People Management: Coaching session

Q: We are moving office soon. You have just moved, so what tips do you have?

A: Don't assume that because your staff work in the third sector they will put up with awful working conditions.

So my first tip is to spend time on the design of the workspace. The quality and comfort of your office can have a positive impact on organisational performance. Remember that when recruiting staff, a good office can help in attracting employees.

Don't assume this means having oodles of space. Most of us can't afford to pay huge office rents, and so it is even more important to have effective office design. Think about the office furniture you have at the moment.

Have your desks and chairs seen better days? Throw them out.

Think about having a really good rest area. Pay great attention to facilities.

You should have chilled water machines and decent tea and coffee. There is no excuse for those dreadful catering packs of instant coffee, when you can buy really good Fair Trade coffee. Throw out chipped cups and mugs, and invest in decent ceramics, and, obviously, plenty of wine glasses.

Make sure you have lots of pictures around the place. Again, these don't have to be nasty Athena-style posters. Why not invest in some real art?

You probably don't want your office managers buying the art as they probably have terrible taste, so supervise this yourself as, being a senior manager, your aesthetics are bound to be good.

Remember, it is not just for staff that you want a decent office. The physical workspace speaks volumes about an organisation. A good workplace sends out a positive message about a professional approach to customers and stakeholders.

Much of this advice applies whether you are moving to a new office or whether you are sitting in a drab office at the moment and wondering what you can do about it.

I always remember one visitor coming to our old Acevo offices and saying he could tell we were a voluntary organisation by the heaps of boxes piled in the corridors. Regrettably true, but we have certainly made sure our new offices have ample storage space.

Stephen Bubb is chief executive of the Association of Chief Executives of Voluntary Organisations (Acevo). Send questions to

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