Building a Good User Experience for Your Staff

As UX managers, we work hard to create great experiences for the end-user, but do we do the same for our own staff?

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Having been blessed with an opportunity to have spent time working at Amazon, I was very impressed at how well the company was able to create a work environment that allowed for better collaboration among team members, open air work spaces, patios with plenty of green space and team seating areas, break rooms with massage seats, plenty of natural and fresh air, and the list goes on. Clearly Amazon created and built these brand new offices and did their best to create a great environment for their staff members. The big players have the budget and funds available, just look at Google.

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Flip the switch and go anywhere within a one mile radius and we have our small digital agencies sprawled all throughout the great city of Seattle, with exceptionally creative environments, with ping pong tables, arcades, white boards, the whole nine yards.

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Having been blessed with an opportunity to have spent time working at Amazon, I was very impressed at how well the company was able to create a work environment that allowed for better collaboration among team members, open air work spaces, patios with plenty of green space and team seating areas, break rooms with massage seats, plenty of natural and fresh air, and the list goes on. Clearly Amazon created and built these brand new offices and did their best to create a great environment for their staff members. The big players have the budget and funds available, just look at Google.

Flip the switch and go anywhere within a one mile radius and we have our small digital agencies sprawled all throughout the great city of Seattle, with exceptionally creative environments, with ping pong tables, arcades, white boards, the whole nine yards.

The picture above is a random shot I found on Google, whether it is a design agency from Seattle is unknown, but you get the idea.

So what happens when you are at a company that has a very small design team and you are the very first employee to enter the doors with any form of UX title? Enter in my current officespace. Here I was given an opportunity to give birth to a UX team in an environment where every office area looked like an office depot catalog with the tight cubicles, smiles on everyone’s faces, everyone socializing and collaborating with one another, except in reality, we have employees in their cubicle fortresses with headphones on living in their own designer world, with a straight expression painted on their faces. You could hear a pin drop.

First things first, as a manager, I wanted to do whatever I could to create a better work environment that encouraged collaboration, fun, and a sense of pride. Martin Oliver quoted, “Whether you are big or small, you cannot give good customer service if your employees don’t feel good about coming to work”. So with that said, what’s the first step? Make a visit to the Director of HR of course. Had a great conversation and was essentially told that my desires were encouraged but resources were low…very low, and that there were building restrictions and codes that needed to be honored as tenants by building property managers. Ok, I can accept that, but remember, we as UX and design professionals need to be creative, and think of the end-user, which in this case was my staff.

Whether you are big or small, you cannot give good customer service if your employees don’t feel good about coming to work
— Martin Oliver

My team members were all different individuals, so a brainstorm meeting was necessary for all of us to get an opportunity to throw our individual ideas on the table. Great time to use some UX practices to collect valuable feedback to implement when determining what the final designs of the office space were going to be. It’s always difficult to match everyones schedules together, but making sure everyone was there for the kickoff meeting was absolutely necessary, after all, we are one team.

When the time came for the team members to speak, boy did everyone come prepared with their hates/wants/wishful ideas. One of the chief, if not biggest, complaints were that the set up of the cubicles made it difficult to collaborate and share with one another. Everyone felt like they were on their own island. Now of course you have individuals who prefer this, but surprisingly with this team, everyone was open to the idea of changing the seating arrangements to create a more open workspace. What do we do now? Confirm with HR that moving the cubicle setup would be ok. But unfortunately for my team members and myself, it required a good amount of work disassembling and restructuring the whole setup, but we got some muscles in our group so we were able to complete the rearrangement project. So right away, we have created a buzz within the company as co-workers from different levels of the building would come upstairs to our workspace area just to hear what all the fuss was about, and the compliments kept rolling in.

Now it was time for us design and decorate the space. Let me tell you, those white hospital walls that surrounded us didn’t exactly inspire or encourage thinking outside the “box”. The only decorations we had in our office were brand colored pictures of product, and although I do believe branding and company culture pride is a huge piece of the office, I did not want anyone on our team to feel tunnel-visioned into a brand when creating products and designs. I always love to encourage thinking outsidethe box. So we all met again and came up with creative ideas to enhance the decor of the office:

 chalkboard Painted framed wall for competitive/inspirational printouts

chalkboard Painted framed wall for competitive/inspirational printouts

 Mugshot collage wall with all team members

Mugshot collage wall with all team members

 The obligatory imitation moose head

The obligatory imitation moose head

 Lounge area with white painted palette table  

Lounge area with white painted palette table
 

 and of course, the infamous ux wall fully accessorized, made it's rounds on the Twitter universe.

and of course, the infamous ux wall fully accessorized, made it's rounds on the Twitter universe.

Now this was starting to look like an office fit for UX and design professionals!

Our UX wall stands as a beautiful piece showcasing the city of Seattle’s skyline in the background along with a big UX to proudly represent the team space. Quotes by very well known and respected UX professionals, such as Don Norman, Jared Spool, Jesse James Garrett’s, and others sit in the foreground as an inspiration to the team. We also were blessed to receive a TV from the technology department that had no need for it, and place it on the wall for design reviews and presentations. So instead of having to meet in a meeting room, we were able to have meetings in our area with the TV and collaborate in our own work space. It was amazing how a simple wall mural created by our team, keep in mind with a very small budget, can make such an impact for UX awareness within our company culture.

we as UX managers need to remember that although we may be doing a great job at creating amazing and fun experiences for our consumers, we need to also be doing the same for our other end-users, our staff

Yeah, I know, it doesn’t look like the offices of Google, Yelp, Facebook, etc, but it is an office designed by our team, with heart and pride, and sits there in our offices as we look at it everyday and are reminded of where we work and how much we enjoy working with one another. We tried our best at doing whatever we can to create a better “user experience” for our staff members making their work experience more enjoyable and not overly-stale and boring. Now of course, bigger factors play a role in an employees happiness and self-value at a company, but we as UX managers need to remember that although we may be doing a great job at creating amazing and fun experiences for our consumers, we need to also be doing the same for our other end-users, our staff. I am convinced that a happy office environment fosters a team that is happy to do work. As Katka Lapelosa said in an articleregarding office design and how it effects the way you work, “It will be interesting to see in the coming years how the workplace environment evolves, especially when technology makes it easy to telecommute, and be more efficient.”