How "Republiken" Improved Their Work Environment
Employee productivity reflects the spirit of an organization. The success of the organization is quite dependent on the performance of its employees. So, the equation is simple: Happy and productive employees = happy workplaces. Therefore, increasing employee productivity is one of the most critical goals of an organization.
'Our workplace environment matters'
The workplace environment, both physically and psychosocially, is a factor that affects our productivity at work. Performing our tasks in the desired way and feeling motivated depends highly on working in a good work environment. The physical aspect of the work environment is quite essential due to its effect on our health, psychology and work efficiency as an employee. In other words, we need an effective workplace in order to have an environment where expected results can be obtained comfortably.
Our work environment affects how we interact, perform and manage our tasks since an improper and unfavorable work environment causes work stress, making mistakes, and underutilizing our abilities. Studies have also shown that employees can be motivated more easily; their performance increases; and they get tired and complain less in ergonomically designed workplaces.
In short, the physical environment, as an aspect of the work environment, has a direct impact on human emotion, interpersonal interactions and therefore productivity. This is because the characteristics of the workplace have consequences for productivity and satisfaction levels.
So, what would an ideal office environment be like?
One of our clients, Republiken, recently changed their office and I went to visit them at their new office. It is a successful, productive and innovative organization that prioritizes happiness at work. I really loved their new office which has a beautiful Gothenburg view, a lot of plants and a cozy design. They definitely achieved to be unique with their own style. Republiken has a very exemplary working environment not only physically but also psychosocially. I had the opportunity to have an interview with Olof Mattson, HR and Digital strategist of Republiken about the work environment. I would love to share our nice conversation and the pictures of their lovely office to inspire you.
Recently you changed your office. How did the employees find the new office? Do you think it boosted their motivation?
Yes definitely! Everyone in the team said that it feels like we have more of a real office now. We had a quite small office before but this new office feels like something we can grow in. First of all, there is enough space compared to our previous office. Also, it is really nice that we can feel the sunlight through all the windows, and have a really nice view of Gothenburg. There are a lot of perks compared to the previous office. So, I can say that so far everyone is really happy with this new office.
Did all these decor ideas come from the team? Or did you do any research before?
It is more like we all talked about how we want to feel in the office. There is no specific research but I think a lot of inspiration came from me and another colleague. We were in Portugal a couple of years ago and we went to a co-working space filled with plants and we liked that idea. Our office doesn’t have that many plants compared to what they had though, but it still gives that nice green feeling. We thought like we are here every day for many hours so why not really try to invest in our office. I think we are probably going to invest even more in the future. We also had some interior designers help us.
Can you tell us about Republiken’s work environment? What makes your work environment unique both physically and psychologically?
Our previous office was half the size or even more so we needed a bigger space to grow in. What we wanted to achieve is to have something really cozy and we had some ideas about our office concept. As I mentioned, we wanted to fill the office with a lot of plants. Besides, our company name “Republiken” means “The Republic” and we have a vision that we are going to keep this company that lives for 100 years. We often compare ourselves with the ancient Roman Republic a little bit in a fun way. For example; we have some office decor items reminiscent of those times like a chess board, Roman bust statue. We had a party recently, people wore toga (A formal garment worn primarily by male citizens in ancient Rome). In short, we want to have green and Roma feelings in our office. This is the physical part of it. From a psychological perspective, we want to have an inviting, cool, and feeling like a home office space where we can be together. We didn’t want to have too much classic office design. Our office reflects our personalities. It looks professional but also quite cozy where you can hang out and have a good time with your colleagues.
It is an open-plan office. Is there any special reason for preferring an open-plan office?
I wouldn’t say that we definitely prefer it, but we are still such a small company of around 13 people. So, we didn't really want to split up too much. It is a hard decision because many of us, including me, sometimes want to have their own space. I think most people prefer this. However, it is also nice to have an open plan office where you sit with your colleagues, you can see and hear everyone, but of course during the day many of us sit with our head-phones to block out the noise and sometimes we use the rooms. We have three meeting rooms. Two are for external meetings and the third one is for internal meetings or if someone needs to talk on the phone or work by themselves. Also, we sometimes work on the sofa in our fika area.
What do you do every day to boost your work environment, do you have anything special as a team?
We sometimes play music or do common things like drinking coffee together, having fika, but apart from that every Friday we have “the wine of the week”. One of our colleagues is really good at wine, so every Friday he presents a bottle of wine, kind of talks about it and everybody tastes it. During that time, we all also debrief the week. We call it “the insights of the week” like how has your week been? and we do a weekly review. That is a very informal way of debriefing the week. Furthermore, Friday mornings at 8.00 we meditate. It is more like a breathing exercise. Whoever in the team wants to join is welcomed. It is usually not everyone because people sometimes have other things to do or not everyone wants to participate. After the breathing exercises, we form a circle on the floor and we talk about what is challenging in your life right now? and what is good in your life right now? That’s more about creating a culture. I wouldn’t say that we talk so much about the office space. We are more working on how we can create a good culture within ourselves. So, those talks are primarily part of our core values like to be “brave”. We want people to open up and be brave about what they think is difficult in their lives, not just work-related things, also on a personal level. I mean, we want to be very transparent and open because everyone goes through tough times.
This is quite new but every month we also have “Skål of the month”.We have coffee, water, wine or whatever and we make a toast for nominating a colleague. I mean, if we think someone did something this month, like remarkably being brave, helpful, responsible or curious which are our four core values, then we say “I think you have been really helpful this month because you helped me with this project or I think you have stepped into it and took responsibility for a client which was really tough for you” or whatever. That is a way to make those core values come to life more than just being on a paper.
What do you think about the long-term plans to maintain or improve your work environment?
Since we have a vision of creating a company that lives for 100 years we are thinking or making long term plans. So, all our ideas, all decisions and so on need to be long term, especially when it comes down to our stuff. We have a goal of creating a really good workplace and apart from all these things I told you now, we usually have a dinner or a party every month or more often. We also quite often have some monthly activities like going out for exercise or biking together or whatever. Apart from this, for the first time we organized a two day conference just for us here where we came to talk about our team. We call it “The Senate” like in the ancient Roman Republic. We’ll probably have it as a yearly conference. We discuss questions like “Why are you working here?” “What is important for you at work?” “What makes your work meaningful?” and so on. We mainly address the issues or questions about the company like “how is the company doing?” but the important part is to include everyone in the decision-making process and also to get everyone's feedback about how we are doing.
How does Happy at Work help to create and improve this work environment/culture?
I think the best part is that it is quite easy for everyone to fill in what they need and how they feel so we can simply take action based on their answers. It is really simple to take out for example statistics. So, I can analyze the results without spending too much time.
Happy at Work mainly helps us to be sure that people are having a good time at work. So, every week we look at “how happy you are at work”. We need that to be at least above 5 (the maximum is 6, author’s note) and we look at how much work we have and we want the level of workload to be under 5 (the maximum is 6, author’s note). Sometimes, those numbers are not as we want them to be and we can take action on that. So, in this respect it helped us a lot.