Want your employees to work harder? Pick up a mop!

The next time you go on a job interview, you might want to start out by checking the bathroom.

When considering a job, most people focus on their pay, benefits, and retirement plan. They consider the personalities of their prospective employers, how well they click with the other employees, and the work that they'll be doing. However, according to a recent survey by Blumberg Capital Partners, office environment is a major influence on almost every aspect of employment.

For example, 69% stated that the condition of their office affects their productivity and motivation, and 80% stated that the condition of the office affects how they view their employers. This perception not only affects the quality of work, but can also affect how long an employee stays at a job. Some 33% of workers claim to have accepted or left a job based on "the condition of the building and/or the amenities offered."

This matches my experience as a temp. The most productive office that I have worked in provided free coffee, sodas, juices, and snacks to its employees. What's more, the company bathroom was located in the office area, not in a shared space, and was clean and well-lit. Finally, the office temperature was reasonably warm, without being stuffy. It's hardly surprising that the people I worked with were happy, hard-working, and completely devoted to the company.

On the other end of the spectrum, one office that I worked in charged $0.50 a cup for coffee, didn't provide sugar or milk, had a filthy, malodorous refrigerator, and didn't have snacks. The bathroom was in the hall, where it was shared with another company; furthermore, the "facilities" were grim, industrial, and they reeked. It is hardly surprising that the company had a problem with employee retention.

Blumberg's survey seems to suggest that the little things in a work environment make a huge difference to employees, and that workers who feel well cared for are more inclined to stay at a job. However, as some analysts have noted, companies that don't worry about the little things also tend to skimp on the big ones. For example, the company that charged for coffee also paid below-average salaries, and had a benefits package that was sub-standard. Moreover, the office was rife with politics and dissatisfied workers. In fact, even though I was only a temp, I quickly caught the vibe of the place and grew to hate working there.

It's clear that investment in the little things pays big dividends in employee productivity and loyalty. So, if you happen to run an office, you might want to invest in a little free coffee, keep the sugar and Sweet n Low dispensers loaded, and make sure there's milk in the fridge. While you're at it, check the office thermostat, and hire somebody to take care of the bathroom. Keep in mind that many of your workers spend one third of their lives in your office; if you don't make it a nice place to be, they'll start looking for a better place to spend their time!

Bruce Watson is a freelance writer, blogger, and all-around cheapskate. His wife's office has soft lighting, a granite bathroom, and beautiful architecture. It's like heaven.

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