Nov 11 2009

Break Down the Cubicle Walls

Boost employee morale by providing a mobile environment.

During an economic pinch, companies scrutinize every facet of their technology to see where they can cut costs — even minimally — and lower expenses.

But there’s a factor in this equation that managers often don’t consider: the role that technology plays in overall employee morale.

It’s understandable that untethering a user from the desk and cubicle might be the last thing on a manager’s mind, but it must not be overlooked. There are an unlimited number of ways this simple yet powerful act will increase productivity as well as boost morale.

Remove the Restraints

Nearly every employee, no matter the age, has spent time in a cubicle. These office spaces are oppressive and confining, no matter how willing and able the employee. The first step to creating a mobile environment is to break down these walls and give your users the freedom to work wherever inspiration strikes, be it on a beanbag in the staff lounge or in a hammock in the courtyard.

Granted, certain jobs require a desk on which to spread paperwork and organize tasks; there are options such as document imaging systems that can make ideas like this easier to realize. But if the work is primarily digitized, then imagine the increase in productivity you could see from a relaxed and focused employee.

Companies such as Google have pioneered this internal business model to overwhelming success. When a user is allowed to roam while on task, there is no stopping their creative thinking.

Collapse the Cube

If removing desks is not an option, there are other alternatives.

For example, you could remove the cubicle walls and place docking stations at every desk site. This will let users work more or less in an open environment and float between stations — untethered. An open workspace will foster openness among your employees and a tendency toward a free exchange of ideas.

Consider removing the walls and having all desks face one another, or group them according to team and function. If every user has a notebook computer, then each week they can alternate where they sit to ensure everyone learns about their fellow workers while still completing projects.

Try Telecommuting

Telecommuting is a riskier proposition, but it’s a rewarding possibility that you should also consider. Enabling telework will show employees that you trust them to maintain the security of the company network; it also displays an overall confidence in your workers, which is paramount at a time when everyone, everywhere, worries about getting a pink slip.

Morale can be difficult to quantify, but this does not lessen its importance to the bottom line. All of these approaches will boost productivity and allow work to be done in a way that most employees have not experienced.

One caveat: You need workers who can stay on track and accomplish their work with minimal supervision. If you can surround yourself with such people, they will take this incentive and create a solid work environment, and you will be rewarded with a level of morale most companies struggle to achieve — even during the best economic times.

Paul Zimmerman is an IT consultant in Sun Valley, Idaho.

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