Do you remember back to early school days and your first field trip to the local fire station? My impression was a place for everything and everything in its place. Plus the fact everyone knew what to do when the alarm sounded and the equipment was always ready. I bring this up because our company was asked to participate in a ‘Best Places to Work’ survey and in thinking about our office, I thought fire station.
My recollection of the fire station is a place where the ‘employees’ were able to relax – TVs, stuffed chairs, kitchen. Our new state-of-the art office design is stylish, fun and functional at the same time. Our people take great pride in keeping it clean and looking its best. We have six TV’s located throughout the office, and the only rule [from Mike Strong] – no news channels.
Our kitchen area always has a ready cup of coffee and snacks galore. Unlike the fire station, no beds but the chairs we sit in were designed after the Golden Gate Bridge.
I am sure the firemen went out of their way to be at ease while my class visited (TV shows had made clear when the alarm sounded though, they didn’t hesitate). Visitors to our office see a very sharp-looking staff, but when no VIPs are on the schedule the wardrobe is comfortable – jeans, tennis shoes and for many, company t-shirts with slogans such as ‘The Relentless Pursuit of Excellence’ with ‘Crew’ on the back. When an employee has a birthday or is celebrating another year with the company, it is noted with signs and office decorations. An office lunch once a month, ice cream parties [Graeters, flown in from Ohio], and an occasional massage therapist keep everyone loose.
It did not go un-noticed on my field trip to the fire station how clean and neat it was. I could imagine them getting an alarm and all they said was ‘Go!’ I don’t think they said ‘Have you seen the so and so!’ Our company recently experienced significant growth adding both clients and employees, but when it happened we said ‘Go!’ The office was designed for expansion; the processes in place were thought out to handle demand and diversity. Our open work-space makes for easy communication – no alarm necessary – and the office walls painted with a dry-erase sealant allow for team checklists to be generated as well as what I call ‘creative comments’ to keep the mood light.
There are times in our business when we think of our work as ‘putting out the fire!’ There’s no comparison to being in harm’s way as those firemen are, but the point I am making is that the atmosphere, the attitude, the little extras go a long way in keeping everyone at the ready. Take a look at your office environment because you’ll be surprised how small things can make a huge difference and the willingness of employee buy-in. And if we are ever honored on the ‘Best Work Place’ list, I am going to take it to the fire station.