I recently found out that my company is paying roughly $6000/year per person for a desk at one of our regional offices, in one of the cheapest areas of the UK. I was a bit surprised although on reflection I am sure its typical. What really amazed me is that a company can spend so much on the fabric of the building and its basic services and then so little of the equipping of the workstations and shared spaces and design.
Given that the building fabric provides no differentiating value to the business, but that well placed investment in design and equipment can have a major effect on culture, productivity, retention, recruitment and basic happiness at work it seems almost criminal to me the level of neglect.
I have ranted about workspace design in several previous posts, but I was promoted into this post by a great article on the Joel on software blog that discussed how his attention to workplace design and culture impacts on the success of his business and as I have read about his approach over the years I definitely believe it has a huge impact.
One not so trivial example illustrates the point, buying your employees the best chair in the world probably costs less than $1/week but impacts every one of the 8 hours a day a person spend sitting on it. The case for 3 monitors is even stronger.
My favourite approach though, when it comes to personal workplace investment is to give employees a generous allowance and let them supplement it if they want, some people will really want a Blackberry and a Tablet PC, others the best Workstation money can buy etc, providing a supplementable allowance (with a few guidelines) allows employees to invest in accordance with their perception of need and in my experience everyone perceives this differently.
As a home worker I am eagerly anticipating my allowance being supplemented by the $6000 that my company is saving my not providing me with a desk 🙂