Workplaces That Help People Thrive » Mind Tools Blog

Workplaces That Help People Thrive

January 5, 2015


best-place-to-work_80x120A friend of mine recently went to work for Google in London, after a long period of being self-employed, and, whenever we chat about her new job, I can’t help but feel a little envious of her working environment. Free, healthy food, yoga classes in her lunch break, and colorful, comfortable chill-out zones are just a few of the many perks on offer.

I also can’t help comparing it with some of the workplaces I’ve visited over the years – windowless, monochrome offices with rows of computer screens that seem to drain people’s energy and stifle creativity.

Unsurprisingly, Google gets a few mentions in “The Best Place to Work.” Author Ron Friedman looks at how well-designed work spaces that cater for people’s unique physical and psychological needs lead to happier, healthier and more productive teams – and more profitable companies.

In this audio clip, from our review of this book, we hear how Google creates a productive work environment.

Listen to the full Book Insight in the Mind Tools Club ¦ Install Flash Player.

I’d have loved a bike or a ping-pong table in the lobby of my company when I was working fulltime for a news agency. But there’s no point having these facilities if you don’t feel you’re allowed to use them. Too many companies still measure productivity by the number of hours employees sit at their desks, staring into screens.

The author makes the point that leaders must give their staff permission to take time to exercise, play or take a nap, and the best way to do this is by modeling the behavior at the top.

That’s why I liked the author’s reference to President Obama’s exercise regime – he works out for 45 minutes, six days a week, and plays basketball and golf. That really got me thinking. If the president of the United States can find time to stay healthy and fit, surely I can manage Pilates twice a week and a swim. And I know that, when I take a break from work, I often come back feeling refreshed, motivated and full of new ideas.

I also enjoyed the author’s exploration of how our appearance impacts what jobs we get, even if it was a bit disheartening to hear about the link between height and salaries. It’s important for interviewers to know they have a natural bias toward attractive, taller candidates, and to applicants who have similar personalities to them. Knowing these blind spots can help leaders design interview processes that focus on a candidate’s abilities rather than their appearance.

One way to lessen the impact of these natural biases is to make sure you’ve got a strong pool of candidates to start with. This is where referrals can be helpful. Asking high-performing colleagues to recommend friends is a good way to strengthen the field of applicants. We tend to socialize with people who are similar to us and who share our mindset. And we’ll integrate faster if we already know people at work. My friend at Google got her job thanks to a referral, and I know she really appreciates having a friend at work. She also often tells her friends about job openings at the company.

Be sure to check out our premium members’ Book Insight to find out more about how “The Best Place to Work” can help CEOs, managers, team leaders, and individuals create environments where people work productively and efficiently, while feeling content and engaged.

Question: What steps can you take to transform your workplace so it’s a happier place to be? Share your suggestions, here.

3 thoughts on “Workplaces That Help People Thrive

  1. Bruce Harpham wrote:

    This is an excellent point:
    “That’s why I liked the author’s reference to President Obama’s exercise regime – he works out for 45 minutes, six days a week, and plays basketball and golf.”

    From time to time, I will be concerned about not making enough progress on my projects. Then, I think about the President’s schedule. He clearly understands the importance of maintaining health and recreation.

    For further details on that point, I suggest reading Michael Lewis’s 2012 article on the President on Vanity Fair (

    1. Midgie Thompson wrote:

      Thanks Bruce for sharing your thoughts, and the link.

      Similar to athletes who need recovery time to allow their bodies to recover from an exercise session before stressing it again, we too need some ‘recovery’ time. Whether that is by playing sports, doing some yoga to relax or meditating, when we take time out to replenish, we come back stronger and more able to deal with things.

      I have previously found that sometimes I feel as if I am swimming upstream against a current because I have so much to do. Yet, when I allow myself to do something that is ‘replenishing’, I am able to return to work with a better focus and ability to be productive!

      Anyone else have strategies to replenish, recover and thrive?

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