In 1995, divers off the coast of Japan reported a strange underwater anomaly. They’d found a large, circular design in the sand of the seabed. Approximately 6 feet in diameter, the mysterious circle included an outer ring of clearly defined sand ridges that pointed toward the center. The center of the circle was flat and consisted of finer sand particles than the outer ring. Furthermore, fragments of shell and coral decorated the peaks of the outer ridges.
Nothing like this had ever been seen before. It was if someone had created a temporary work of art for the divers to find. However, there was no trace of human intervention. There was no sign claiming credit for the work. And after only a few days, the current had returned the sea floor to its undisturbed state.
Other divers soon reported additional “mystery circles” scattered around the sea floor in the same general area. For almost 20 years, the origin of these underwater works of art remained just that – a mystery. Finally, in 2011, the artist was caught in the act. His name was Torquigener Albomaculosus. That’s the name scientists gave to a new species of pufferfish. Just five inches long, it’s the male who’s responsible for creating what we now know to be a nest.
Working almost endlessly for about 10 days, the male pufferfish creates the intricate circle to attract a mate. The outer ridges with coral and shell bling catch the eye of potential females. The soft sand in the center provides a safe place for eggs to hatch. It’s an incredible display of architecture and design, being both functional and attractive at the same time.
If only such attention were paid to the average workplace. If only more businesses realized the importance that both form and function play in attracting customers. You may recall that most customers rely on their perception of your business from the outside in determining whether or not to take the next step. Those that make the choice to venture inside should be rewarded with an environment that invites them to stay, do business with you, and make the decision to come back.
Most of us take great care to maintain our home so that it functions properly. Routine care is necessary to keep the various parts working. Beyond that, we also make choices in terms of layout, furnishings, colors, and amenities that express our personality. Visiting my home would give you a pretty good sense of who I am as an individual. Pretty quickly you’d start to piece together the types of things I value and that perception would lead you to expect a certain type of behavior. As much as I work to shape my environment, it also shapes me.
The workplace is our second home. It, too, should reflect the values we hold. Our offices and meeting rooms and lobbies communicate who we are and what we believe in. What kind of message is your work environment delivering? Does it match the story you tell your customers and prospects, or is there a conflict? Are people drawn to do business with you because of your work environment, or does it drive them away?
Take this quick assessment and see how your surroundings rate. Sitting right where you are, make note of what you see:
- Stains on the carpet or upholstery
- Faded or chipped paint
- Outdated or damaged furnishings
- Cobwebs or dirty windows
- Clutter or distracting décor
- Missing or confusing signage
- Strange or unpleasant smells
- Evidence of insects or rodents
- Empty or abandoned workstations
- Evidence of the back office intruding into customer sightlines
Odds are, you’ll check at least one box (if you’re honest). You may even be surprised at what you see. We’re just not used to looking at things from the customer’s perspective. We’ve grown so accustomed to our surroundings that we can’t see what’s right under our nose. But it’s amazing what you find once you go looking for it. Take off your jaded employee glasses and see things from a new perspective.
Now that you’ve addressed some of the shortcomings, take another look. What tweaks can you make to improve things just a bit? Maybe it’s rearranging some furniture or changing up the lighting. Perhaps you need to add some personality.
Get creative. View your workplace the way Torquigener Albomaculosus views his nest. Spend a little time fixing up the place to attract someone new. Approach it as if that’s the only marketing tool at your disposal. You may just wind up creating a work of art.