From furniture and décor to lighting and layout, the most culture-aware companies put a lot of thought into the makeup of their offices. Colors, materials, and configurations must all work together so that the spaces employees experience look and feel just right.
But what about the sounds employees experience? Could adding music to your office environment enhance company culture and yield productivity and efficiency benefits? Research says, yes.
A study by England-based market researcher Mindlab set a series of different tasks, such as spell-checking or solving equations, in front of 26 people for five days. One group of participants listened to no music while the other groups listened to one of four music genres. In the end, nine out of 10 workers performed better while listening to music.
But it turns out that efficiency and productivity are not the only areas that blossom with a soundtrack. “Bringing music into offices helps to open up numerous, previously untapped, channels of communication.” says Tessa Marchington, founder of Music in Offices, an organization that brings music into the workplace through office choirs, instrument lessons, and music-based workshops. By making music community-focused, rather than individual and headphone-delivered, you can break down boundaries, reveal shared interested and open paths for employees, both old and new, to develop new working relationships.
There are about as many ways to incorporate music into your space as there are genres to choose from. Here are a few to get you started.
1. Play it loud
Invest in a decent pair of speakers and a music player for the office. Load it up with playlists and let it (rock and) roll.
Of course, implementing this may not be so simple. The nature of your work may not allow for this sort of broadcasting all day long and varying music tastes may pose some challenges. But each of these can be overcome. Try setting specific music times of day, say earlier in the morning or during lunch when phone calls and meetings may be fewer. Create a process by which songs are chosen or nominate a company DJ to manage the playlists. Set up a suggestion box so that anyone, from the most senior person to the newest intern, can suggest additions and introduce everyone to something new.
2. Meet for music
If playing music office-wide won’t work for your work, set aside time for colleagues to gather and talk tunes. A regular lunch or late afternoon hour to gather over shared favorites and new bands can break down walls and enhance communication just as well while respecting everyone’s need for quiet.
3. Make a show of it
Do you work among more than a handful of folks who are talented musicians in their spare time? Bevi is definitely one of those lucky teams! Showcase that in the office with a band night or talent show. Not only will the event be a fun way to gather everyone together, those who get to show off their skills and passion will feel inspired. Don’t have enough musicians on staff to make a night of it? Seek out local musicians and book them for an in-office concert.
4. Learn together
Step away from the conferences and trainings and learn something together that has nothing to do with the job at hand—a new instrument.
Ready to have a little fun with workplace music? Check out this guide revealing what kind of music to listen to based on the work you’re doing. Or browse this list of Beatles songs for improving office culture (All you need is love, Help!, and Let it Be top the list, among others!).
Imagine break room shelves stocked healthy snacks like fruits, vegetables, and nuts instead of sugar-laden candy and salt-loaded chips…
An office in which you can get your annual flu shot in the conference room down the hall rather than trying to squeeze a doctor visit in during the busy winter season.
A workplace with walking meetings, friendly office step-counting competitions, and group exercise classes during your lunch hour.
This is the world an employee wellness program can create.
Need numbers to really feel convinced? A 2011 study in American Journal of Health Promotion showed healthcare costs rose at a slower rate (15% slower) when employers consistently offered wellness program to employees.
Now that we’ve covered why you should start your own employee wellness program today, let’s talk how.
The most successful wellness programs respond to the needs of your employees. So start by observing what sorts of wellness activities are popular in the office now—do groups of colleagues get together to walk after work? Has someone taken it on themselves to sanitize conference rooms during flu season? Take the lead from employees to hone in on what they seek most.
Need a bit more data? Distribute a survey to gather wellness needs and tailor programs and activities to your employees.
Even the most perfectly tailored program will not run itself. Identify the health advocates among you and ask them to help organize the program, lead a campaign, plan an event or mentor other members of the team. The more people on the team, the better!
Need help convincing staff to join the effort? Look for ways to build responsibilities into their job and discuss any concerns about time commitments up front.
