The Office Well-Being Executive Manager

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The corridors of corporate life used to experience it at least once a day, typically around 3 PM. Those of you with a longer memory say it also occurred in the morning, but alas, those days are reluctantly gone, possibly, never to be repeated.

The eagerly awaited activity heralded an opportunity to have a short break from your normal work routine and to refresh your mind with small morsels of needed sustenance.

It was a welcome time for all pens to be lowered, inky nibs blotted, and writing paper pushed aside on your desk to make room for the appreciated earthenware additions.

For a brief few minutes, the worker could engage in a pseudo-flirtatious social dialogue and build a non-threatening personal rapport with the service provider, who was usually wearing a bland coloured corporate pinafore apron. Their official work title was “Tea Lady”, but they were the backbone of many successful organizations.

No office door was ever closed to the Tea Lady. They traversed the building pulling a trolley that was equipped with a large teapot, hot water, coffee, milk, a selection of biscuits (or cakes if you were lucky), and an array of cups and saucers, some of which occasionally matched. Their arrival could be heard well before they reached your desk, owing to the rattling of the crockery and the heightened conversation that they would always generate.

The role of Tea Lady was an unrecognized strategic cog in the corporate organizational hierarchy as they were privy to all levels of the business, from senior management, right down to the new starter or graduate. They could sense the mood of the corporate office, whether it was dynamic and innovative, or one that was struggling and ready to implode. The Tea Lady became the confidant of many employees, a person that they could talk to about work, home-life or their personal ambitions.

Business today needs a modern version of the Tea Lady, which would probably now have the more acceptable corporate title of “Office Well-Being Manager”. Many organizations have tried to foster various methods of casual communication within the corporate office with the introduction of “Chatter”, “Yammer” and other electronic applications, but none have been as effective as the old fashioned Tea Lady.

So why not reinvigorate the Tea Lady role with a more modern version?

Many employees want to have access to their senior management team, but may be too shy or a tad embarrassed to engage them in an open forum. One solution is to have a weekly (or monthly) roster where your Executive Team takes it in turns to be “Office Well-Being Executive Manager”. Yes, they would walk the office corridors with an electric powered beverage trolley fully equipped with the latest coffee (short black, long black, latte, cappuccino, flat white), tea (Early Grey, English Breakfast, Irish Breakfast, herbal), soymilk chai lattes, and a selection of cakes (high fat, low fat, gluten free) or fruit. Besides your Executive Team learning new catering skills that they can add to their already impressive CVs, they would have instantaneous access to the pulse of the business and an opportunity to gain an insight on the nuances of their staff (and vice-versa).

So, when next you plan to have a well-earned rest break from your computer, may I suggest that you first stop, and listen. Hopefully you will hear the buzz of your corporately branded electric beverage trolley as it happily approaches your desk. Bon appetite!

Grand Chef de Woft

Transparency 3

As I patiently sat awaiting instructions from the occupants of Conference Room 1, I smugly took the opportunity to look around my master chef kitchen. Although small, and positioned strategically beneath the Conference Room, it was a classy place, full of the latest stainless-steel cooking appliances, pans, other key requisite implements, and one that was dutifully restocked on a daily basis with the latest aromatic worldly delights.

In my position of “Grand Chef de Woft”, I felt honoured in the knowledge that I was fully appreciated by those that gleefully awaited my gourmet creations to stimulate, and motivate their creativity and hunger for innovation.

Unbeknownst to me, my work colleagues above had now entered Conference Room 1 and were preparing to start their 9 AM team meeting. They all gathered around the “woft box” and unanimously agreed upon their selection. As they were all feeling quite hungry and lethargic, they desperately needed an appropriate thought woft stimulation. They selected the popular “woft number 3”, and immediately the instruction was conveyed to me and I sprung into action.

I placed the freshly brewed coffee and pan-fried onions under the woft extraction fan that was positioned centrally over my stove, and then turned it on to maximum woft velocity. Conference Room 1 quickly filled with “woft number 3” and the occupants marvelled at the odours that were soon to completely fill their room. As is standard practice, at the conclusion of their meeting, they closed the vent of woft and opened the outside windows to allow the fresh air to permeate into the room, thereby eliminating any residual odours in preparation for the next occupants of Conference Room 1.

At 11 AM, I was instructed to convey “woft number 7”. Experience told me that these colleagues were struggling, and I promptly boiled copious amounts of strong peppermint tea. A few seconds later, the woft of peppermint engulfed the meeting room to which sighs of relief were loudly heard by those above, thereby signalling their motivational satisfaction.

