Finding a new job is undeniably stressful. Polishing your resume, applying for jobs, interviewing, interviewing again – you really invest a lot in finding a new place to work. For this reason, I’ve compiled a list of 10 signs you should look for in a productive office. These signs will tip you off as to whether or not you will grow as a professional in your office environment. They might be small, but they are emblematic of the larger culture.
1. Work Space Layout
The actual physical layout of cubicles and other types of work space is a vital indicator of how much the company is willing to invest in its employees. As you walk through the office for your interview, you should be able to catch a glimpse of the physical work space assigned to employees of your level.
Take note, as this is an important sign of a productive office. If people are working at what seems like random set-ups, with desks strewn wherever they fit, then the company is likely not all that productive. If they invest in high quality cubicles or office space, that means the position you are interviewing for was definitively planned-for and will likely be empowering.
2. Good Lighting
This is a surprising tip to recognize a productive office. As you go in for your interview, try to note the details of the lighting and the layout of the fixtures. If there are any dimly-lit areas, or if the ceiling is a hodgepodge of random lighting fixtures, then the management has not made it a priority to ensure that everyone can see their work. I have experienced this first-hand. Some of the most productive offices I have worked in have been the brightest, while the worst have simply been poorly-lit.
3. The Office is Colorful
Average or entirely unproductive offices will be bathed in taupes and egg-shell whites, as productive office environments, while not necessarily painted with rainbow murals, will be accented in some way by bright blues, yellows, reds, and other colors. Even better, if you are able to notice that areas seem to be color coordinated to work-styles – for example, IT works in areas with reds, creative teams work in yellow – then you are in a highly productive forward-thinking office.
4. The Office Allows for Ergonomic Comfort
Write this one down: if you notice anyone with a standing desk, you are in a highly productive office environment. If employees are allowed their own level of ergonomic comfort as they work, then the upper management has seriously taken into consideration its employees – a company doesn’t invest in the health of its employees in such a way unless it seriously cares about them and their work output.
5. The Office is Full of Plants and Artwork.
The best office I ever worked was a non-profit organization that lined its walls with high-quality, professional photographs of our volunteers executing the mission of the organization. These photos provide much motivation for executing my work. Further, around each corner was a beautiful orchid, or some other type of plant life. As you walk around, you should feel inspired because of the things you see, and productive offices will spend money to make that so.
6. They Avoid Micromanagement
Once you get hired, you will be able to tell a lot about the office productivity quickly. When executing a task, take into account how closely your manager, or any manager, looks over shoulder, so to speak. Managers in productive offices walk a very fine line between being too hands-off and too domineering.
But if a manager is consistently taking a project out of your hands, reanalyzing it, and taking it in a different direction that you intended, spending much time on every detail, you have a micro-manager. This is the most unproductive of any management style, and productive workplaces don’t tolerate it.
7. Teamwork yields serious results
In many office situations, when groups get together to work on projects, less is accomplished than if each person worked on the project individually. The hallmark of a productive office is valuable, results-oriented teamwork. If you consistently find that team-based solutions are much more effective than anything each individual could execute on their own, then you have landed in a great office environment.
8. People Telework
Good offices have embraced flexible work situations and gotten on-board with people telecommuting. If you hear of people who are able to flexibly work at home or from a remote location, then you are in a great office environment. I once worked in an office in Washington, DC, and my supervisor telecommuted from Seattle, Washington – it was the most productive work set-up I’ve had, and that was because of the flexibility my supervisor was afforded.
9. Music Is Allowed or Encouraged
Offices should allow people to listen to music in order to concentrate. If listening to music while working is discouraged or frowned upon, then the office most likely does not have your own creativity as its central mission. Of course, workers should wear headphones or take other measures to keep from bothering coworkers, but if you find that your musically-induced concentration is disliked by co-workers, then your office will likely be unproductive in other ways.
10. You Receive an Agenda Before a Meeting
Some offices have three-hour marathon meetings that produce nothing, and this is likely because they lack an agenda. Once you are higher, keep track how often you get an agenda for a meeting. If you don’t consistently get one, then the meeting has likely been scheduled because of a manager’s need to make it only appear they are leading. If you consistently receive agendas, then you are knee-deep in a productive office environment.
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