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Rules to Better Offices - 10 Rules

  1. Do you color-code your keys?

    Keys, we all have them. A key for the front door, a key for the garage, a key to the letterbox, and keys to your office… the list is often endless! How much time do you waste finding the correct key?

    If you allocate each individual lock a color and then tag or color your keys to match, you can save a lot of time and effort identifying the correct key. This is x10 worse if you have a lot of keys! Nothing worse than receiving 50 keys and you have no idea what any of them do! 💀

    Figure: Bad example - A key bunch with no color-coding, total anarchy!

    Figure: Good example - Color-coded keys with labels, perfect order

    Tip: While you can buy colored keys, they are not as strong as their silver counterparts, and can break in the locks of heavier doors. Using nail polish to mark your keys, or using a key cover is a better way to go!

  2. Do you include your name on online office purchases?

    When making an online purchase using the company account, remember to include your name in the postal details so that the item is correctly identified and given to you. Having it sent to the company unidentified or under the boss's name can lead to confusion and the package may end up in limbo.

  3. Do you know how to manage office signs?

    When it comes to creating custom designs or templates for office purposes, using a dedicated designer application can greatly enhance the quality and professionalism of your designs. While there are various designer applications available, it's important to choose the right one that aligns with your needs and skill level.

    Using Adobe Illustrator or Photoshop for non-designers can be time-consuming and challenging. These tools require a steep learning curve and are tailored toward professionals in the design industry. Non-designers might struggle with complex functionalities and intricate workflows, leading to inefficient use of time and resources.

    Why Choose Canva for Signage Design by Non-Designers

    Canva is a user-friendly design tool that doesn't require extensive design knowledge. It provides pre-made templates, drag-and-drop functionality, and a wide range of design elements. It's perfect for non-designers who want to create professional-looking signs with ease!

    Canva is a web-based platform accessible from any device with an internet connection. This ensures that employees can work on their designs from different locations and collaborate seamlessly.

    Canva supports real-time collaboration, allowing multiple users to work on the same design simultaneously. This is particularly useful when creating shared signage templates.

    Creating and Sharing Signage Templates

    To ensure a standardized approach to creating and sharing signage templates, follow these steps:

    Design Creation

    • Start by selecting an appropriate template in Canva for the desired signage type.
    • Customize the template with relevant content, branding elements, and visuals.
    • Incorporate a strong header and footer as per the SSW's design rule.
    • Include a version number following SSW's version number rule.

    Duplication and Review

    • Once the initial design is complete, create a duplicate of the design within Canva.
    • Make necessary changes to the duplicated design while adhering to your requirements.
    • Before finalizing, it's important to get the duplicated design checked and approved by a designated reviewer as per the Checked by rule.

    Storing and Sharing

    • Store the approved designs in an accessible location, such as a SharePoint repository.
    • Share the repository link with all employees who need access to the templates.

    bad example photoshop
    Figure: Bad example - Photoshop file with no filename & version number in the footer

    good example canva
    Figure: Good example - Used Canva to create an office sign

  4. Do you have a "YOLO Day"?

    It's important that staff feel appreciated, expand their horizons, and also that they celebrate each others' successes. A great way to do all of these is to give them an additional day of Annual Leave each year, and encourage them to use it to do something remarkable.

    ThinkstockPhotos dv617062 1
    Figure: Sometimes people need a nudge to do something they'll remember for ever

    "YOLO Day" is based on the phrase "You Only Live Once".

    Staff should be incentivized to use their YOLO Day to do something fun that they they don't normally do, e.g. skydiving, windsurfing, etc.

    If you use this in your own company, add it to the list of perks that you offer everyone (e.g.

    Encourage your employees to share what they did with the company, reminding everyone about this cool perk they've got 😊

    Video: You Only Live Once | Adam Cogan's e-Foiling adventure | SSW YOLO Day (12 min)

  5. Do you take others into consideration while making calls in the office?

    When the noise in an open plan office goes beyond appropriate levels, it can be annoying and stressful and thereby affects productivity. Here are a few tips to help reduce noise in your workplace.

    1. Use headphones🎧
    2. Use a reasonable voice level or soft voice.
    3. During the conversation, type the important points in to your Teams/private chat box to avoid unnecessary repetition and, at the same time, have those points written not just spoken.
    4. Should you anticipate a long call, move into a private room or booth if you can.
    5. Ping very loud people politely/nicely, e.g., “Hey XXX, could you please use headphones?”.
    6. Close your booth/pod door (if you have one) while you’re in calls.

    Tip: If you are in a Teams meeting and someone enters the room, it's important to notify the meeting participants of their arrival.

    For example: "By the way Team, Jack has now entered the boardroom".

    If that person forgets, tap the table to remind them to introduce you.

  6. Do you build inter-office interaction?

    When a company has many different office locations, often people in one office aren't familiar with people in other offices due to a lack of interaction. This problem is particularly pronounced where you have offices that span multiple time zones or countries.

    Tip: You can use the website to know the time difference between offices. You may also install one of the numerous apps to help with that info.

    What can be improved?

