Rarely do our biggest “A-ha!” moments come in the middle of a big conference or formal meeting. Instead, you’ve probably noticed most of your high-impact ideas come when you least expect it – while you’re having coffee with a friend, out for a walk or even in the shower. While you probably shouldn’t install office “thinking showers” throughout the building, there are a number of easy ways to take advantage of the casual epiphany phenomenon by building smart employee lounge areas designed to foster collaboration and creativity.
Keep it casual
Rather than hold small meetings in big, cavernous conference rooms, keep it casual by inviting your group to hash it out in a comfy corner. Set up a couple of couches and comfortable chairs in a way that might mirror a living room at home. Your employees will feel more relaxed and able to contribute to discussions more freely than behind the confines of a large, formal conference table.
Let them linger
Sometimes all you need is an accidental interaction for that “creative spark.” Set up tall tables near the coffee maker, vending machines and other common break areas in the office, and encourage employees to socialize. Oftentimes, a serendipitous conversation with a coworker from a different department results in fresh, helpful insights we wouldn’t otherwise be exposed to. It’s also beneficial to turn your brain off of work for a few minutes in between difficult tasks to give yourself time to reboot before tackling the next project.
Some workers just can’t sit at a desk for more than a few hours at a time without a change of scenery. Create a few “getaway” spots with simple, open workspaces away from the main floor. Choose your locations strategically – areas close to big windows offer a brighter, more cheerful atmosphere with plenty of natural light to help boost employee motivation. It’s also a good idea to set these areas up across the building, so employees suffering cabin/cubicle fever get a chance to escape their desks, walk around a bit and really stretch their legs.
Work hard, play hard
Another fun idea to add to your office is game pieces, such as a ping pong table or putting mats. These types of employee lounge perks encourage interaction and friendly competition, as well as helping to lower stress and absenteeism. Many companies use fun games like these to build rapport with new employees or even attract prospective new hires. Some start-ups even go so far as to conduct interviews over a game of ping pong in order to eliminate “canned responses” and connect on a much more personal level. Again, “a-ha!” moments come when you least expect them – sometimes taking your mind off your latest work dilemma to play a friendly match of table tennis is all you need for your next big breakthrough.
Everyone works differently, and there’s certainly no wrong way to get things done. That’s why it’s important to get creative and add some variety to the workplace. Make it easy for those who need to get out and bounce ideas off of other coworkers to do so, but be sure to keep some traditional spaces for those who just need to hunker down on their own to crank out their best work. When done right, your office can easily become an extension of the home, the local coffee shop, or wherever else your employees need to go for the promise of productivity.