While many wellness activities are free or very low cost, setting aside a budget for your wellness program will help keep up momentum and allow you to offset employee costs in favor of overall wellness. Consider:
Subsidizing Pilates or yoga classes or weight management programs
Assisting employees with gym membership costs
Adjusting insurance plans to align with employee needs and goals
Contacting health insurance companies for free resources – online and in person – on a variety of wellness topics
And don’t forget to pursue inexpensive options such as:
Contacting local health care providers, health clinics, hospitals, and universities for experts to speak on health and wellness-related topics
Utilize employee expertise to lead programs or classes
Set up a walking program or exercise group
Once you have the details of your program in place, spread the word! Post notes or messages in typical informational locations like your company intranet or break room bulletin board. And then think outside the box. Advertise events with flyers or table tents near the lunch room or break room. Start a wellness newsletter. If budget allows, order some small tchotchkes, like pencils or notepads for each staff member.
Focus communication on specific program features or upcoming events to create a sense of action.
You’ll probably know whether your program is working by the way employees engage. But gathering as many specifics as possible will help you further tune the program for success. Distribute short evaluations at specific intervals and after larger events. Three questions will do: What worked? What didn’t? What would you do differently?
Whether you’re assembling a dozen people in an office conference room or convening a few hundred at a convention center, your meetings make an impact beyond your company’s bottom line. How can you reduce the impact of meetings on the Earth while still collaborating for your organization’s success?
We’ve got tips to meet green whether you’re going big or talking small.
Meet green everyday
It starts with ten printed copies of an agenda (7 of which will be barely glanced at and left behind). It ends when the last person leaves the room but leaves the lights on. During the 30 – 60 minutes in between, a team might discuss some important topics, make some key decisions, and identify some necessary next steps. But they’ll also make an impact on the environment unless they take a few steps to green that meeting.
To print or not to print
Business still runs on paper and there’s no getting around that. But before each meeting, ask yourself: “Do we really need this?” Use a white board to share your meeting agenda and save dozens of pages per meeting. Share presentations via projection or screen sharing to cut down on the stacks of copies you bring into the room. (If you need a print-out of your presentation to share, bring just one or two to pass around the room or leave with key decision makers). Going paperless at every meeting may seem like an unachievable goal but a little bit of reduction is always possible and makes an impact.
All for one and one for all
Once you reduce the amount of paper you bring into the room, you may notice the number of electronics increases. Without printed agendas on which to take notes, attendees may feel compelled to tote laptops and tablets along with them. But, as with all things, there is a balance to sustainability. If ‘less paper’ equals ‘more electricity’ then we really haven’t made the difference we sought to make. See if assigning note-taking to one member of the group might help. In addition to reducing the environmental impact of that half hour, you may notice each meeting attendee is more engaged!
Relive your school days when the best thing that could happen on a nice spring day was your teacher saying, “Let’s have class outside!” Find a nice spot to sit in the office courtyard or at a nearby park. Having a meeting that doesn’t require materials? Meet while walking. This strategy serves the double goal of reducing the electricity required to power your chat and improving the health of everyone you meet with. And, of course, if you can’t help but meet inside, be sure to turn the conference room lights off when you leave.
Go big and stay green
Small changes in your small meetings can make a big difference. But what about larger meetings and conventions that requires large amounts of paper, travel, and supplies? It’s no surprise that the EPA once deemed the meetings and events industry the 2nd most wasteful in the U.S. Fortunately, every stop along the industry’s supply chain has trended towards sustainability over the past decade, turning even the largest of meetings green.
To travel or not to travel
Need to discuss something and email won’t do? Pick up the phone.
Need to discuss or interact with visuals? With Skype, Google Hangouts, and others, the sky is the limit.
Will you still have to travel, sometimes, across the miles to meet in person? Of course. Even with all of the technology at our fingertips, we still haven’t completely replaced the experience of meeting face-to-face. But thanks to the plethora of virtual meeting options, we can now make smarter decisions and travel only when necessary.
Food adds an important element to even the smallest of events and keeps large meetings energized. But the miles that food has to travel, not to mention the waste created by leftovers, serving materials, and other accessories like linens and flatware, makes a huge impact. Go green by seeking sustainable and local suppliers that serve organic food with locally sourced ingredients on reusable or eco-friendly plates, napkins, etc.
