If you want your startup to succeed, you need a better workplace environment that people love—and one that encourages focus and productivity.
Understandably, most entrepreneurs place an early emphasis on building a strong foundation. They manage their company in terms of its product offerings, operating model, and marketing. However, in these pursuits, it’s all too easy to lose sight of optimizing your workplace environment.
So what exactly makes for an ideal startup workplace environment? And how can you build one?
The Benefits of a Better Workplace Environment
Let's start by taking a closer look at the benefits of having a better workplace environment for your startup. It's not just about your business; it's also about your employees.
Generally, having a better workplace environment means support for improved productivity.
Your employees will have all of the resources they need to do their jobs effectively. The environment will be conducive to individual focus and team collaboration alike.
Have you ever worked in an uncomfortable or poorly planned work environment? If so, you know how hard it is to be productive when your surroundings aren't optimized.
Employees who work in a positive workspace also tend to have higher morale.
This partially lends itself to higher productivity and other benefits, but morale is valuable on its own. When everyone on the team feels better about their work, and when employees are truly engaged, you'll notice a major difference in the overall mood of the workplace.
When you appropriately optimize your workplace environment, you can support better collaboration.
Employees will be more likely to have casual conversations and develop bonds with each other, they'll have more incentives and fewer barriers to openly working together, and they'll have all the resources and spaces they need to actually do that work.
Certain changes can even improve employee wellness.
When your employees are less stressed, they'll be at a much lower risk of burnout, as well as less likely to face health complications that come from excessive stress and strenuous workplace conditions.
It's also a practical guarantee that improving your workplace environment will lead to higher employee retention.
Employees are much less likely to leave a workplace environment they genuinely enjoy, which means you'll be able to retain your top talent and spend less money hiring new people.
Physical, Remote, or Hybrid?
It's important to recognize that there are many different working models supported by startups in the modern era.
While some startups are going the traditional route, operating in a physical office, others are operating totally remotely, and others are trying to hybridize these two approaches.
Many of the recommended strategies in this article will be applicable to any of these models, but some will be exclusive to only some of these models. Use your best judgment when curating these strategies and applying them to your own startup.
The Physical Environment
We can start by looking at the physical environment, which may not be relevant to you if you're operating totally remotely.
Think about the lighting within your organization. Lighting controls many different variables. It provides illumination so that workers can see what they're doing, sets the mood and, in some cases, showcases the brand.
With the help of LED tape, you can tweak the lighting in any space to serve exactly the purpose you need, choosing the exact placement, the exact coloration, and even the exact brightness you want.
You'll also need to think about how you shape the spaces within your office, and how employees are able to access those spaces.
Do you want employees to feel like autonomous individuals who have ample privacy to do their work? If so, you'll need segmented offices and cubicles to provide them with the resources they need.
Do your employees prefer to work in open, collaborative spaces? If so, you'll need to break down those walls and encourage people to interact with each other more frequently.
Equipment and Supplies
It goes without saying that your business needs equipment and supplies to operate consistently, but this can also be a byproduct of your workplace environment.
You'll need to make sure that employees have ready access to all the materials, resources, and technologies they need to do their jobs well. If an employee needs a new piece of equipment or a specific type of supply, is your office organized well enough that they can intuitively find what they're looking for?
Sound and Music
Sound and music in your workplace can have a drastic effect on how people feel and how people work during the day. There is significant room for subjectivity here, however.
Some people work best with moderate to loud music playing, while others prefer a whisper quiet environment. Some people can barely tolerate even minimal background noise. They prefer to lock themselves up in offices to avoid it.
Others thrive in a bustling environment, and would prefer to work in a heavily trafficked café, rather than a conventional office.
Recreation and Breaks
Do your employees have opportunities to take breaks and enjoy themselves? You don't need anything spectacular, but you should have spaces where employees can relax and talk to each other on a personal level.
Can you set up the kitchen to have a place where employees can sit down and eat lunch together? Better yet, can you set up a foosball table where people can blow off steam on a stressful day?
The Cultural Environment
Just as importantly, you'll need to consider the cultural environment you establish.
Employee engagement is possibly the most important factor for employee productivity and long-term startup success.
If your employees are engaged, they'll be much more focused on their work. Their productivity will increase, and they'll feel better about their work, so morale and retention both rise.
No matter which strategies you choose, employee engagement should be one of your highest priorities.
Instate good leaders.
If you want to shape the culture of your startup, the best thing you can do is shape your leaders.
Employees tend to model their leaders, even if they don't do it consciously. If you put good bosses and supervisors in place, allowing them to exemplify your brand values, it's only a matter of time before the rest of the organization begins to resemble them.
Conversely, bad leadership can destroy your organization from within.
Create (and reinforce) company cultural values.
Whether you're more interested in effective collaboration or higher productivity, make a list of core values that best represent your brand (if you don't already have one). Make these core values central to your startup, and showcase them wherever and whenever you can.
Also, while it's not a good idea to fire someone just because they temporarily deviated from your list of core values, you should spend time enforcing your company cultural values, guiding individuals to better choices in the process.
Most employees benefit strongly from an environment that encourages autonomy and independence.
Encourage your employees to think for themselves, make their own decisions, and take accountability for their own work. They'll be happier and get more done.
Embrace all ideas.
Open, honest workplace environments are almost always superior to their counterparts.
If you want to establish this type of environment for your startup, you need to start by embracing all ideas. Make it a point to ask people what they're thinking in meetings, and treat all ideas as valid and worth exploring – at least temporarily.
Once people feel more comfortable expressing themselves, you'll get much more accurate feedback, you'll get more diverse ideas to work with, and people will be much more willing to put in effort for your organization once they feel heard.
Every Startup Is Different
One important note here: every startup is different. What works for one startup may be totally inappropriate for another.
For example, in one work environment, employees may thrive when surrounded by bright colors, brilliant illumination, and fun, pumping music. In another, employees may thrive best with dim lighting, gentle background music, and minimalistic designs.
It's all up to you and what kind of business you want to create, as well as what type of people you hire.
The Role of Employee Feedback
One of the best ways to preserve morale and encourage employee retention is collecting and taking action on employee feedback.
If you're not sure whether your workplace environment is up to the task of supporting your business, ask your employees what they think. They'll probably help you figure out your current strengths and weaknesses so you can continue optimizing your workplace environment even further.
With a better workplace environment in place, your startups chances of success will increase enormously. Not only will your workers be happier and more engaged, your entire business will develop a better reputation. You'll set up an operational foundation that your business can follow for years to come.
Article by Deanna Ritchie, ReadWrite