Organizations’ employees working in IT, especially developers, often drag the reputation of not really caring about their physical workplace. Of course, it is important for them to have adequate space and to be close to colleagues with whom they collaborate regularly, but we often believe that they give more value to having the right tools to do their work efficiently (appropriate applications, sufficient material resources, etc.)
Personally, as manager of an IT team, it seems important for me to have access to a nice and welcoming conference room that presents the right image for the organization, the image we want to project to visitors we receive. But being a former developer, I tended to agree with the line of thinking that pushes these considerations aside. I talk in the past tense because my opinion on the matter has changed during the past year, because of what I experienced at Pyxis.
A little over a year ago, Pyxis’ office lease was coming to an end and we found that our needs had changed. There were a few options and we explored them all:
- Renewing the lease and simply refreshing the environment with minimal efforts.
- Reorganizing the premises radically to make them more suited to our new needs and to a more modern way of living and working.
- Moving simply to new offices that meet our expectations.
Back then, the first option seemed totally acceptable to me. Even if it was not perfect, I could easily adapt to the current layout. At this point, I had no idea how much it could impact the team’s fulfillment.
We finally went with the third option. My perception was then that we were unnecessarily going to devote a lot of energy and money to creating new offices. Obviously, as long as we were going to move, I understood that we had to take the opportunity to make the new place more in tune with our day-to-day reality.
We needed a dynamic, young and stimulating workplace to offer employees a new way of living and working, an inspiring environment where it feels great to gather. For the project, we enrolled the help of a firm specialized in designing workspaces.
When the time had come to get in the new office, I quickly noticed the positive effect that a more trendy, open and bright (thanks to its large windows) environment could have. It better represents what we are as a team and corresponds to what we preach: numerous white walls available to write on, small meeting areas and larger conference rooms favouring sharing and exchanging daily.
All this without mentioning many other amenities popular with employees like cozy spaces reserved for a quick cup of coffee or a bite to eat, or shower stalls for those using their bicycles to commute or enjoy training during lunch time.
I really felt a wind of renewal, a special excitement. The team members’ enthusiasm was obvious. Everyone seemed happy and proud, enjoying how the different areas were organized to help them perform their tasks. And even me who believed workplaces were secondary, I quickly caught myself taking more time to present our nice environment to people coming to visit. Unknowingly, a certain gloominess had just vanished (maybe we had left it in our old office). However, I told myself it was going to be temporary, that this behaviour was completely normal, that it was the effect of novelty, that it would all fade with time…
Six Months Later
Six months have passed since we settled in the new office and I have to admit that all this beautiful energy of the first day is still here. I feel that people (I include myself) appreciate the chance to work in a stimulating environment where it feels good to live.
Despite the difficulty of quantifying it, I think that giving importance to workplaces is a profitable investment for any organization in the medium and long terms. If employees are happy to come through the doors, even on more difficult mornings, it can only help their personal and professional fulfillment. It means that this pleasant environment is able to maintain synergy among colleagues.
Teleworking is valued more and more these days, but from my point of view, it is not the best solution to solidify relationships between team members. It is rather an accommodation to satisfy people who wish to choose this option to promote work-family balance. For this reason, it stays interesting.
So it was an important bias I had a year ago to believe that developers (and I still include myself in that group) did not need a more stimulating workplace to be fully accomplished. Obviously, there will always be unhappy people but we should tend toward harmony…