Whether planning a large convention or a smaller conference, finding the perfect location for everyone, that also takes the environment into consideration, can be a daunting task. If this is your daunting task, check out the International Civil Aviation Organization’s Green Meetings Calculator. You input your attendees’ cities of origin and it gives you a list of location options that take into account the aggregate CO2 emissions generated by flights.
What strategies do you use to ensure your meetings make an impact on your work but not on the environment?
How often do you gather your employees together for something that has nothing to do with business?
Creating camaraderie and a sense of social engagement in the office goes a long way to not only spreading your company culture but strengthening it as well. Giving everyone a chance to relax a little and get to know each other better can boost employee morale and collaboration.
Ice cream social: Invite an ice cream truck to pull up outside your office or buy a few gallons from the closest grocery story and set up a sundae bar on a Wednesday afternoon.
Chili Cook-off: Or any kind of cook-off. Assign a panel of judges and tell everyone to get cooking and bring their best. Just be sure to have a prize for the winner.
Pot Luck: Amp up the Friday afternoon happy hour by assigning snack, drink, and even dessert duty to different teams around the office.
Non-business meetings: Survey the office to see what folks are interested in and then bring in an expert. A sommelier could come in to teach about wine tasting or a local stand-up comedian could run an improv workshop.
Game Day: Ask everyone to bring in a favorite board game and spend an afternoon of a little friendly competition.
Start a Book Club: Maybe you read and discuss books related to your work, maybe you work through the latest NYT best sellers. Either way, it will bring folks together.
Office Talent Show: What are your colleagues good at outside of the office? It’s time to find out.
Afternoon Snack Time: Take yourselves back to your Kindergarten days and schedule afternoon snack time for all to come together. (We recommend gathering around the Bevi).
Afternoon at the Movies: Take everyone out to the local theater or pop some popcorn and bring one in.
Scavenger Hunt: Plot one out within the office or break into teams and take to the streets for exploration and team building at the same time.
DIY Awards Show: Think of fun office awards (e.g. best smelling lunch, first in every morning, best email sign off) or create your own based on inside jokes. Don’t forget to hand out trophies.
A Day of Pampering: Bring in a masseuse for seated massages, a barista to make coffee to order, and anything else that will leave employees feeling well taken care of.
Contests for Anything: Create a contest around anything that gets you all engaged—from a costume contest at Halloween to a friendly step-counting contest and beyond, there are countless ways to get everyone cheering each other on.
Bevi Taste Test: This one’s our personal favorite—an afternoon of ‘name that flavor!’
The health of our planet makes headlines every day in ways that, individually, we have little control over. The good news is that, policy changes aside, greening your little corner of the world can have a tremendous effect on the overall planet.
Haven’t thought about reducing your personal waste before? We’ve broken down a few ways to get started and a few more ways to really take things to the next level.
If you’re not already doing these things, don’t fret but start now! Most of these can be incorporated into your life today.
Identify recyclables – Find out what your country recycles and then start doing it!
Switch to paperless billing – Most credit card, utility, and other bills you receive can be electronically delivered and paid. Login to each individual account and set your account to paperless billing to cut down on all of the envelopes, sheets of paper, paper checks and even stamps that cycle through your home. And, while you’re at it, unsubscribe from unwanted catalogs to cut down on your junk mail.
Keep an eye out for excessive packaging and avoid:
Individually wrapped items. Buy the large cereal box instead of the smaller individual boxes and, when possible, buy in bulk. Need smaller portions? Repackage into reusable containers once you get home.
Products wrapped up more than they need to be. That notebook doesn’t need all that shrink wrapping, does it?
Packaged items that don’t need packaging. Does a hammer really need to be wrapped up in plastic when you buy it?
Got the basics down? Up your waste-reduction game.
Think before you print, buy, write, and then, reuse – Write grocery lists on the pack of used paper (or go electronic!). Visit your local library or invest in an e-reader to keep up with your reading habit.
