Productivity can be finicky. We’ve all had days where we can’t get into gear and don’t know why. As it turns out, it can often be chalked up to our environment and surroundings. They can have a huge effect on us psychologically – particularly from a sensory office design perspective.
The good news is we can actually design our office environment to stimulate productivity by factoring in our five senses. Here are five ways to enhance sensory office design:
Sight: Office Colour and Lighting
The colour and lighting in our workspaces play a big part in our mental wellbeing and output.
Studies show that the colour of our environment affects mood and brain function and evokes a physical and emotional response:
- White and grey – the common colours for many offices – are detrimental to productivity
- Red stimulates productivity when working on detail-oriented assignments
- Blue is calming and promotes communication, trust, creativity and efficiency
- Yellow is overwhelming
- Green promotes harmony and balance.
Bad lighting can cause fatigue, eyestrain, headaches and irritability – dark spaces can even produce depression.
We can’t always repaint a workspace or upgrade its light but there are a number of ways we can help improve both. For example, let in natural light when possible and use lamps for cloudy or dark days. Consider natural light bulbs or “happy lights” that provide a full spectrum of light to improve mood.
Items that add a pop of colour to your working environment can also help. Think postcards, pictures, magazine cutouts and decorations to make your environment more visually appealing.
Touch: Room Temperature
Office temperature is an age-old battle. Due to any number of factors – including weight, size, age, gender, diet, sleep patterns, lifestyle and even general happiness – one person can feel scorching hot while another feels freezing cold, all in the exact same temperature, making it hard to find a happy medium.
It may seem like minutiae, but temperature directly affects productivity. In fact, studies have proven that warmer workspaces are more conducive to productive employees.
Most offices maintain a temperature between 18 and 20 degrees Celsius but since we all perceive that differently, we need to cater to how we feel. If you work from home, adjust the temperature to keep you comfortable. If you work in an office where you can’t control the thermostat, take steps to keep your temperature regulated – whether it’s a fan to keep you cool or extra layers to warm you up.
Smell: Office Scent
“No scents is good sense.” We’ve all heard that saying before. And in the context of an office, it’s probably true. Smell is subjective and what works for one may not work for another. But much like the colour of a workspace, smell can affect our mood, our mindset and our productivity.
A number of scents are said to have positive effects on our mental wellbeing:
- Lemon promotes concentration and has calming and clarifying properties. This helps alleviate bad moods, anxiety or burnout. It also has antiviral and antibacterial properties that boost our immune systems and improve circulation, in turn helping us stay healthier.
- Lavender is known to have calming properties that provide a soothing effect on our nerves, relieve tension and treat headaches.
- Jasmine carries many of the same properties of lavender and is said to produce confidence, optimism and revitalized energy.
- Rosemary improves memory retention and offers stimulating properties that combat exhaustion, headache and mental fatigue. It can also relieve muscular aches and pains when applied topically.
- Cinnamon isn’t just a tasty spice – it is also to fight fatigue and improve concentration and focus.
- Peppermint boost energy, invigorates the mind, promotes concentration and stimulates clear thinking. It could be your new best friend when brainstorming!
You can add a touch of scent to your working environment that will be strong enough to help, but subtle enough to avoid offending anyone. Keep a few essential oils in your bag and add a few drops to a tissue when you need a lift. Diffusers are also a popular way to keep a steady, subtle flow of scent.
Hear: Noise Level
This may seem like a statement of the obvious, but noise levels have a direct and intense effect on productivity. While too much noise can be stressful and distracting, too little noise can be just as distracting. To help optimize productivity, find your happy medium – whether it’s noise-canceling headphones or earplugs to drown out the office hum, or a touch of white noise to fill the audio void.
Taste: Nutrition, Nourishment and Hydration
The term “hangry” was coined for a reason. When we get hungry, we can get irritable, unfocused, stressed and inaccurate. That’s because our brains and bodies need fuel to function.
At work, we need this fuel to be convenient to avoid becoming a distraction. We don’t want to waste time preparing snacks or meals but we also want to avoid eating junk food for convenience. Pre-making snacks and meals allow us to get the fuel we need without breaking our stride.
Hydration is also a huge factor. In fact, even mild dehydration can suppress the increase in blood flow necessary for proper neural activity. On average, adult men and women should be drinking around 13 and 9 cups of water each day respectively.
These may seem like common sense ideas, but they go to show that we can design our environments to cater to productivity. Whether a full-on revamp of environmental branding or simply adding small details to improve mood, productivity starts with the things we can see, touch, smell, hear and taste.