Wednesday, February 19, 2014

Ideal Workplace

School is starting in 165 short days! I'm still pinching myself. 

Our team is working really hard to get everything in place for the beginning of August, and I was hoping you could help me with something. 

What makes your workplace awesome? Or what do you wish your workplace had to make it more awesome? I'm thinking about the big things (onsite childcare?) to the little things (surprise masseuse on site for a day of chair massages?). 

Thank you in advance for any ideas you are able to share! 

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Anonymous said...

So many ideas! Two non-glamorous things are excellent communication between admin and staff and regular opportunities to coach and be coached.

More glamorous things are: on site daycare, regular opportunities for mental wellness like a walking club during lunch or access to healthy food in the teacher's lounge, coffee bar on first summer PD day, etc.

Hollyanne Fricke said...

I work in a small office (about 15), and we have converted one of the extra offices to a small exercise room, with a treadmill desk (awesome for walking during conference calls or webinars), stationary bike, and a few yoga mats, free weights, and exercise balls. We also have a staff member whose spouse is a yoga instructor that comes in to teach a class every other Friday for $5. An awesome perk!

Unknown said...

I would give anything for more flexibility in my work hours, though my work is structured very differently from a teaching schedule so that may be a moot point when class prep can happen at any time of day. Basically I would love it if my workplace recognized and honored that as much as I love my work (and I do! so passionately!), my family will always be my number one priority. Somehow in many workplaces, I think that becomes a dirty secret rather than a given (healthy) outlook on our larger project of building healthy communities.

lindsey kaye said...

I am not in a teaching environment, but I have work at a company with a really excellent perspective on the workplace culture and balance. Some of the best benefits are a flexible schedule (depending on your role and responsibilities), a gym membership program and incentives (free membership if you meet the required visits; gift cards each quarter to reward the person with the most visits and then one random person who participates in the program), excellent health benefits (straight up FREE vision coverage included), annual employee appreciation luncheon and events, annual holiday party, dogs welcome in the administrative areas on occasion, kids welcome to join if they need to for part of your day on occasion, lots of flexibility in working from home.

Anita Trapp said...

Grapevine ISD seems to have a nice model for offering childcare. You could work with local merchants about offering discounts on gym membership, etc.
My daughter's school has a very robust technical network so communication between the administration, teachers and parents is great. If I were a teacher, I would appreciate the tools needed (dedicated email, computer) to work well within a tech savvy community.

andee said...

The owner of our company buys several cows at the 4H auction every year and then pays to have it butchered and it is split between the employees. He also has a bee keeper lease land from him so we get free honey. Free food never hurts : ) Flexibility on leaving for appointments. Trusting that everyone does their jobs gives people opportunities to rise to the occasion. Bonus structure based on how the company did as a whole. Flexible spending accounts. You could offer an HSA and it wouldn't cost too much to administer.

kzaback said...

Good leadership tied to mission that helps people work toward a common goal. An environment where staff feels empowered to use their strengths to contribute and they feel like their work is valued. Clear expectations and outcomes and opportunities for employees to grow. A clear evaluation process that includes both positive and constructive feedback. A place where work-life balance is possible (this looks different based on the person and the nature of the job) and barriers are not unnecessarily put into place that block it. Events and activities that connect the staff and make them feel like part of a team. Other perks are great and make people feel special (ie we have a yoga teacher come in weekly, we all have to pay and work it into our schedules but its supported by leadership) but I think with this kind of stuff its more the thought that counts and its about tailoring things to the needs of your particular workers.

Megan said...

I work for the government so my wish list is a little less lofty than the others here--I'd love for my office to pay for the water cooler (Right now each member of "the water club" pays monthly to maintain it) and I'd love free, on-site parking. I currently pay $50/month to walk 5 blocks to and from the office. I consider the walk my office-provided fitness plan. Ha!

Ceka said...

A good boss! Someone who gives you assignments that help you grow and advance professionally, someone who will help you out of a jam when you need it, someone who makes sure you have what you need to do a good job.

Good management is so crucial to morale. No perk can make up for the soul crushing feeling that comes from having a bad or abusive boss.

Ceka said...

Beyond having a good boss, here are other things that are really important for making employees feel valued.

-Paying them well and making it possible for them to earn raises and promotions. It's demoralizing when your pay doesn't reflect your performance because it undermines your sense of self-efficacy.

-Providing good health insurance.

-Providing PAID parental leave instead of making people cobble together the vacations that they didn't take (and the days they came in sick to work) in order to afford to take time off with their newborns.

-Making sure people have what they need to do their jobs well. The computers should work, they should have adequate space, privacy and quiet to do individual tasks, the IT folks should be responsive, you should be able to get office supplies without it being a big deal.

-Actions always matter more than words. Making sure that people can afford to raise a family on the time and money you make available to them means a lot more than any motivational speech.

E. said...

I have a super-stressful job but a wonderful office - what I love:
-not being micromanaged. My boss is in another office, never checks in on me, and only makes sure I'm meeting my numbers at quarterly reports. Nonetheless, she is always available to help if I need it.
-being told to work less and take more vacations. My bosses value work-life balance and are committed to preventing burnout.
-Being told that despite our shoestring budget, having the right supplies is really important and we shouldn't worry about asking for the tools we need.
-Being thanked, every chance they can, because they cannot show us financially how much we mean.

I wouldn't worry about providing your employees with better stuff or perks besides awesome health insurance, a fair wage, and decent hours, at least not in the beginning. I think supporting things the employees want to do is important, like work yoga, but even little things like ordering pizza when it snows/rains so the office doesn't have to go out to eat is nice every once in awhile.