Invest in reusable – Just about everything you use regularly can be reused. Start by getting yourself a reusable water bottle and set of canvas shopping bags. Move onto silicone muffin tins for your baking and reusable mesh coffee filters for your morning caffeine. Replace paper towels with cloths and buy refillable pens and mechanical pencils for your office.
Green your kitchen – Be on the lookout for new ways to use the food and water flowing through your kitchen. Convert your leftovers into new meals before they go bad. Think of alternate uses for the water you use to boil pasta or wash vegetables, such as watering plants, before you pour it down the drain.
Ready for even bigger waste reduction? Here we go.
Start a compost heap – Enjoy the double benefit of keeping food waste out of the system and providing extra rich food for the plants around your home which, in turn, will create a healthier environment for you and your family.
Switch to reusable containers – Beyond reusable water bottles and lunch packaging, research options in your community for getting normal groceries, like milk, in containers that you can return for reuse.
Let this new perspective into every aspect of your life – Once you get going, you’ll likely realize that there are ways to green every area of your life, even spaces you never thought of. You could invest in a pressure cooker for shorter cooking times and less energy use. Switch to cloth gift bags for holidays and birthdays to reduce paper. Find place to recycle or donate unwanted clothes, toys, books, and even cell phones and gadgets so that those items don’t end up in landfills. The possibilities for reducing personal waste are truly endless.
Picture this: you’re sitting at your desk, working away towards your 3pm deadline, all while your four-legged best friend sits by, encouraging, comforting, and cheering you on.
If you’re a dog-lover, this sounds like a dream.
“Sometimes, the best lap to rest on is a working lap.” – Hero, Bevi Puppy in Residence
But to make this dream a reality for you and your employees, you’ll need to consider all the pros and cons of a pet-friendly workplace.
Every dog-owner knows (and craves) that feeling of coming home at the end of the day to puppy love. The unconditional companionship of a dog has a unique ability to relieve stress, be it the sweet little nose on your lap, a furry head to pet, or just knowing that someone who loves you is nearby. Pets ‘on staff’ can reduce employee’s stress levels and make them feel more comfortable in the workplace.
Studies show that dogs increase bonds and collaboration in an office. Think of them as a natural conversation starter. Don’t know Jean too well even though she sits three seats away? Stop by to pet her pup and you’ll know her better in no time, leading to more conversation and collaboration.
Enter in the morning, exit in the evening and never get breath of fresh air in between. We humans do it all the time. But dogs don’t. While needing to get up from your desk in the middle of the day to walk the dog might seem like a productivity-crashing interruption, it actually brings about great healthy and creativity benefits. Walking is a great way to stay in shape and clear the mind at the same time. Ever get a great idea the minute you walk away from your computer? Count on that happening daily.
When employees can blend the line between work life and home life, often they feel a greater sense of balance. In this case, time spent missing their pups, worrying about them alone at home, or feeling guilty over being gone for so long can now be better spent.
The Sneezes and Phobias
Unfortunately, for every dog-lover, there is a cat-lover. There are also those who don’t like any furry friends, who are scared of the canine kind, or allergic. Creating a productive and welcoming environment for everyone means making sure that everyone feels comfortable. And sometimes, your furry best friend will make that tricky.
Furry, friendly, and lovable, yes. Clean and tidy, not always. The mess dogs leave in their wake starts with occasional shedding and only gets worse from there.
Dogs are loyal and loveable companions. But they can be quite needy. They also have a knack for directing all the attention in the room towards themselves. If the first fifteen minutes of every meeting are filled with puppy talk, you might have a problem.
For all the tension they relieve, they have the power to create a little too. Disagreements over boundaries, responsibilities or even pet-led conflicts can disrupt office congeniality.
Ultimately, your decision should take your employees and culture into account to determine whether the downsides of a pet-friendly workplace are worth the rewards. And, if you do decide to invite the dogs in, let this list of cons guide you in developing pet-friendly policies around things such as vaccination, training, and guidelines about proper pup behavior.
