A nice place to work makes happy workers

Johnston Sun Rise ·

In the 1999 comedy “Office Space,” the main protagonist Peter Gibbons struggles to exist in a bleak corporate landscape while working as a low-level programmer in a large, fictional tech corporation.

During a particularly memorable scene, Peter is called into speak with two corporate-hired “efficiency experts” who ask him how things operate in the office. Peter, stuck in a state of persistent positivity brought on by a mishap while undergoing hypnosis to relieve his stress, gives them a candid rundown to how the job has systematically crushed his work effort, smiling the whole time and sparing no detail.

“The thing is Bob, it’s not that I’m lazy. It’s that I just don’t care,” Peter says. “It’s a problem of motivation.”

Finding ways to motivate employees is one of those concepts that is the basis for entire conferences of mid and top level managers who seek the most efficient working staff to garner the best results for their business. Thousands of books have been written on the subject – and everyone has an opinion on whether it’s better to utilize incentives like stock options or commissions or threaten punishments to best motivate their troops.

Citizens Bank has clearly chosen their path, as evidenced by their new 420,000 square foot headquarters being constructed in Johnston, set to open in August – and for them it is as simple a strategy as giving their employees a facility and a space where they don’t dread coming to work.

As people who have had to endure a job where you are given no reprieve from harsh fluorescent lights, you aren’t allowed to leave for more than a few minutes and the best food options available to you are a vending machine or a fast food joint down the block will understand, liking the space in which you work is one of the most important conditions to fostering a good attitude about performing said work.

Citizens new facility is not quite Google-esque – there are no plans for video game lounges or specified nap rooms, and you won’t need a shuttle to get around the buildings in the facility – but it comes as close as any facility, perhaps in the state’s history, has come.

There will be places to play volleyball, basketball, tennis and bocce ball and many walking paths – all open to the public. Inside there will be spacious offices and lounges with a full kitchen, including a huge two-ton pizza oven. To put it simply, Citizens employees will not be embarrassed to take a potential client for a walk around the facility, or invite a friend over for lunch.

This type of care for employees does not come cheap – the headquarters will cost hundreds of millions when all is said and done – but it is the embodiment of a worthwhile investment. An upstart financially-minded professional may be wowed from the moment they step foot on the campus, improving the stock of young professionals who want to work for the bank, and its current employees will enjoy all the amenities even more when they hear friends and colleagues complaining about how the coffee machine broke again and corporate won’t spring for a new one.

The fact that Citizens chose to plant their new headquarters in Johnston and remain in Rhode Island in general is fantastic news for Johnston and the state alike, and all prospective and current employees are fortunate the people in charge of the decision understood the value of showing their employees that they care about the space they work in.

If that will translate into better efficiency down the line, who can say at this point? Perhaps one day someone will write a book about it.