Can Your Company Evolve Into A Workplace Culture Of The Future?

Editor’s Note: This article is part of our Workplace Morale series. Be sure to check out the rest of the series here

Welcome to the modern world of over-the-top workplaces, designed to save employees time, money, and life-aches. The brightest companies have been paying close attention to employee wellness for years, to embrace new capacity, greater productivity, and a positive culture.

For advanced companies and executives in specialized human resource or innovation-driven industries, culture-focused workplaces designed to alleviate employee work-life pains have entered more CEO and CFO radar screens.

Management discussions are placing more emphasis on benefiting their company quotidian and HR brand, while fiercely protecting their bottom line. Make no mistake; top employees either wake up eager to engage a workplace culture they love, or are seeking to exit a workplace culture they hate.

Enter Google

While their corporate digs are more like a Gen-Y playground for recent college grads, Google employees enjoy free cafeterias, on-site medical care, complimentary laundry and dry cleaning, free transportation, unbelievable fitness facilities, delicious cafes, stimulating game rooms, and amazing conference areas.

One relaxation loft has vibrating recliners facing live fish aquariums, among other stress-alleviating gadgetry.

If an employee computer malfunctions, they can simply slide down to the next floor. A hybrid café computer center staffs geek squads and baristas to fix laptops –– and lattes. I’m not kidding: an actual playground slide connects one floor to another. I’m not recommending this type of fun park, yet is Google productive? Check out their stock price. Absenteeism? Highly unlikely. Interesting commercial real estate trend? You betcha.

Also architected via the likes of Microsoft, Pixar, RedBull-London, Bain & Co. and Volkswagen, stunningly innovative work areas and factory floors now offer tangible evidence for how and why custom workplace makeovers improve production.

The term “custom” aptly applies to account for differentiators such as climate, transportation, and incentive norms. Large, northern city employers, for example, benefit from public transportation considerably, yet suffer cold weather challenges. Smaller, southern coast employers depend on individual commuters yet suffer perfect beach weather or fishing condition “absenteeism.” Each workforce may have different compensation and incentive models to consider, so individual workplace analysis is required prior to renovations.

At top MBA campuses students, faculty, and visitors are also proactively satiated. Meals, errands, and toil are architecturally solved in advance. At Harvard Business School, chef-laden cafeterias, full-service print shops, a travel agency, a post office, laundry services, and state-of-the-art fitness facilities save students oceans of time and headaches to help them focus on schoolwork and job searches. Unlike Google, MBA candidates pay handsomely for these modern conveniences.

One does not need to be in Boston, London, or Silicon Valley to consider modern workplace renewal. Data and evidence from state-of-the-art office, manufacturing plant, and graduate school campuses offer legitimate lenses for employer consideration anywhere –– especially in rural and evolving industrial regions in serious need of attracting and sustaining top talent.

There are three general problems facing all people cooped up inside outdated, poorly designed and dreary workplaces:

1) Little time to access healthy food throughout the long workday.

This is the number one benefit reported into research. Impressively, 48% of companies surveyed have cafeterias. What about the other 52%, and off-the-radar companies not yet surveyed?

2) Hardly anytime to detach physically for indoor/outdoor exercise during the workday. 

Yes, thousands of companies have engaged the fitness challenge, either via gym facility installation or local membership subsidy. Architecturally, more companies could do better designing fitness into their workplace, such as indoor running tracks, rooftop martial arts and yoga, parking lot basketball –– you get the idea.

3) Zero time remaining to deal with life-aches. 

The best salespeople may collect the most parking tickets. The hardest working engineers may fail to notice their taillight has burned out. The best and brightest employees are in unhelpful physical shape because they work flat out to the point of exhaustion and exacerbation. Marriages suffer. Dry-cleaning and laundry, automotive repairs and permits, doctor visits and prescriptions –– the list of life-aches cutting into employee work and mental space today extends to the moon and back.

Productivity and preventing burnout are now becoming a matter of physics. Employees no longer have spare time. What few moments remain beyond professional and family obligations not swallowed by the Internet presents a Blue Ocean opportunity for companies to proactively save their workforce time and toil by bringing freelance life solutions in-house.

Pending feasibility, such perks as physical trainers, chefs, barbers, massage therapists, wardrobe cleaning and repair (etc.) could be arranged internally based on a survey of employees’ most pressing needs.

With so much energy industry discussion focusing mainly on scarce oil and gas prices, mined fuel resources, and electric power grid supply, here’s an alternative energy source to consider: Consistently well-fed people.

According to Charleston, SC personal trainer and nutritionist John Pierson, skipping meals –– mainly breakfast, lunch or both –– is perhaps the most reoccurring problem plaguing the health and mindset of office and factory workers. “Not only should people be training at least once or twice per day for 30-40 minutes, they should be eating six (6) small meals per day that consist of protein and vegetables, including consuming one gallon of water per day, to keep their metabolism running strong.”

Workplaces that proactively solve daily meal, fitness, grooming, and life-emergency issues for their workforce will help transform tired, depressed, and overstressed employees into fully energized, no excuse rock stars once again.

Actual Employer ROI

How can such conjecture be financially justified?

