Monday 11 November 2019 5:44 am

Want healthy, happy staff? Treat them like plants

Peter Bauer is chief executive of Mimecast.

When imagining a tech company’s office, the first thing that comes to mind is not usually a bright, green, collaborative working environment. 

If you think about cyber security, the associated images are even worse. Who doesn’t immediately picture a faceless hacker with their hood up, typing on a keyboard in a poorly lit basement room?

It’s high time that this stereotype comes to an end — for all our sakes. Building a successful and sustainable tech business isn’t just about having a great core idea — it’s about attracting the best talent and providing a space for them to flourish. 

This is why companies should treat employees like plants, ensuring that they have a working environment that allows them to grow and prosper.

As everyone told me and my co-founder when we started out, building a tech company in the wake of the dotcom crash was considered a crazy idea. Now 16 years on, I credit much of our company’s success with our decision to focus on what our employees need to thrive.

After all, employees are hired to help solve problems — particularly in a cyber security business. The best solutions will only come to your company when you create the conditions that encourage that to happen. 

This is why we put so much thought into the look and feel of our offices, investing in clean, airy spaces that our staff wanted to work in.

Take our original UK office in Kings Cross, which had a lot of window-like glass to create the illusion of daylight. Or one of our first offices in Boston, which used to be a watch factory and had plenty of natural light — hugely beneficial in terms of making staff feel energised and inspired.

We’ve opened new headquarters in London, and for this, we took our philosophy of learning from the plant world one step further. It’s a green, open space that we believe will be conducive to driving innovation. 

Of course, a few plants here and there aren’t enough to create a happy workforce. Before we opened the new office, we wanted to get a sense for what drives cyber security professionals in particular to want to do their best and what motivates them in terms of their environment. 

To find this out, we worked with British Land, a leading UK property company, to survey over 300 cyber security professionals. A whopping eight in 10 called for a greater focus on office-based wellbeing. 

This highlights the need for better welfare within the profession as it grapples with skill shortages and outdated stereotypes.

London is ripe with talented and ambitious people who want to be part of creating the future of British tech. That’s why we two South Africans chose this as the place to launch our business — despite the gloomy weather. However, to help the City keep its edge, businesses need to come together and offer better working conditions for staff.  

People need more than a bit of sunlight and water to thrive, and I am passionate about creating a positive environment where employees can grow and flourish. But if you want to improve employee health and drive creativity, start with the basics: collaborative spaces, social areas, and lots of natural light.

Image credits: Mimecast

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