By Tricia Mirchandani
Ready to turn your office green but don’t know where to start? While some workplace sustainability changes do require planning, consensus, and some significant process change, others can be done before you clock out today. We’ve broken it down for you to keep you going green today and beyond.
Make these changes today
Change your printing ways. Consider the impact before you click the printer icon. Do you truly need to print that page? If the answer is ‘Yes!’ (and, sometimes, it is), print double sided. Post signs by each printer and throughout the office to encourage everyone to do the same. (And hold brown bag training sessions to make sure everyone knows how to print double sided. It’s not always as easy as you think!)
Get the lights. And the printer. The computers. Shut down anything that uses electricity when you leave for the day. Create an end-of-day checklist for the last person out and encourage everyone to check power hungry machines before leaving for the day.
Save the screens. Ditch the screen savers. Though fun to look at, allowing monitors to dim instead consumes far less power.
Go green, literally. Add houseplants to your office décor. In addition to creating a more natural ambiance proven to increase well-being and productivity, houseplants enhance air quality and absorb odors naturally (bye-bye air fresheners and air purifiers).
Talk about these changes now + implement soon
No binders left behind. Keep binders, folders, half used notepads, and even paperclips out of landfills with a stationery reuse system. Talk about what items your office most often disposes of, where a good collection point would be for reusable items, and how to manage the process before introducing the concept office-wide.
Shut it down. Not just at the end of the day but before closing down for holidays. Talk about what should be powered down overnight vs. what needs attention before a two or three-day break from the office to balance office productivity and conservation.
Fresh, local, healthy. Good for the environment and for the people you work with. Fresh, local food doesn’t need to travel as far and costs less to produce, which means radically reduced energy costs and better nourishment for everyone. Talk about joining a CSA, finding local suppliers of traditional office staples like coffee and tea, and even removing vending machines.
BYO Cups and Office Canvas bags. Eliminate plastic water bottles as an office policy and provide glasses and mugs (and, might we suggest, a Bevi?). Keep a community stash of canvas bags for anyone to borrow on lunch-time trips to the grocery store.
Plan these changes out for future green ways
Evaluate your impact. Identify, as a group, three to five negative impacts your office makes on the environment. This may take some time and research but the resulting list will create a guide for future workplace sustainability efforts.
Automate it. Because humans might forget but machines don’t. Install energy management controls to automatically switch off high energy consumers on long weekends or holidays. Implement a print-follow system that queues print jobs and requires a log-in at the printer to cut down on mistaken or unnecessary printing.
Compost in the office. Plot out the location and management of the bins while educating staff on the benefits of composting. You’ll likely need to plan this one out and pursue necessary approvals while sorting out logistics. But once that’s all settled, you’ll be set to toss everything in—from coffee and tea bags to leftover lunches and paper. Donate it all to your community garden or start planting fruits and veggies right in the office.
Meet green. Use teleconferencing to cut down on business travel. Sometimes technology makes it easier to conserve.
Buy better. It’s not every day that you need a new machine, printer, computer, etc. But the next time you do, look for EPEAT registered and Energy Star rated items. Focus on things that will last (fewer landfills), that were made from recycled material (even fewer landfills) and/or machines that are energy efficient (less power). Beyond machines, think about the cleaning products you or cleaning service uses, the furnishings in your office, and even the paint on your walls. Convert them to more environmentally friendly ones with fewer chemicals for a greener environment overall.
The quick answer is no, you do not really need a foosball table. You also don’t need a well-stocked beer fridge, free lunches, or office Segways.
Foosball certainly translates a laid-back, fun-loving culture into something you can touch. (Just as a Bevi transforms a forward thinking, sustainability-minded culture into something you can taste!) And these things might be the perfect expressions of your workplace culture. But they don’t make a culture on their own. After all, what good is a tube slide between floors if your culture demands professional business wear every day?
Your workplace culture should be evident in everything you do, from the way you approach a project to the benefits your employees enjoy. Then, it should be talked about widely to attract the kinds of talent who will make a great fit. Because ultimately, you want employees to be as excited about your 9am strategy meeting as they are about your 5pm cocktail hour.
