Creating the perfect workspace isn’t all theory — there’s actually a lot of hard science that goes behind office design. The way that people interact with their environment has been a topic of intense study for centuries, which has provided plenty of insight (and hard facts) of how space affects us. Good interior designers and design-build firms know how to effectively use these bits of wisdom into their designs.
So what does science have to say about the perfect work environment? Here are some well-tested facts.
We know that sitting in a circle promotes a collective mindset, and that knocking into the corner of a table hurts our elbows, but there’s a lot more to round furniture than the obvious.
A study in 2011 demonstrated just how much people prefer rounded furniture. The study involved hundreds of undergrads that were shown photos of different furniture arrangements. All photos were done in black and white, to eliminate colour preferences from interfering. The study showed that people thought the curved furniture was more pleasing, inviting, and attractive.
There’s also a lot to be said about furniture arrangement, which can either make a room feel divided or more all-inclusive. When arrangement furniture in spaces that are meant to encourage working together, avoid straight lines.
Plants and Windows
Don’t overlook the simple addition of office plants or a nice window view, as science has repeatedly demonstrated the benefits of seeing a bit of greenery. They reduce stress, increase concentration, and cognitivity, and enhance the ambience.
Aside from keeping plants in your office or lobby, there are other ways of getting benefits from plants. One way is by views of landscapes out your office window, but if that’s not possible, planting a tree or other greenery right outside windows can help.
Just keeping a few plants in your office will improve how employees (and customers) perceive the air quality. A view of nature is a quick way of recharging during the work day, so keep those blinds drawn up.
Allow Some Room for Disorganisation
If you work in a creative field, or brainstorming is part of your work day, then don’t place so much importance on keeping your workspace immaculate. As it turns out, there’s some benefit to creativity when working in a “messy” environment.
A study done by Kathleen Vohs at the University of Minnesota found that those using a messy room at a desk covered with paper came up with more imaginative ways of using a ping pong ball than those tested in a clean room. So, next time someone comes to you with ways of decluttering your life you can tell them that your knick-knacks and disheveled desk are a part of your strategic creative process.
Take advantage of colour, light, and space for a perfect workspace
Lighting and colour scheme is one of the simplest ways to influence your space and even enhance the mood and performance in your work area. Depending on the type of work you’re engaged in, you may want to change the light levels or colour hue. By installing a lighting system that allows you to make these adjustments, you can create an ideal environment for any kind of mood or task.
For example, being in the colours blue and green has been shown to enhance performance on tasks that require generating new ideas. However, if you wanted to improve your performance on tasks that involve close attention to detail, then the colour red would better. Another study showed that a dimmer environment promotes greater creativity when it comes to idea generation. This could be that people are more likely to less constrained in dimmer light. However, if you need your space to be more conducive to analytical thinking then brighter light levels were shown to bet better.
Though ceilings aren’t as easy to change, the height of your ceiling also has shown to affect how we feel in a room. In this study of the influence of ceiling height, it found that people have more feelings of freedom along with more abstract thinking styles in rooms with high ceilings. The high ceilings also helped participants see the commonalities between objects and concepts. So, when it comes to expanding our minds, the height of the ceiling really does seem to influence how far our thoughts and ideas can stretch.
How many of these traits does your existing work area have? A good design-build firm will naturally use many of these concepts in designing an office space. By using bright lighting, modern curved furniture, and stimulating colours, you’ll be a lot closer to achieving a “scientifically” ideal working environment.