Tauck Prepares to Move Office Back to Nature
PHOTO: An architect's rendering of Tauck's new headquarters. (Courtesy of Tauck)
In November, Tauck, the Norwich, Conn.-based tour operator, will move its employees to a new headquarters with floor-to-ceiling windows that look out onto a 66-acre area called Wilton Woods.
The new office sits on a hilly, wooded plot with a stream running through it, and various hiking trails around the grounds. Employees will be encouraged to use and enjoy the grounds, for taking walks to think or to talk, or just to get some downtime from work.
The new headquarters is only a short drive from the present headquarters, and farther off Interstate 95, but the significance of the change is that it will be a radically different work environment for Tauck’s employees.
The new work environment goes hand in hand with Tauck’s extensive employee wellness program.
“If there is one principle reason why Tauck is thriving at 90 years young,” said Dan Mahar, Tauck’s CEO, “it’s due to our focus on our culture and our people. Our office environment can be a real factor to our team engagement, fulfillment and productivity. A great office can inspire our team; can lead to greater teamwork and collaboration and enable individual thinking by minimizing distraction.”
The space was selected and designed to promote a connection with nature, to create serenity, and to encourage collaboration.
Workplace Design and Productivity
Tauck can be counted among a number of innovative companies who see their human resources as their primary resource and who look for creative ways to stimulate creativity, through trying to create a work environment in which people are happy and like their jobs.
“We have to take good care of our employees so they will take good care of our customers,” said Mahar.
The Tauck thinktank put considerable thought into the “sense of place” and the “ambiance” of the new office.
“Our thinking going into it was, this,” said Mahar. “Our business is complex with many moving parts. We operate in 70 countries: on land, riverboats, small ships and more. There are always issues that pop up daily – guest injuries and illnesses, civil unrest, accidents, natural disasters – mud slides, cyclones, ash clouds, etc., terrorism and more.”
The operation of such a complex business can be extremely demanding, and requiring a lot of engagement with electronic media. Mahar describes it as, inevitably, “a life filled with circuity."
“Our people consume breathtaking amounts of media/technology,” said Mahar. “Pace of life only quickens. Communication is faster and 24/7. Email, social media, Twitter, etc. Expectations are ever higher. Guests, agents, suppliers, remote employees and others want immediate access and response. People can get anxious and distracted in their ability to serve each other and all these distinct groups.”
Given such stresses, Mahar said, Tauck’s question in creating a work environment was how to support its employees ability to stay healthy and productive while absorbing so much stimulation and stress.
Mahar believes the best antidote to the over consumption of electronic media that seems unavoidable in the modern workplace is what he calls “Vitamin N,” that is nature.
“Given the environment above that we find ourselves in, we believe a focus on nature (Vitamin N) in our work environment can bring many benefits to our people individually and as a team,” said Mahar. “We need to provide a balance between the pressures/realities of the world and the need of our minds (collectively and individually) to deal with it. Nature can inspire us to think more creatively. Conversely, when we’re ‘stuck’ on something, nature can provide some readily available solitude to help us work through something. Our people will be able to walk outside, at any time, to contemplate, to join a colleague and discuss a business matter or just get some good old exercise.”
The new floor plan is designed to create a variety of gathering places both indoors and outdoors to encourage people to get together both formally and informally. There are several covered outdoor platforms extending from various parts of the office space.
Happiness as Fuel for Creativity and Productivity
Creating workplaces and office policies that produce happy employees is a major but often overlooked factor in the success of any business. A Gallup Poll release in 2013 indicated that 70 percent of American workers are not engaged at their jobs. The cost of that factor is estimated to be $450 to $550 billion in productivity annually.
Amazon recently had to go on the defensive against a New York Times exposé of Amazon as a “brutal” place to work.
Amazon, however, may be the exception among innovative companies in the digital era. Many leading companies have created business practices that recognized that human resources are the company’s most important asset, never more than today when creativity and ideas are our most important tools for success.
Aside from severe public relations issues, who knows how much Amazon’s employee unhappiness costs the company?
Google on the other hand is known for creating an office environment that makes employees happy and promotes productivity.
Office environments and office policies are important, and the well-being and happiness of employees is important for a successful company, whether you measure success by the bottom line or, like Tauck you see your mission as something more than just pursuit of profit.
A highly personal and caring attitude is essential in service businesses in today’s hypercompetitive markets, but it is no less important for a company to turn those attitudes inward to its own employees. Most of the most successful innovators are highly conscious of the importance of their human resources.
High Tech/High Touch
And the more technologically wired a company, the more it has to consider ways to balance the effect of intense technological engagement with more exposure to nature.
Self-described futurist John Naisbitt, in his 1982 bestseller “Megatrends,” predicted the rise of what he called “high tech/high touch.” Two years before the introduction of the Macintosh, Naisbitt predicted that as our society becomes increasingly dominated by high tech instruments, there would be a reaction that would create a need for people to have more “high touch” experiences.
Steve Jobs innately understood the principle and created the idea of “user friendly” technology, technology with a friendly face and a touchy-feely human quality.
In 1982 the idea of high tech/high touch was a prescient observation of an emerging trend. Today it is more of a mirror of our world as it is. It is the commonplace. And it still represents an urgent need in our rapidly evolving technological society.
As a travel company and not a technology company, Tauck’s grasp of the importance and healthy effect of nature is not as great a leap as for some others.
“At Tauck our values drive how we work and why we achieve so much together,” said Mahar. “We are a family company built on a timeless philosophy of integrity, innovation and respect.”
More by David Cogswell
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