Employee-focused workplace renovations are not free. The funds for healthy catering, fitness, and errand-killing innovations do not fall from the heavens. Value engineering is required. It is safe to hypothesize that economic turnarounds over the next 5-10-15 years will correlate with how well organizations architecturally provide proactive sustenance, over-the-top wellness and time-saving convenience to their employees –– as if they too were an organization’s best customers.

Barbi Reuter, principal of PICOR Commercial Real Estate in Tucson, Ariz., suggests: “Debates over [workplace] ROI may continue, but strong arguments can be made for the value of both design and use of space that contributes to productivity. Balancing short-term versus long-term dollars is challenging for occupiers at both ends of the spectrum (public firms accountable to quarterly results vs. entrepreneurial start-ups). In larger organizations, those making corporate location and space planning decisions need to collaborate closely with those measuring employee satisfaction and productivity. Pay now or pay later?” Reuter argues.

Workplace accountability and metrics should ideally focus on:

A) Dollarized maximization of current and future fully compensated employee time and expectations, and
B) The drastic reduction of costly employee excuses, mainly pertaining to absenteeism, and
C) Prudent commercial real estate finance and investment analysis

Taking accountability a few steps further, the HR-upside for over-the-top workplace design and state-of-the-art catering is increased company-wide expectations: Better education and grades, greater individual job responsibility, more sales results, better operations quality, and profitable financial reports.

The strongest companies going forward will require nothing short of miracle workers willing, able and capable of top performance under any circumstances 110% of the time –– with zero excuses. If these valedictorian-like expectations seem akin what Vince Lombardi demanded of his players, West Point and The Citadel demand from their cadets, and the Secret Service demands of its agents, that’s because they are. Laziness is excused from the bus in a nanosecond.

The problem is, doubled workloads and tripled job expectations will be forced back upon executive teams, manufacturing crews, suppliers and extended council. This physics of this nationwide (global) HR situation are also clear: Intense, high-pressure work for long hours will require on-site workforce satiation and life-ache support.

Here are three (3) critical steps to set in motion as soon as possible:

1) Form a workplace architecture, innovation and daily menu committee.

This team is responsible for conducting structural safety homework, employee survey inquiries, and feasibility studies to determine what advanced renovations should be securely and logistically implemented according to your HR policies and the law.

2) Plan a budget and renovation timeline that is tied to a mixture of operational performance metrics.

Perfect attendance, more sales, improved customer service, and bottom line gains. At the end of the day GAAP and employee accountability still rule.

3) Eliminate any barriers or resistance to serving food all day long at work. 

Healthy, organic, and local culinary entrepreneurialism abounds, even in the middle of nowhere USA. From micro-catering companies to mobile farm-to-table chefs, proactively serving über-healthy breakfast and lunch spreads is perhaps the most time-, toil- and health-saving step that over-challenged workplaces can implement.

At Google, free and healthy meals are their number one perk. At Microsoft, Facebook, and hundreds of other progressive companies, brilliant management philosophies have proactively redesigned and reinvested in the most empowering workforce workplaces in history. Their company valuations are also ebbing and flowing through the roof.

In the final analysis, most workplaces are not architected or staffed to provide the levels of human nourishment, fitness and life-assistance required to exponentiate our economy again. Since dreary, drab, depressing, and reactive are the enemies of workplace innovation –– and healthy, vibrant, and proactive are proven solutions –– what steps can your company afford to evolve into a workplace culture of the future?


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Copyright: diego_cervo / 123RF Stock Photo

Baron Christopher Hanson

Baron Christopher Hanson is the principal and lead strategist at RedBaron Strategy / PR ( in Charleston, South Carolina, and Palm Beach, Florida. A former rugby player, Harvard graduate, and expert on turnaround management and revenue growth, Hanson has written for Harvard Business Review, SmartBrief, and SwampFox considerably. Baron can be reached for advisory roles or speaking gigs via or over Twitter @RedBaronUSA

  • Tomin8tor

    This guy is *completely* out of touch with reality. His article is written strictly from the perspective that serves (ie, profits) HIM. He is correct that everyone wants free lunches and Nautilus-equipped workout facilities — but the reality is that spending money on those types of things vs, I dunno, say *training* or bonuses — is an incredibly poor ROI. Shame on Smartbrief for letting this guy dupe them into a TON of free advertising for his overpriced services!

  • dBx Acoustics

    I think we do need to think more carefully about how we design workspace but it’s not all about how it looks and feels – what about how it sounds? Studies show that you can increase productivity in open plan offices by up to 60% by improving the acoustics, and of course it’s less tiring and less stressful to work in a space which sounds comfortable.

    I wrote a blog on this last week, and we’re also carrying out a survey to find out how people feel about how their offices sound. Please do join us!

    You can read the blog at

    And the link directly to the survey is:

    Thanks for your help! :)

  • Pingback: The Role Joy Plays in Workplace Morale | Switch and Shift()

  • John M

    The point of being overpriced for his services is mute. Many companies are taking advantage of these concepts as well as offering well paid positions. the auto industry is a great example. Dealerships in particular offer cafes, laundry services, hair cuts to their employees as a convenience. its my professional opinion that this is the wave of the future. Those companies not actively looking to improve morale and a better work environment and culture will inevitable get the bottom of the barrel in terms of staff.

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