What’s in an office?  Four walls, a ceiling, some desks, chairs and electronic equipment?  In part, but an office is actually much more. Often it is the environment where one spends more waking hours than in their residence.  This environment has a big impact on a one’s frame of mind, morale and productivity, and does not have to be limited to functionality – it can also be enjoyable.

There are many ways for businesses to improve their atmosphere.  One notable way is to select a location that has amenities on site. For example, in numerous larger office buildings, there is a cafe on site as well as a fitness center.  In some locations, there are waterfront patios, courtyards or nature preserves to enjoy.  I have seen office spaces with executive balconies like those seen on the TV program Boston Legal.  Other amenities are community conference rooms and lounges where companies can host interactive social events among the staff.  Sometimes there are no additional fees for the use of these extras.

These days open collaborative spaces are very popular.  These workspaces enable people that work together to communicate better and often result in the exchange of innovative ideas and a culture of connectedness.  This anchors office friendships and people feel personally invested – which is great for retention.

Another way companies improve the quality of life for their employees is to invest in ergonomic seating and corporate furniture. Sometimes these furnishings can be acquired pre-owned through liquidations.  There are always some businesses closing, contracting or consolidating and that frees up this furniture for easy and cost-effective acquisition.  Lighting is important for staff comfort and morale as well.  Natural lighting is optimal. When seeking office space, try to find space featuring as much window-line as possible.  Also, it is good to inherit or have installed modern indirect lighting.  A clutter-free environment also contributes to clear thinking and increased productivity.

Air quality is another consideration. Are there any air quality issues in the premises?  Have you looked into resolving these with the landlord?  See if the landlord has plans for any capital improvements at the property prior to leasing.

How is the neighboring area?  Are there restaurants within walking distance? How about local banks, markets and retailers to simplify employees’ hectic lives?  Time is money, and if people can be efficient with errands on their work breaks, they will be more focused on their corporate tasks during working hours.

Some of the more interesting recreational office amenities that I have witnessed over the years are basketball courts in parking lots, ping pong & foosball tables, and massage chairs.  Some companies, especially in Silicon Valley, even have sleeping pods for 20-minute power naps to prevent workhorses from overloading. In my building, the landlord hosts several holiday parties and provides a great spread of food and drink for their tenants each year.

Whether you run the business, have a ‘suggestion box’, or just have the initiative to speak with the powers that be about some of these points to improve the quality of life at work for yourself and your colleagues, I encourage you to take some action.