Nanxi Liu is the Co-Founder and CEO of Enplug, a Los Angeles technology company that builds the industry-leading software that powers digital displays in malls, restaurants, retail stores and more.
In the new year, show your employees some love with some simple, affordable yet creative methods to boost happiness. A recent study by the University of Warwick affirmed that happy employees are more productive--12 percent more productive than unhappy ones, in fact. And the more Millennials you hire, the more that you'll need to consider a well-rounded environment to keep your talent from leaving for another company.
To facilitate this for our own company, we learned how to spice up the workspace on a startup budget. Here are eight perks that you can add tomorrow:
A Grocery List
The World Health Organization determined that food raises productivity levels by as much as 20 percent. No need to bring on a Top Chef when you can have a better snack selection. Instead of buying the same trail mix bars, let each of your departments make a grocery list of snack preferences each week. Then, have an office manager order the items on Amazon Fresh or another shipped-to-your-door delivery service. Our team created a "snacks" chat room in Slack, a team communication tool, to maintain the list.
A whiteboard with sticky notes is bland. It's time to paint an entire wall into a blackboard using chalkboard paint from your local hardware store. Leave a box of chalk nearby to let your teammates reveal their inner Picasso. Someone's birthday? Wish them Happy Birthday on the chalkboard. We have a few chalk walls in our office ranging from "The Idea Wall" to "Team Goals."
A Game Room
To reduce stress and improve morale, encourage employees to blow off some steam with their teammates. Turn an unused space into the getaway room with competitive sports. Team-oriented games like ping pong or foosball are a plus. Ask your team members to vote on or bring their own favorites. Consider a television where gamers can compete in rounds of FPS--few things relieve stress more efficiently than fragging n00bs! Be thoughtful of keeping the room insulated so the sound of bouncing balls doesn't distract people in deep concentration.
A Social Display
At Enplug, we even use our own product to keep teammates updated. We've installed digital displays around the office that showcase our business's live social media and news. Any of our teammates can share a photo or message on the display by hashtagging the business's name or by streaming live RSS feeds. We recommend something like this for every office. For ours, we keep a display in the kitchen, where we can see our fellow teammates' exotic trips and weekend projects while getting food inspiration and tech news.
It could be a single bookshelf or a full library. Let your teammates contribute books to share with their colleagues. It helps to keep the area dedicated and quiet so your team can decompress with a chapter from "A Tale of Two Cities" when they need it. Team members can also grab a book for the weekend. Our shelf ranges from "The Fountainhead" to "Startup Communities" to "Algorithm Design."
Office chairs with lumbar support and all the trimmings are great, but don't be limited by them. We're fans of bean bag chairs, stools and everything in between. While not everyone will want to swap out their leather seats, your teammates will love you for offering them options. Replacing traditional swivel chairs with yoga balls and providing adjustable standing desks can have great effects on your team's health and focus.
We started a "Sunshine Committee" in our company composed of an anonymous group of teammates who regularly brainstorms happiness ideas. On random days, we'll leave a nice note, treat, or gift for each teammate. We've done Starbuck's gift cards, cupcakes and custom smartphone cases with our company logo. Over the holidays, we left photos on the desks of each teammate with their face photoshopped onto an elf. You never know when that extra thought about a teammate's happiness comes right when they needed a little bit of love.
Team Days With a Twist
To add some pep to team outings, we give each department the responsibility of planning the activity. We give them a budget and they secretly plan among their own team and give GPS coordinates on the day of the activity to inform teammates where to meet. We've been creative in using our network to do team activities that were free. These have included sports tournaments, in-office LAN Parties, weekend getaways at a beach house owned by a teammate, beach clean-ups and even a tour of SpaceX.
Instead of letting expensive furniture and cash bonuses define the comfort and happiness of your culture, let thoughtfulness and ingenuity take the lead.