Guest blogger Jonathan Guan discusses how he works to create open lines of communication in (and outside of) the office at Platzer, Swergold, Levine, Goldberg, Katz & Jaslow, LLP.
As a facilities manager for a law firm, I wear a lot of hats, but like any FM, my ultimate goal is to keep the building running smoothly, and that includes the people in it. Trying to come up with ways to boost morale and foster teamwork in the office could be a full-time job by itself, but what I've found works in our offices is communication.
It's not exactly a new idea that communication is key to a successful business, but it can be easy to think of communication as a human resources issue or a marketing issue. In our offices, I've made it a facilities issue—it's really an everyone issue, so I've tried to overcome this in our offices by looking for ways to encourage staff to unwind and take a break, which in turn fosters an open environment that encourages people to communicate openly and honestly.
Here are three ways I've found work to communicate better and get more done:
Take it outside (the office) – We spend the majority of our waking hours from Monday through Friday with our coworkers, in the office. The saying goes that "familiarity breeds contempt," and that doesn't just mean who we work with: it means where we work, too. Taking breaks together during the day is nice, but after a while, crowding around the breakroom table and staring at each other in silence doesn't cut it. I've worked to network with local establishments to set up deals at lunchtime or after work so our staff has a place to go to take a break together that doesn't still feel like work.
Pull reverse rank – This one might come across as controversial, but one of the other things that I've found helps our staff find the right ways to comfortably communicate with one another is to create managerless morale-building events. "Happy hour" events with no boss or manager can allow staff members (particularly new staff members) to relax without the pressure to perform, creating stronger bonds among teams and breaking down some of the hesitation and self-doubt that workers sometimes impose on themselves in the presence of their managers.
Tackle it as a team – The flipside of pulling reverse rank, of course, is that sometimes everyone needs to be in one place, working as a team. If that means the Facilities Manager has to pitch in and give a secretary or an attorney help when they need it, then that's what gets done. It's easy to tell someone what to do, but it's even easier to help them do it in a crunch, and you get faster results and a strong teamwork environment. At the end of the day, it's all about getting the most work done in the best possible way.
Most employee stress comes from the pressure and disparity of what they feel they're asked to do against what they can do. Helping to build opportunities for communication and team-building encourages employees to work together, maximizes productivity and builds morale. I consider it just part of my job to help our staff make those valuable connections.