This process continued all day until 5 PM when the lights in Conference Room 1 were turned off and my colleagues packed up their bags and happily headed home.

Knowing that my important role was now done, I also tidied up my kitchen and departed the corporate office. I left with a sense of achievement, knowing that I had provided the required woftful environment that lead to many new ideas being generated in Conference Room 1. I smiled with satisfaction on a job well done!

Measuring Employee Happiness

The black color didn’t make the homecoming dress lose the sense of cute. Do you agree with me?

There is a question that has been puzzling me for a while now (well, at least a few minutes), and that is; “How should we measure real success in the corporate office?”

No, I’m not talking the traditional financial measurements such as profit, sales or share price, just to name a few. I’m referring to the more important measures of whether an organisation has a successful culture that promotes innovation and an employee mood of happiness.

There have been many a study which has tried to chart an individual’s mood, one of the more creative ones being the “Hemline Index”. “This theory suggests that hemlines on women’s dresses rise along with stock prices. In good economies, we get such results as miniskirts (as seen in the 1960s), or in poor economic times, as shown by the 1929 Wall Street Crash, hems can drop almost overnight.”
(Ref: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hemline_index#cite_ref-1)

Other such notable indexes also include items such as laxatives and deodorants! “During a recession, laxatives go up, because people are under tremendous stress, and holding themselves back,” said Shapiro, now chief executive of SAGE, a Chicago-based consulting firm. “During a boom, deodorant sales go up, because people are out dancing around.”
(Ref: http://www.nytimes.com/2008/10/19/business/worldbusiness/19iht-19lewin.17068071.html?pagewanted=all&_r=0)

Now as a corporate employee that understands the protocols of “acceptable behaviour in the workplace”, I would not even consider the application of the “Hemline Index”, the “Deodorant Index”, and I’m not even going near the “Laxative Index”, but there must be some other “acceptable” measures that can be used by the organisation to highlight their success in this area? This conundrum got me thinking!

What about the following potential mood measurements in the office:

1. The Wall Bounce Chart
A line could be painted on all office walls at a constant height position of say 5 feet. Theory (according to “someone”) suggests that when a person is happy, they tend to have a bounce in their walking step. Therefore the logical next step is to measure an employee’s “walk bounce” as they sojourn around the office corridors. The higher the bounce deviation from the 5 feet benchmark reference line, the happier the employees working in that office.

2. The Coloured Attire
According to the “someone” that discovered the walking bounce indicator, another indicator of employee happiness is the colour of their clothes. Those who habitually dress in sombre black or grey clothes (besides being residents of Melbourne) are typified as being quite conservative and less known to whoop it up in the corporate office. Whereas, those adorned with colour, well, they are exhibiting all the classic signs of success and a want to let the world know of their personal satisfaction and excitement.

3. The Organic Tea Bag
When an employee is stressed, the common drink of choice is coffee or tea. However, according again to that “someone”, another important measurement of happiness is the clutter observed around the organic tea bag jar located in the office communal kitchen. Happy employees are reported to drink more organic tea and they like to woft their tea bags around in the air with a gleeful flick prior to placing them in the bin. The result is a mixture of tea bag tags randomly tossed around the kitchen and the strange odour of combined chamomile, lemon, chai and green tea fumes.

I’m sure that you can think of many more mood measurement indexes that would complement the above three ideas.

So why don’t corporate organisations list these important indexes in their annual reports, or in the monthly newsletters? May I suggest that you lobby your GM of HR to get these indexes incorporated into your company’s cultural measures of employee success? Yes, it’s just a thought to make you think that little bit differently!

The Concierge of Greet

Boutique

The weather was miserable, it was cold, wet and the strong chilly wind was blowing my bright coloured scarf in a flapping flurry around my hairless freezing head. As I pushed open the hotel’s wooden heavy door with some degree of anticipation, I was immediately met with a warm gust of the most pleasurable smelling air that caught me by surprise. I quickly stopped in my tracks and enjoyed this delightful air woft that was relished and absorbed most happily by my frozen face.

Once inside the hotel lobby, my senses were pounced upon by a multitude of the most captivating furniture, décor and sounds of guests highly chuffed to be relaxing in the numerous comfortable leather chairs whilst scoffing a warming beverage or sampling some nibbles. As I walked to the concierge, I was greeted in a sincere, genuine and hearty manner and was offered a hot tea in a simply charming and quite appealing glass.

I hadn’t even checked into the hotel yet, but I felt right at home.

So why is it that when we step inside a corporate reception area for the first time, we typically feel like an unwelcome and hostile intruder? This is particularly the case for those unmanned reception areas where your visitor has to navigate a phone directory and then engage a lonely and rather sterile phone to try and seek the attention of the person they came to visit.

