Offices have a reputation for being drab, grey and dull. The opening scenes of the popular sitcom ‘The Office’ reinforces this dreary picture, showing grey concrete blocks with a backdrop of an overcast sky.
My own profession takes me to many different client offices each year, and comfortingly, I can confirm that not all office space fits the depressing picture above. In this article I’ll introduce you to a few features of office design that create winners and losers in the workplace.
Encourage chance meetings with mixed spaces
A recent trend is for companies to create large open spaces in which employees can bump into other folks from all across the organisation whilst they rest and eat. Some companies have gone a step further and banned employees from eating at their desk! Eating a lunch in front of a spreadsheet doesn’t achieve much in terms of stress levels, and companies are aware that imaginative and creative thought comes more freely when employees are enjoying a genuine break in the day. That flash of inspiration is more likely to occur whilst an employee is relaxed and letting their mind wander, than when they are in a high pressure environment with very specific goals.
Critics argue that these meeting places create new distractions for employees and can reduce productivity. In contrast, the other school of thought is that taking good breaks actually improves performance once everyone has returned to their desk.
Use colour to influence mood
Did you know that colours have a universal effect on mood? This has been backed by clinical studies, and has led to several attempts by institutions to gain the upper hand. In Switzerland, prison cells were painted pink to reduce levels of violence. The University of Iowa have even painted the opponent’s locker room pink in an attempt to calm and weaken their sporting rivals on match day.
In an office environment, colours can also have a subtle but tangible effect on employee morale & productivity. Blue is generally accepted as the best colour to stimulate the mind in a workplace context. Hue and colour intensity also factor into the overall effect. Therefore be sure to include intense hues of blue across your office as part of effective office design.
Ergonomics is a ‘win-win’ for employer and employee. Thefreedictionary.com defines ergonomics as “The applied science of equipment design, as for the workplace, intended to maximize productivity by reducing operator fatigue and discomfort”. Ergonomics goes beyond the question of how to design a product to meet minimum standards of quality, to ask how can design maximise the performance and sustainability of an activity? Ergonomic furniture can be found at retailers, such as Furniture Work, where selecting the right piece of office furniture could reduce employee discomfort, bring a touch of design elegance to the office space, and demonstrate clearly that your business cares about its employees.