Here’s how to make that happen.
1. Paint a picture of culture
Start with your company’s mission and vision. Then go beyond, to the less obvious values and beliefs. Think about what sets you apart in your industry, or in the world. Do you excel at collaboration? Do you prioritize learning and? Do you approach your work as both meaningful and fun? Considering your collective values, beliefs and interests will help give shape and form to your workplace culture.
2. Tap into top talent
As you determine what you value, check in with your top performers. Find out what you’re already doing that’s keeping those folks happy. Dig into what brought them to you initially as well as what keeps them motivated in their day-to-day work. These nuggets of culture, some you may not even be aware of, will help you attract more of the same kind of talent.
3. Perk it up
When Apple added full education reimbursement to its list of benefits, the message was clear—Apple cares about learning and development. Other companies offer flexible schedules with remote work options, unlimited and untracked vacation time, and even paid monthly housecleaning. Fabulous perks, indeed. But also, emblematic of cultures that value work-life balance, mutual trust, and time to recharge. Get clear about what you value and believe to can attract like-minded employees.
Show what you care about to attract employees who care too!
4. Pull it through
Once you’ve aligned your benefits and perks, keep going. Weave your laid-back culture through everything you so, so that prospective employees feel it long before they see the foosball table. Flow your collaborative approach beyond your open floor plan into the way you talk, the way you interview, and the way you present your company on social media and beyond. Make your culture something that can be identified and felt beyond your office walls.
5. Talk about it
Once your culture is in place, talk about it. Everywhere. Share snapshots of your culture on social media, talk about it in your job ads, and weave it into your interview questions. Get your employees to talk about it too. Make videos, host events, and speak about it at conferences. And sure, if it’s right for your culture, maybe even hold that foosball competition you’ve dreamed about.
Reduce, reuse, recycle. The three Rs roll off our tongues as a set. But do we walk the walk for all that talk?
When it comes to bottled water, recycling gets a lot of attention. And while recycling every bottle we open will reduce the amount of plastic in landfills, that’s only part of the solution. Unfortunately, we’re opening more and more bottles every year and the impact on the environment of creating, transporting, and even recycling all those bottles continues to intensify.
The water bottle you hold in your hands today made its mark long before crossing paths with you. Its creation alone required two precious and limited resources: water and oil.
That you need water to create bottled water is no secret. But what might surprise you is that an estimated 3 liters of water flow into the making of each 1 liter water bottle. Groundwater plays an important role in oil drilling and oil is a key component of plastic. Water also takes part in manufacturing the bottle’s paper labels. Ultimately, there’s more water in your water bottle than what passes through your lips.
And then there’s the oil. To satisfy the annual demand for bottled water, in the U.S. alone, requires 17 million barrels of oil, or enough to power a million cars for a year. Then the bottles must be transported. Often, the water bottle you grab on your travels has traveled thousands of miles to get to you, a journey that requires more oil than it takes to make the bottle in the first place.
Impact during recycling: the case for reuse
Whether you recycle it or not, that bottle will continue to make its mark after you and it part ways.
Tossing it in the trash will send it off to a landfill, with almost 70% of all other water bottles in the U.S. The bottle will outlast all of us in that landfill, taking more than 1,000 years to biodegrade.
Tossing it in the recycle bin will give it a chance at a new life. But even that comes with a cost. A water bottle’s afterlife often takes it to China where it is transformed into clothes, toys, carpets or auto parts and then shipped back. Although new plants opening in the U.S. have reduced the cost of a recycled bottle’s round-trip journey, the impact is still devastating.
The overall impact
While recycling does lessen the environmental impact of the plastic water bottle, unfortunately it doesn’t go far enough. To be recycled, the bottle has to be made and then remade, wasting precious natural resources (and still releasing unnecessary chemicals into the world).
Which brings us back to the three Rs. Recycle, of course. But whenever possible, bring along your own reusable water bottle or let a plastic one hang around a bit longer so that you are reducing and reusing as well!
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