    It is crucial to build interaction between all company offices because it often improves the following:

    • Communication
    • Relationships
    • Technical Skills
    • Access to resources

      • Knowing who has certain skills
      • Knowing who can provide you with localized or domain specific information
    • Cooperation
    • Confidence
    • Knowledge of alternative approaches
    • Cultural understanding
    • Understanding of foreign perspectives

      • Knowing why someone from another culture responds to questions in a different way to what you are used to


    Think about what your company can do to increase interaction. There are tonnes of unique ways that interaction can be developed. Examples include:

    • Team building activities

      • Playing a game together
      • Solving a puzzle together
      • Reviewing/updating a company standard together
      • Go on a group trip to the Great Wall of China
      • Visit local companies together
      • Retreat - Have a company retreat to bring everyone together
    • Cultural Exchange programs

      • Having employees from China work in every Australian office for a month each or vice versa
      • Having developers from Brisbane spend a week in Melbourne
    • Mentoring
    • Working together

      • Pair programming
      • Mob programming
      • Sitting together to work side-by-side
    • Cultural events

      • Celebrating holidays from other countries
      • Having a cultural performance day where everyone chooses something cultural to perform such as a culturally relevant poem
    • Creating cross-office teams

      • Putting developers from the China office onto a project with Australian developers
    • A fun weekly company meeting

      • Everyone meets on Friday for 30 minutes to discuss a fun question
    • Rotating Daily Scrum

      • Each week, 1 person from each office is paired up to do a Daily Scrum with others
    • Virtual coffee events

      • People from different offices are paired up to have virtual coffee
    • Get people involved with events for others offices (especially other countries)

      • A Chinese dev does a presentation at the Sydney User Group
    • Organize meetings to discuss culturally different issues

      • Everyone talks about localization or WeChat Mini-Programs
      • Have a weekly language exchange catchup
    • Film videos about other offices

      • What is it like to work in the China office?
      • What are the differences in the app market in China and Australia? I.e. WeChat vs Facebook etc
      • Localization - What is your reaction if you see Chinese on a web page?
  7. Do you bring water to your guests?

    Did you know at SSW we always bring water to guests? 🥤💧

    • No questions as everyone drinks water…
    • And no offers of coffee as it could be a hassle…
  8. Do you have a Cultural Exchange program?

    Software can't be built by a single developer anymore, there is always a team involved. Often, those teams consist of people in different geographies. Therefore, it's a social enterprise, and it's essential that teams made of people in different geographical locations can bond and work well together. These multinational teams must communicate and empathize with stakeholders from different cultural backgrounds.

    Video: Come Visit Us - the SSW Cultural Exchange Program (5 min)

    If you have offices across different countries or cultural boundaries, a Cultural Exchange program can help those teams bond. When these teams work on projects together, it can help improve communication, both with each other and their clients too.

    How to implement a cultural exchange program

    For example, in the SSW Cultural Exchange program employees (and their families) work from an international office for 2 months. Ideally, during this time, they will be booked for a local client (e.g. if they choose China, they will be booked for a Chinese client).

    They immerse themselves in the local office and community by participating in extra-curricular activities, such as:

    • Company retreats (depends on the timing)
    • Present or attend User Groups
    • Team events and outings (like team dinners, board game parties, etc.)
    • Language classes
    • Weekend cultural events (e.g. local festivals)

    Tip: Encourage your employees to bring their family too. See: Ruby Cogan - Life in China is not boring for a high school student and Adam Cogan - Luckin Coffee vs Starbucks

    Alternate the countries

    It's important to diversify your cultural experiences - don't pick the same country for a Cultural Exchange 2x in a row. If you are usually based in France and you picked Australia for your last Cultural Exchange, your next Cultural Exchange should be a different country (if your company has offices in more than 2 countries).


    This can take a lot of planning so encourage your employees to think about it as early as possible. If possible, cover 50% of the cost of your employees' flights and accommodation (and their family, if they want to bring them).

    Tip: Put your house on Airbnb while you're away

  9. Do you use docks to keep desks organized?

    In today's fast-paced work environment, it's crucial to have an efficient and organized workspace. Offices can be busy environments, and it is important to have desks available for employees to start working quickly. They shouldn't need to spend time finding cables and adapters to connect their laptop to external displays and other peripherals.

    To avoid this hassle and boost productivity, each desk should have a dock setup so employees can connect with a single cable. This also helps maintain a cleaner workspace and improves cable management.

    bad messy desks
    Figure: Bad Example - Plug predators leave messy desks

    good clean desks
    Figure: Good Example - Clean desk with a dock

    If you have a Thinkpad dock, MacOS users will need to install a driver to use it.See DisplayLink Manager.

    There are some rare scenarios where people won't use docks. This is OK, but you need to ensure the desk is set up properly for the next user. All cables should use the dock wherever possible.

    If you are having issues with the docks, try these steps

    1. Update OS
    2. Update/install drivers
    3. Restart your computer
  10. Google Business - Do you make your Google Maps profile look awesome?

    Ever landed on a business's Google Maps profile only to find scant information, low quality images, or outdated contact details? If so, you'll have probably felt some distaste. You'll also understand the importance of creating an impressive and informative Google Maps profile. So, what's the best way to do that?

    Compelling Images

    Images are the first thing that someone looks at when clicking on a Google Maps listing. High-resolution photos make your profile appealing, and can be the difference between someone contacting you or bouncing from your page. These could include images of your products, services, team, or business premises.

    1. Take high quality pictures - This is the most important part. If your images are blurry or low resolution, viewers immediately start off on the wrong foot with you.
    2. Take pictures of the building - Google Maps is full of fake businesses and outdated listings. Having images of the exterior of the building confirms quickly to somebody clicking on your listing that you are legitimate.
    3. Add images of interesting features - The cherry on top is to add pictures of interesting features of the office that make it seem personable.

    Profile Information

    Make sure your business information is up to date. The important fields are:

    • Business name
    • Address
    • Contact information
    • Business hours

    Respond to Reviews

    It shows a commitment to customer satisfaction if you respond to reviews (especially negative ones). It's important to periodically respond to reviews so that anybody scanning your profile sees that activity.

    Encourage New Reviews

    Encourage your clients to leave reviews and make it easy for them to leave feedback. A good and easy way is to have a QR code printed and hung up on the wall so they can easily find you on Google My Business to leave a review. Provide them with an excellent customer experience so they have great things to talk about regarding your company.

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