Designing your office space is about more than just aesthetics—your workspace can have a substantial impact on your business’s ability to attract and retain top talent. First impressions matter: when a candidate enters your office, they’re getting a glimpse of where they’ll potentially spend 40+ hours a week. A well-crafted office space will inspire and excite prospective employees, offering them a place to grow and do their best work.
This doesn’t mean you need to go out and buy an air hockey table or an expensive espresso machine. Good office design is all about maximizing the productivity and comfort of your employees. Even small businesses with tight budgets in expensive markets (such as New York City or Washington D.C.) can gradually incorporate a few simple changes that will have a significant impact on the look and feel of their office space.
Below are a few things to consider when designing, or redesigning, your office space. Each of these workplace elements can be reworked as an asset to attract prospective employees.
Brighten Up the Space
Making better use of natural light is a simple and effective way to improve your office space. Your employees spend at least a third of their day at work, and the quality of light they work under impacts their wellbeing beyond the work day. A study from Northwestern found that “workers with more [natural] light exposure at the office had longer sleep duration, better sleep quality, more physical activity and better quality of life compared to office workers with less light exposure in the workplace.”
Combining natural light with other types of lighting, such as task, ambient, and corrective lighting, can further assist in increasing productivity, reducing fatigue, and even combatting the unpleasant glare from computer screens. Interviewees will appreciate a comfortably lit office that avoids illuminating the space with harsh fluorescent bulbs.
Color It In
Color and texture are known to evoke a variety of feelings and moods, and are leveraged in interior design to promote wellness. Low-wavelength colors, such as blue and green, promote focus and calm, while bright, warm colors, like red and yellow, can inspire enthusiasm and energy. Soft textures, such as throw pillows and comfortable couches, are better for relaxation, allowing employees to recharge fully.
Consider adding a bold accent wall to a collaborative space or hanging colorful artwork to boost creativity. For break spaces, have a few pillows or ottomans with subdued coloring. Making subtle color and textural changes will enhance the day-to-day experience of existing staff, and paint the office as a purposeful and energetic space to prospective talent.
Bring Nature Inside
Plants do much more than just make an office space more visually appealing. Humans have the innate desire to be surrounded by nature, and the dull greys and navy blues of the stereotypical office can have a negative effect on employee wellness if there is no greenery to liven the space. Studies show that having plants in the workplace reduces stress and physical discomfort, increases productivity and focus, and improves mood.
Plants also provide a great natural solution to office issues such as air quality and noise reduction. Office plants release oxygen, as well as absorb and deflect sound. Some low-maintenance plants that will be sure to improve the atmosphere of your office are spider plants, philodendrons, and rubber tree plants.
Comfort is Key
The science of ergonomics—which focuses on strategically optimizing the workplace to maximize productivity and efficiency—has led to a better understanding of the risks posed by a haphazardly designed workplace. These risks include eye strain, repetitive stress injuries, and musculoskeletal problems. From chairs and desks that support proper spinal alignment to a mouse that reduces the risk of carpal tunnel, ergonomic furniture is a great way to invest in the physical well-being of your employees.
No more mazes of cubicles! A 2013 survey found that offices with zones for different types of work are viewed as more innovative and retain higher-performing staff. There is also increasing value placed on offices designed with collaborative work in mind, especially among millennial workers. Designate collaborative, quiet, and relaxation spaces around the office to maximize productivity and fight workplace fatigue.
Control the Climate
Temperature and humidity may not be front of mind when designing an office, but they are critical when it comes to employee comfort. While OSHA does not have any regulations specifically addressing temperature and humidity in an office setting, it does recommend temperature control in the range of 68-76°F and humidity control in the range of 20-60%. Additionally, for businesses seeking to create an environmentally-conscious office, strategic temperature control during the hottest summer and coldest winter months improves energy efficiency.
Your office design can have a substantial impact on the day-to-day operations of your business. All of the above recommendations can help you leverage your workspace as a branding and recruiting tool, and show your employees the value you place on their well-being.
About the Author
Graham Shorr is the Chief of Staff at SquareFoot, a commercial real estate technology firm dedicated to finding the perfect office space for businesses as they evolve.