintained for staff to unwind, including a canteen with an open pantry and retro video games arcade machines.
"Employees are free to take their discussions to any of our on-site F&B establishments, Foremula cafe for pork and alcohol-free options and Forebidden for naughtier F&B options. We strive to create a positive environment where creative ideas can thrive unrestricted," Chang adds.
Personally, I enjoy an open office concept which allows easy communication with colleagues to share great ideas – and food, of course.
This also allows us to build great working relationships (and even friendships) in the long run.
Having said that, it has to be acknowledged that aesthetics is not the be-all and end-all of a happy office. Intangibles such as purposeful work, a great boss and team, and having fun, play an equal part in happy employees, as Yinn Ewe, Regional Director, Human Capital Management, Hitachi Consulting, notes.
In that line, Mukta Arya, Head of Human Resources, Southeast Asia, Head of People and Talent Development, Asia Pacific at Societe Generale, enjoys bonding with employees during monthly gatherings hosted by the bank’s CEO, internal learning forums and staff club activities. “It helps me to get to know my colleagues better and helps in collaboration during work,” she adds.
Similarly, Abhilasha Krishnan, Director, Human Resources, Institutional APAC, at Ecolab, says: "At work, shared purpose and colleagues who are also friends – knowing we are working towards a shared purpose and we care about each other – is a huge happiness boost."
As for Pauline Loo, Vice President Human Resource, at Taiyo Nippon Sanso, a happy workplace is one where fun is also important. To her, "a happy workplace is a place whereby you work as hard as you play. A happy workplace motto is 'work hard, play hard'."
Most importantly, a great office environment should have a great boss and team which allows staff to be who they are.
To that point, Anuradha Purbey, People Director, Southeast Asia, at Aviva, says: "The thing in my office that makes me happy is that I can be who I am – leverage my strengths, work on my growth areas, share my moments of joy and be comforted when I am feeling sad."
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