This got me thinking……

The Door to Your Office:
Why not have an impressive and inspiring wooden door (forget those automatic glass ones that open when an ant meanders on to the sensor) that has a large knocker or brass bell located on it that visitors just want to use as it just builds a high degree of anticipation, and of course fun via its application?

The Greet Concierge:
Why not have a corporate concierge who gleefully greets visitors as they arrive in your office foyer? If is it cold and wet, they relieve the visitor of their coat and umbrella and offer them a scented, warm and viscous tea and seat them in a chair with an inbuilt bottom warmer, or if it is cold, they partake of a nice chilled and flavoursome ice drink whilst sitting under a strategically placed air conditioner.

The Waiting Activity:
Many a visitor can get rather bored and fed up waiting in the reception area for longer than required periods of time. This is where the use of a corporate billiard table should be used that is adorned with billiard balls branded with the corporate logo. For those less skilled in the way of sticks and balls, then why not have a corporate dartboard in which they can relieve potential waiting frustration by hurling a pointy dart rather forcefully.

Reading Material:
Forget newspapers and the corporate magazine, why not have a vast array of books, comics and some DIY manuals (eg gardening or home renovations) that provide a level of interest and engagement. Should they not finish their selected reading material prior to the commencement of their business meeting, then why not have a lending library format that allows your visitor to borrow the item?

The Bed of Leisure
Sometimes it’s rather tough waiting for a meeting when your visitor may have travelled some distance to get to your office that could have necessitated the use of an early morning flight or long car journey. So why not have a corporate bed of leisure that they can occupy (by themselves of course) to provide them with that additional level of recuperation prior to their meeting?

I’m sure that you can think of additional thoughts of corporate creativity that can make your valued visitor feel much more welcome and at home when frequenting your corporate abode. So why not incorporate some of these activities into your corporate reception area?

The goal is to provide your corporate office with that competitive advantage that yields your organization with that level of uniqueness that makes your customers, suppliers, employees and investors want to engage with you, why, because your business inspires them!

Cultural Transformation to a Tea!

Tea

I’m one of those tea drinkers that likes to have my tea in a long tall and transparent glass. There is something quite magical about observing the tealeaves gradually permeate their colour, taste and odour with the boiling clear water. With time, you will observe the tea colour swirling and leaving a distinctive trail in the water, with additional time, the tealeaves will transform the water into a uniform and translucent colour. The degree of tealeaf permeation, or transformation, can be controlled via the immersion duration time in the water.

Let’s take this analogy into the corporate office with respect to cultural transformation.

Many corporate cultures can be viewed like the glass of clear boiling water. To look externally at the glass, it is homogeneous, quite bland, and the only activity appears to be the vapour trail exuding from the top of the glass as a result of the high temperature (100C). However, unless something happens within the glass, the water will cool and the glass will reach a temperature that coincides with the surrounding room temperature. This is the boring corporate culture that is common in so many organizations today.

The key to cultural transformation is the introduction of a catalyst to initiate and drive change. However, prior to its introduction, the business management team need to identify and agree on what their unique and distinctive organizational culture needs to be? Let’s go back to the tea analogy. How will the business culture be defined? What will be its colour, taste, smell and intensity? How long will the process take to be achieved? What catalyst will be used to initiate and drive the cultural transformation? Will the employees, customers and the market like the final taste?

When tealeaves are added to the boiling water, the permeation can be accelerated via movement of the leaves, or the water itself via a stirring action. In other words, some action needs to occur to progress and maintain the transformation.

So when next you are considering the implementation of your next cultural transformation in your office, or if you are currently in the midst of one right now, may I suggest that you consider the following key elements:

1.A transparent glass enables your employees to see the degree of transformation permeation. Don’t hide the process, make it very visible.
2.Is the water hot? Is the corporate environment at the right temperature for the required cultural transformation?
3.What tea will be introduced into the water? What will be the catalyst that you will use to drive the change? What colour, taste, smell do you want to achieve that defines your corporate culture?
4.When should you introduce a spoon into the glass to stir things up a little? What stirring speed is optimum to achieve the desired effect?

Once the desired tea has been achieved, there is no point everyone just looking at it with admiration, make sure that all those involved in the transformation process drink the tea and provide management with feedback so the tea can be tweaked accordingly to maintain the optimum taste and enjoyment!

Don’t relax once you have obtained the targeted cultural transformation, as just like with tea, the organization’s tastes will change over time. Be prepared to continually experiment; maybe add some lemon, some honey, or another tea flavour to add that additional zest!