Happiness in the workplace is underrated. Happiness makes us work harder and drives us to achieve more. It also leads us to more fulfillment and satisfaction, and makes those inevitable moments of stress and frustration much less devastating. If any of us--employees or bosses--had a choice between a happy office environment and an unhappy one, we'd choose happy every time. So why are there so many offices that have an unhappy, dreary, or boring culture?
There are many reasons why an unhappy workplace can evolve, but all of them can be addressed, and most of them can be corrected with a handful of small changes.
Give the Office a Personality
Don't paint the walls a plain white and make everything else in your office a drab, straightforward affair. Show some creativity in the layout, design, and accents of your office space. Give it a personality! Paint the walls bold, contrasting colors, or hire someone to paint a mural. You could even put inspirational quotes throughout the office or hang artwork on the walls. Alternatively, you could make one of your walls contributory--for example, you could hang up permanent markers and let your employees design it however they'd like.
That might be an extreme plan for some conservative companies, but the point is to give your office a real personality.
Tear Down the Walls
For the most part, walls are unnecessary in an office environment. Most offices are built with walls prioritized, and with the most important people in the space having four walls of their own. Most employees don't have walls, so they're forced to rely on artificial cubicle walls to get all their wall needs.
The problem with walls is that they stifle interaction. They make work a sterile, silent, individual place rather than an opportunity for teamwork and collaboration. If you have the ability, tear down the walls in your office in whatever form they take. Let your employees set their own boundaries, and create an open, interactive atmosphere for anyone who wants it. Your team will work together more closely and they'll be happier as a result.
Create a Break Room--and Use It
Your company probably falls into one of three categories. In category one, you don't have a break room. In category two, you have a break room but it's boring. In category three, you have a break room that nobody uses because they're too busy working through their breaks.
There are a number of problems here. Breaks are important for employee happiness, and they should be a true break from work. Liven up your break room with decorations and amenities--if you can't offer free beverages and snacks, put in a ping pong table or a dart board. Whatever you can do to make your break room fun and more usable, do it, then invite your employees to use it personally.
Offer Flexibility for Your Workers
The more flexibility you have in your office, the greater the overall happiness is going to be. Different people have different needs and different values, and allowing them to set their own working standards helps them work to their best abilities. For example, setting flexible hours gives your morning workers and afternoon workers both a chance to work during times that they're most efficient. Offering work-from-home days may improve concentration for your creative team or decrease stress for new parents. There are no strict rules for how you offer flexibility, so think carefully about which work areas you can afford to make flexible and which you'd prefer to be conservative.
Stop Negativity in Its Tracks
Negativity is a contagious plague. If one person starts complaining habitually or starts destructively voicing dissatisfaction, it's easy for everyone else in the office to be brought down. When you see this negativity, you have to stop it in its tracks. As a first line of defense, you can pull the offender aside and talk to him/her about negativity or talk openly about it as a group. If you find one person is consistently negative, even after repeated discussions and chances to improve, it's best to fire that person. You cannot let one negative person ruin your office environment.
Many people become dissatisfied in their jobs because of the predictability of it, or because of the tireless routine. When you come in every day and experience the same thing, the job becomes less stimulating and less fulfilling. To counter this, introduce spontaneity to your office environment. Instead of scheduling meetings far in advance, round everyone up at their leisure. Call for company-wide breaks in the middle of the day, or offer an outing without warning. Those hints of spontaneity can make the workday far more interesting, and make your office that much happier.
This is the single most important way you can make your office happier, and it's often neglected entirely. Go into your office with a sense of fun, every day, even when you're in a bad mood or overly stressed. Find some way to make your day fun, and spread that fun to others. Like negativity, happiness is contagious, so the more active you are with your own fun and happiness, the happier your workers are going to be.
When your office is a happier place, you'll work harder, you'll work more efficiently, and when you go home at the end of the day, you'll breathe a sigh of satisfaction rather than a sigh of relief. Remember, office environments are living things--they require ongoing care and maintenance if you want them to last. Make tweaks and adjustments over time, and don't forget to nurture your culture with more rewards and more opportunities for development.