There are endless benefits to working in a design studio, surrounded by amazingly creative professionals who inspire you each and every day. Other than learning from one another, having like-minded people around you makes your lunch breaks a whole lot more fun – and you’re also likely to build strong friendships that go beyond the four walls of your office. But on the other hand, things can get a little competitive, to say the least. If you’ve ever felt a colleague’s judgmental eyes squint over your computer screen, or have quickly minimized your work-in-progress so that no one will see it, you’ll know what we mean. But does a design studio always have to be this way? Here are our thoughts on the steps you and your team can actively take to reach working environment nirvana.
Do: Compliment your colleague’s work when you walk past their screen
Let’s be honest – sitting in an office full of computers, our eyes tend to wander over to other people’s screens occasionally. We have no bad intentions, but some people can feel a little self-conscious when they notice others checking out their premature work. If we all tried to find something nice to say when seeing someone’s screen, everyone would feel a bit more at ease. This practice can help uplift the team, raise people’s confidence and create a generally positive atmosphere.
Don’t: Give fake compliments
Can’t find anything nice to say? Take a closer look at your colleague’s work and identify even a small detail that you like. Perhaps it’s their way of thinking, the concept, or the layout. Giving someone an insincere compliment will only backfire eventually, as you’re basically giving them the green lights to go in a direction that may not actually be the right one. Save everyone the time and find something honest to say.
Do: Give feedback
But only when asked for it. Compliments are pretty much always welcome, but if you want to go into further detail, make sure your co-worker actually wants to hear it. Normally, if someone feels comfortable around you, they’ll feel like you’re the right person to ask your opinion on their work. When giving feedback, be selfless, focusing on the person’s work and not on yourself. Remember that this is all about them, and not about protecting your ego.
Don’t: Give people negative feedback in front of their peers
It can make them feel shitty. Other than that, it can also cause more competitiveness. Lots of offices are now open space, so it’s important to have privacy when talking about certain things. If you’re just having a quick chat about a piece of work or project and it doesn’t make sense to physically go somewhere else, just try to notice who’s around you and behave accordingly.
Do: Let your employees know where they stand
This one goes out to all the managers out there. Give your team members feedback, letting them know when they’ve improved in a certain field and enabling them to have some responsibility and freedom. No one works well when they feel they’re being scrutinized all the time. At the end of the day, interpersonal relationships and a sensation of self-fulfillment is what gets people out of bed in the morning. Of course, it’s also about money, getting a bonus etc., but what’s more important is the people you work with and the mini society you develop within the parameters of your office.
Don’t: Give inadequate feedback
Ever felt those post-adrenaline blues after handing in a big project that caused a lot of pressure? Receiving minimal feedback can make someone feel even worse, which is why telling them that their work looks “okay” after they’ve worked hard on it for weeks or months, will most likely make them feel pretty bad. So, even if you’re in a rush, try to go into a bit more detail and put yourself in their shoes. If you really don’t have time, tell them you’ll follow up later and find a better time. On a similar note…
Do: Be transparent with your team members
If you feel that you haven’t been given adequate feedback and aren’t sure how to proceed – don’t keep quiet. Let your peers or managers know that you feel this way, so that all of you can learn from the experience. It makes sense that you want to improve your work and learn from other people. That’s part of the fun of working in a team, after all.
Don’t: Put people down
This doesn’t just apply to professional matters. It can also happen in the smallest things. Remember that time you put on All By Myself and everyone complained? Not a great feeling, even if it was the fourteenth time you played that song that day. Find the right way of telling someone you don’t like their music choice. These little details can make people feel bad about themselves, so just open your eyes. Take note of the minimal things, that when paid attention to, can make a huge difference in the general atmosphere.
Do: Get to know your co-workers
As soon as you get to know the people surrounding you and they get to know you, your interaction will naturally improve. You’ll know what your colleagues like and dislike, what makes them feel good and bad, how to give them feedback, which kind of working environment they prefer and more. We end up spending a large portion of our time with our co-workers, so developing a professional, as well as a friendly relationship is super important.
Don’t: Assume people know you value their work
Even if you have a great bond with your peers and spend a lot of time gossiping, laughing and working together, don’t take each other for granted. Even if your colleague, Pete, is clearly an amazing designer and everyone obviously admires his work, remember that he might not always feel that way. Even superstar Pete has off days. That’s why you shouldn’t forget to keep complimenting people’s designs and showing them that you appreciate their work.
Do: Aim for the best
Our offices are pretty much our second homes, which is why we should always strive to make them places in which everyone feels comfortable and happy. Picture a utopian workspace, and aim to make it happen. Whether that’s about knowing your co-workers better, or giving and receiving comments openly and in a friendly manner, you and your team can work towards that.