Tech Office Environment: Small Costs With Big Results

In my personal life I’ve noticed there are small purchases that significantly improve my quality of life. It’s things like a good pair of running shoes, nice boots, or a good water bottle. They’re those small things in my environment that help me take care of myself and ultimately feel in control. In a similar fashion, there are small purchases or changes we can make in our tech offices that can improve belongingness, morale, and overall productivity. I asked a group of K-12 technology staff from my region to weigh in on this topic, and I got some really good ideas of things we can do to improve our office environments. 

Here’s what we came up with.

1. Good Tools: Many respondents said that having good tools at the disposal of their personnel was a big benefit. I couldn’t agree more. A few years back, I purchased tool backpacks for everyone in my office. We spent about a week cataloging everything we’d find ourselves stuffing into our own personal backpacks on a given week from the shared tool chest. Once we’d cataloged everything we’d need, we went shopping. We loaded our tool bags with drill/driver, bits, screwdrivers, network testers (inexpensive Klein tester from Amazon), along with all the things we’d need to do cabling terminations. Those items we’d use only on a semi-regular basis, we kept in the main tool cabinet for checkout. This helped technicians take ownership for the tools assigned to them and it prevented our individual tools from going missing before a job. And finally, this kept us from having to think about what tools would be needed for a job before we left the office. For us, good tools and tool bags paid for themselves in the first year in terms of time saved. (Cost: $300-500 per bag.)

2. A Water Cooler: It’s a small improvement that doesn’t cost much on a monthly basis but feels like a big improvement to quality of life. We installed a water cooler about three years ago after mustering down the musty water from our office sink. The $7-12 we spend on that cooler brings crisp and refreshing (high-quality H2O) to our staff and keeps them hydrated throughout the day. You know, you’ve gotta have something to water down all those energy drinks. (Cost: $7-12 per month.)

3. Ergonomic Desks and Chairs: Quite a few respondents spoke to the fact that a good-quality chair makes office life much better. If you have people sitting behind their desks most of the day, it is definitely worthwhile to make sure the workspace feels comfortable and productive. Whether it be investing in standing desks or a good chair with support, the backs of your staff will thank you. (Cost: $200-500 per desk/chair combo.)

4. Stocked Snacks and Drinks: This one might draw ire from some, but I think it was a really good response that immediately made me consider what we’re doing in terms of hospitality in our office. We’ve since stocked our break area with a favorite drink and favorite snack of each employee. We break these out on Fridays during our standing cybersecurity meeting — lovingly referred to as CyFri. (Cost: $20-50 a month for a small crew.) 

5. Clean Workspaces: This one comes at almost no cost. Having a clean environment might not be your MO, but if you’re working with other people, it might be theirs. Finding stuff in a messy office that is full of surplus goods and general lack of organization can feel like a nightmare. Spending some time as a team to get everything in mutually agreed upon places is a big value-add to you and your team. (Cost: FREE, except maybe an energy drink or favorite snack to make swallowing the bitter pill of cleaning/organizing a little more palatable.)

6. A Shared Monitor/TV: Mounting a TV in the office makes a great place to pull up network statistics and keep them scrolling on the daily. It also makes a great space to check in on March Madness or watch Netflix, you know, if you’re working late or off the clock *cough cough.* (Cost: $300-600.)

7. This last one, I’ll admit, is a strange one — but I might try it … a stash of good toilet paper. Yup, I said it. School toilet paper is the worst. I didn’t ask the respondent if they have their own bathroom in the office. Walking down the hall of the elementary building where my office is located with a roll under my arm and this month’s edition of Popular Mechanics just seems so old-fashioned and maybe a little appealing to me. I’ll let you know how that one goes. 

One response to the question I posed to the K-12 tech community regarding small improvements in tech office environments urged schools to focus also on the bigger picture of paying staff what they are worth rather than spending time checking the boxes on these improvements. I think we can all agree with this, and it is definitely a worthy topic of another article. For those tech departments that need a place to start improving morale, belongingness, and productivity, hopefully this article serves as a good jumping-off point. And hopefully you can also focus on improving the pay scales in your schools as well.

Have you made some small improvements in your office that have had big results? Drop us a line; we’d love to hear about it. A shout out to the MO_K12TechTalk community for your input on this.

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