Spruce up your environment, on a budget

Last year a frustrated executive contacted me. His employees were bickering and constantly complaining. Profits were down. Turnover and absenteeism had increased significantly. He was desperate for help. I agreed to visit and make some recommendations.

When I arrived, things were hectic. Phones rang constantly and were answered with abrupt tones. Everyone had his or her head down and the entire office felt frantic and stressful. One employee said to another, “Customers won’t stop calling. I can’t get any work done.”

In the waiting area, I saw photos of Olympic medalists Nadia Comaneci, Olga Korbut and the former Bruce Jenner on the walls. In the next room, a poster said “Celebrating America’s 200th Birthday.” Someone had taken great care and pride decorating this office … nearly 40 years ago in 1976.

I noticed dust in the corners and on the windows, faded paint, curling wallpaper, shabby lighting and telephones and equipment that hadn’t been updated. The entire building was exactly like the workforce: tired and stressed.

I wondered if the company had also overlooked updating other aspects like technology, accounting systems and training. When I spoke with the executive, his attitude was, “If it’s not broke, don’t fix it.”

But the results of a shabby, dirty, cluttered and out-of-date workplace are frustrated and stressed employees.

You don’t have to spend a lot of time or money to improve a workplace environment, and the results will be well worth it. Here are some low-cost and easy ideas to inspire employees, decrease stress and increase productivity:

Clean up the clutter — Do you really need that printer and office equipment stacked in the corner? Recycle or donate equipment you no longer need. Empty the closets and storage areas. Donate books, office supplies and equipment to schools or nonprofits that can use them.

Everyone feels more productive in a clear, clean and uncluttered space.

Update lighting — A dark workspace can deplete creativity and cause low energy, and extra bright lights can make people feel edgy and nervous. Take advantage of natural light, whenever possible, and install modern lighting to brighten up key areas. Modern bulbs also may save on energy bills.

Polish up your decor — Look at the decor on the walls, in the lobby and in meeting rooms to be sure that your space reflects the feelings and energy of a successful and thriving company.

Stand outside the front door — Look at your building from the outside facing in. Is the parking area safe, well lit and free of trash? Is the building well maintained and are the doors and windows clean and inviting? The way someone feels when he or she walk through your door is important.

Play soft music — Workplace music has been used for hundreds of years to increase productivity and improve morale and alertness. I recommend you turn off the news in the lunchroom and reception areas. Instead, inspire creativity and calmness by playing soft music.


Remember, a positive work environment allows your employees to thrive, so do what you can to eliminate negative aspects and create a space that is positive and productive.



Beth Caldwell is the founder of Pittsburgh Professional Women. Beth is the author of the book “Smart Leadership: 12 Simple Strategies to Help You Shift from Ineffective Boss to Brilliant Leader,” and the founder of the Leadership Academy for Women.