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Why Your Office Space Should Be More Like a Casino

Six ideas employers can take from gambling palaces to boost office productivity.
Why Your Office Space Should Be More Like a Casino
Image credit: Glowimages | Getty Images

Casinos are known for creating an inviting atmosphere to maximize customer satisfaction, using everything from the layout of the gaming floor to the creative positioning of digital signage to boost profits throughout their massive, complex hospitality operations.

Related: 15 Scientifically Proven Ways to Work Smarter, Not Just More

The central principle of casino design is making the customer comfortable and relaxed enough to keep playing for prolonged periods of time. It’s something casino managers have down to an art form. Executives running many of America’s offices could stand to borrow some of the same techniques to avoid the type of dullness on display in TV shows like The Office.

Here are six ways offices can adapt some of what casinos do well:

1. Create excitement.

When someone hits the jackpot on a casino slot machine everyone knows -- music blares and signs flash to create an exciting buzz.

The same technique can generate regular excitement at work to create a sense of fun and community. For example, digital signage can show fireworks and the photo of a salesperson when a significant sale is made. Likewise, screens can celebrate professional achievements, special occasions or show such things as social media interactions -- everything ranging from customer feedback to pictures of staff at work outings. Using signs to acknowledge achievements and build community makes offices more exciting.

2. Improve traffic flow.

Casinos can seem like mazes, but casino designer Bill Friedman writes in his book Stripping Las Vegas: A Contextual Review of Casino Resort Architecture that using a series of short passages instead of long hallways creates more intimate spaces where customers don’t feel overwhelmed.

Related: How the Color of Your Office Impacts Productivity (Infographic)

Office designs, too, can encourage greater employee interaction. Author Walter Isaacson wrote in The Innovators that Steve Jobs designed Pixar’s office with such precision that even the placement of the bathrooms encouraged “serendipitous personal encounters.” Establishing a flow where employees bump into each other provides an outlet for the informal exchange of ideas and also promotes impromptu meetings. Those “collisions” lead to greater productivity and creativity.

3. Gamify work.

Casinos give gamblers “comps” in return for time spent playing. The idea is to make everyone feel like a winner even if they’re losing.

At work, screens showing the achievements of staff against their goals can achieve the same result. At my office, we have a leaderboard among tech support staff showing who has the longest unbroken streak of customers giving them a 10-out-of-10 rating in a satisfaction survey. Millennials and Gen Z workers -- now the majority of the workforce -- are especially responsive to leaderboards allowing them to compete as if work were a game. Younger workers love signs showing who is No. 1, No. 2 and No. 3 within a team based on a specific goal. Done right, information displays gamify work, making workers winners.

4. Leverage signage.

As casinos grow larger and more complex, signage has become a dynamic part of engaging with customers. At MGM Resorts International, for example, wayfinding signs change dynamically during the day, directing guests to the coffee shops and pools during the day, and to restaurants and clubs at night. MGM also uses signs to boost profits -- it's used interactive tablets at tables to promote drink and snack sales, boosting sales by 37 percent. It also saved $100,000 a month in menu printing costs by using dynamically updated digital menus at its 350 restaurants.

Similarly, offices can use signage to promote events, whether that’s a wellness program, a seminar educating employees about ways to save for retirement or a contest soliciting ideas for solving a company problem.

Related: Ready to Kill Your Company's Open-Floor Plan? Drop the Machete.

5. Rearrange the environment.

If you’ve ever visited any casinos frequently, you’ll notice they rearrange aspects of the gaming floor to keep it feeling fresh to visitors. In offices, managers should constantly assess whether the environment could use a refresh to improve workflow, team interactions or to integrate new things such as walking meeting spaces (either on treadmills in conference rooms or on outside trials), collaborative spaces and flexible work stations.

In the same vein, digital signage can keep workers engaged when it’s regularly updated. The average person already touches his or her phone over 2,617 times daily and has 76 separate phones sessions a day, so signage content has to be fresh to win attention. Signage should include new content monthly and should be given an overhaul every quarter.

6. Free drinks.

Casinos serve gamblers free food and drinks to keep them at the tables. Smart companies have learned that good coffee is a perk that keeps paying off. Employees have reported in surveys that coffee is the free perk that makes them feel most appreciated and happier at work. In one survey, respondents said they preferred free coffee to the office Christmas party! A good coffee station keeps employees from running out to the nearest Starbucks and creates the opportunity for more employee “collisions” where impromptu idea exchanges take place. While non-alcoholic, we can learn a lot from the free drink experience of casinos.

All of these casino techniques help make office workers feel more connected. That’s hugely important because only 32.2 percent of U.S. workers feel engaged at work, Gallup’s annual State of the American Workforce report reveals. That same study shows that having close work friendships boosts employee satisfaction by 50 percent.

For many companies, learning from casinos should be a winning idea.