Nora said...

equity in pay/ benefits for all employees!

Julia said...

As a preschool teacher, I can offer a few insights into the classroom/school setting itself:
- I wish we had more places to store things in our space. Clutter gets stressful and out of control unless everything has a home (I know I'm preaching to the choir with you ;), so aesthetically pleasing shelving/container systems of some kind might be nice.

- Maybe hire a person to "float" around in classrooms, giving teachers opportunities to use the bathroom, get supplies from another room, or just take 5 minutes to themselves? Being able to step out if necessary is SO important.

- A sense of community among the faculty is really nice too. Using staff meetings, group emails, etc. as a chance to really emphasize the community makes a huge difference... outside-work get togethers, even just to go on walks or go to happy hour, are also great. It gives everyone a way to bond, and because of that a reason to support each other in the workplace.

Kerstin said...

I'm not in education, but I think these could be applied universally:

We start off each staff meeting with an open call for things we've accomplished that week (both big and small) that we're proud of. Everybody cheers as if its their own proud accomplishment. It makes our weekly meetings start off with a lot of positive energy that makes them (at least seem) more productive. (similarly: creating a space that encourages laughter along with hard work will go a LONG way)

We are a small team, and we are fortunate that there is no weak link. Everyone works together, and when there's a crisis that requires all hands on deck we know nobody is going to back off and say "Well, that's not in my job description." Just knowing we all have that support makes us a better team. That was created by how our manager runs the ship (vertically when needed, but horizontally most of the time), and how we bring in and train new people as an entire office, not with just their supervisor.

As a wife of an educator, I second having a float to pop in and out of any classroom as needed. What a luxury that would be! Also, I wish I didn't have to say this, but make sure you have a solid substitute system so that your teachers don't have to call their own subs (my husband does)! Full benefits are the most expensive part of any small business, but I believe as much as you can invest in benefits, it will pay back n-fold in again that positive energy but also retention.

Good luck!

Amy said...

Knowing that our time is vaulable, frequent feedback (positive and constructive), time to have fun and casual conversations

MontessoriMommy said...

Besides a fair, professional salary with health and retirement benefits the best schools I've been at have:

-time built into the schedule for administrative tasks like lesson planning, reviewing and filing work, parent communication, preparing materials, conferences, etc.

-attractive, well equipped classrooms: natural light, good shelving, appropriate number of small tables and chairs, bathroom access,water source, a complete set of beautiful materials in good repair. Functional kitchen with sink, dishwasher, fridge, microwave, and possibly oven or stove is a huge plus. Private garden and immediate outside access from the classroom is another huge plus.

-principal/director with an "open-door" policy, who is easily accessible, and will "go to bat" for their teachers. Someone who commits to, supports, and encourages their teachers.

-scheduled time for team meetings as well as whole staff meetings and community building.

- paid professional development (in house, refresher courses, sponsored certifications/advanced degrees)Paid professional memberships (AMI, AMS) are another huge plus.

-adult space: for personal belongings, a comfortable staff room (preferably with free coffee, tea, and water!)A gym room and shower would be a huge plus.

-a positive, supportive staff environment with no (or at least limited!) gossiping and complaining.

-flexibility for sick days, doctor appointments, etc. This includes having a good assistant and a substitute network in place.

-free or reduced tuition on-site childcare and/or enrollment.

Anonymous said...

So many good suggestions! I'm an educator too and second the request for a good system for subs!

I'm thankful for the freedom that comes with working outside of the public system. Having just wrapped up our professional development week I must say that having autonomy and some funded professional development is a really nice perk. I attended some great seminars but then also had some time to delve into some deeper work on my own.

I also really appreciate that the faculty at my school work as a team. We're still working on tightening things up between admin and faculty, but it's coming.

Working with great people who share the same goals is definitely one of the biggest pieces though. Happy planning!

Shawn said...

I work for a small non-profit. Some things I enjoy - we have an h.r./leadership coach that volunteers through executive service corps to help non-profits. He gives everyone a DISC assessment so we can talk about how everyone at the organization communicates best, what our strengths and weaknesses are and how we can best work together. He also coaches us through difficult personnel type questions and hiring decisions. Our boss has trust for us and is fair and generous about time off when we need to take care of ourselves. Sometimes the company orders lunch in for us. We have a hula hoop in the office and we occasionally take breaks to stretch and hula hoop together. There is a hierarchy, but we all respect each other and the culture is to have everyone contribute ideas and edit one another. Our holiday party consisted of crazy hats, co-workers volunteering for story telling, gingerbread house decorating contest, karaoke and middle eastern food.

Sasha-Ingenue said...

Not something I have at work, but... A cozy/private room with a big comfy chair or two, a mini fridge and power outlets close to the chairs for breast feeding moms to pump milk. Another thought - plan the location of the door to the pump room accordingly; mommas won't want to be exposed if another mom enters the room in the midst of pumping. :)

Evan Ellis said...

The best workplace I ever had was a small faith-based youth-run non-profit. Twice a month we set aside 90 minutes for a kind of reflective space where each staff member shared their joys and challenges from work *and* life. We then had a chance to talk more deeply about one person's experience and how our values (personally and organisationally) could help them to tackle a problem they were facing.
I loved this! It gave me an incentive to stay in this job for several years, and helped our team to be the most supportive, best communicating and most functional team I've experienced.

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