How to create an inspiring office environment

Inspiring office environment
Make it great: an inspiring office environment can transform morale Credit: Getty

Lee Penson, CEO of architectural firm Penson, and Business consultant Marc Lawn discuss how to create an inspiring office environment.

With a company mantra of “life is too short to spend time in dull or inefficient spaces” Lee Penson, CEO of Penson, an innovative commercial architectural firm whose roster of clients includes Google, Jay Z, and YouTube, is the ideal person to discuss why office environments are critical for success.

Simply put, if the tone is pitch-perfect, then more work gets done and visiting clients will be suitably impressed. But with work habits evolving – including the trend of hot-desking – businesses need office design solutions that cater to multiple users without sacrificing comfort and quality. It’s a tough balance, though incredibly rewarding once it is found.

First impressions matter

“The working environment is 100pc everything,” says Mr Penson. “A bad environment is bad for health, team spirit, enthusiasm, passion, drive, ambition, longevity, dreaming, innovation and creativity.

“I’ve overseen large-scale office revamps and the whole personality of the place, and those who inhabit it, transforms almost overnight, for the better. People make business, not equipment – that is the key. How you operate says it all about your business. Bags of personality makes you sell more – and, ultimately, it is the bottom line that matters.”

I’ve seen groups of people change over the course of a month with the arrival of a new buildingLee Penson

So what tips does Mr Penson have regarding the creation of a perfect office environment? “The first thing is to be proud,” he continues. “Let your space speak of your character, personality and vibe. Everybody that sees you in your space should leave with a great impression. It’s not just an office space with a logo on a coloured wall – that’s the worst thing you can do. Have the vision to see it as an extension of your personalities.”

If improved office atmosphere is what will take a company to the next level, can Mr Penson prove that the projects he has been involved in have increased productivity? “Yes,” he says, “although it is very hard to put a monitoring system on this and quantify it. But I have literally seen people change as individuals overnight, in terms of what they wear, because of a new environment.

“I’ve seen groups of people – up to a scale of 10,000 – change over the course of a month with the arrival of a new building. It is so powerful, this holistic approach, a spiritual change if you will. For me, it makes or breaks a business, whether it is new or existing.”

Get expert advice

Business consultant Marc Lawn, aka the “Business GP”, agrees that an office revamp can help transform the fortunes of an SME but warns that further fine-tuning may be required to achieve perfection. Sometimes, expert management is required to sniff out the bad apples. “You can have all the mod cons but if the working environment isn’t constructive, then it is a big issue,” he says.

Let your space speak of your character, personality and vibeLee Penson

“Environment has a significant effect on work outputs, but all too often people forget that the behaviour and attitude of the staff is one of the biggest contributors, and needs to be monitored by the leadership team (and self-monitored, too) to ensure that the environment doesn’t become toxic.

“For instance, one client of mine achieved a significant transformation by being able to address the behaviour of an individual who, unknowingly, contributed to significant disruption because of their happy-go-lucky attitude, because it made others resent them and feel like they didn’t care. The individual was mortified by this, because they thought they were lifting spirits, not dampening them.”

A quiet, expert word can often improve the atmosphere, as Mr Lawn points out. “I encourage people to think that, generally, people don’t go out of their way to ruin your day, so you need to talk.”

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