I’ve been touring various offices over the past couple of months, doing day shifts while people are on holiday or short-staffed. I’ve been to trendy offices and dirty offices; quiet offices and offices that are freezing cold; offices with work perks and offices with work jerks.
And, for any budding businesses out there considering a refurb, I believe I am now in the position to tell you how to build the perfect office.
A friendly doorman
Having a smiley face greet you at the door or reception can have a surprisingly big impact; it can make you instantly forget the hellish commute you just endured or the fact that the barista dude messed up your very complicated ‘black coffee’ order three times.
Most impressive receptionist of the year goes to the man who remembered my name from when I used to work in the building five years ago. Now that made me special.
And least impressive goes to the woman who thought I was there for work experience, and then got my name wrong the next day. Apparently, Holly sounds like Connie.
Location, location, location
You can have the best office in the world but if it’s 10 miles from the nearest tube station and there isn’t even a coffee shop in walking distance then you have failed at office-ing.
Employees spend so much of their lives at work it is pretty important that they’re able to run a couple of errands if they need to – buy a birthday card, pop to the post office, pick up something for dinner, that kind of thing.
The worst place I ever worked at for this was on an industrial estate, where the only thing within walking distance was a dodgy cafe; having to drive to the Tesco superstore three miles up the road just to leave the vicinity of the building is a pretty depressing way to spend a lunch hour.
The big chill
Why are most offices so damn cold? I have sat in a building in the middle of summer with two cardigans and a scarf on, while my lips turn blue and my fingers seize up.
I have seen departments at war over a thermostat, but I don’t think those maintenance guys who have to go around the building catering to the whims of everyone’s individual internal temperature gauge are the answer.
Hot-desking is pretty trendy these days, couldn’t there be two parts of the building at different temperatures and you could go and park up wherever suited you each day?
Room with a brew
My favourite discovery from my tour of London offices is the magical hot water tap.
A tap which produces boiling water at the touch of a button. No more waiting for the kettle to boil, no more getting stuck in huge tea rounds which take hours to fulfil – forget smart phones or the wheel, frankly, I think it’s the most important invention in the world.
And while we’re on the subject, huge thumbs down to any workplace which doesn’t provide free tea and coffee to their staff. Caffeine is a basic human right and costs you pennies – sort it out.
Some offices, I have discovered, are quieter than others. I’m always surprised when an office full of journalists is very quiet because shouldn’t everyone be doing interviews or speaking to people for at least part of the day? When it’s too quiet it makes me self-conscious to go on the phone because I feel like everyone can hear me – and I usually say something inappropriate – so maybe everyone feels the same and then it becomes self-fulfilling.
My solution to this is that every newsroom should have a couple of TV screens on the wall with rolling news on a very low volume. It’s a good way of making sure you keep abreast of any breaking news and provides a little bit of helpful background noise too. Sorted.
Fire the laser
It astounds me that so many grown adults who have managed to secure full-time employment can’t seem to master something as simple as flushing the toilet or putting a cup in a dishwasher. Seriously – it’s gross, selfish and pretty weird.
I’m proposing some kind of laser-based alarm system which locks people in a cage for committing any kitchen- or bathroom-based misdemeanours. Three strikes and you’re out.