The practice of designing environments in order to project an image or encourage a certain behavior is known as atmospherics, and it includes more than just sight. Whether subtle or obvious, all senses are involved while taking in our surroundings – and it matters beyond just first impressions.
Our sensory experiences influence our mood, comfort, performance, and well-being. With that in mind, how is your office space tickling the senses of your employees and customers? Many industries, such as hospitality and retail, have long known about using multisensory design to their advantage; now office spaces are getting in on it too.
Here we explore the five basic senses, and what designers can do to stimulate them in ways that’ll make your company stand out above the competition, and keep your employees and customers engaged.
The power of scent in the workplace
Between carefully selected music and attractively displayed products, you might be getting a whiff of a growing market trend when you walk into your favorite store – signature scents.
As the sense most strongly tied to memory, our sense of smell brings heavy associations with anything tied to it. Retailers and the hospitality industry have used smell association as part of their branding – influencing their customers perception through pleasant smells and other sensory experiences.
But what role can scent play in office environments, or financial institutions, such as banks?
Well, for starters they can make your business feel more welcoming, and a pleasant smell can even make your wait in line feel shorter. A diffuser placed near the entrance of your building can make first and last impressions more memorable for customers.
Public restrooms can be made to feel infinitely more homey by using scented soaps, lotion, candles, or other forms of aromatherapy. In your office bathroom, you can encourage employees to bring in lotion, soap, or other toiletries for a more personalized feeling.
Just like a good smell can make a space “feel” cleaner, a bad smell can completely ruin an otherwise nice atmosphere. Make sure trash is taken out daily, refrigerators are cleaned out often, and any other offensive odour (cleaning supplies, bathrooms, etc.) are located away from customers.
Tips for using scents in the workplace:
- Stick with classic scents that have broad appeal, like vanilla, lavender, citrus, or linen
- Use an oil diffuser instead of sprays that can irritate nose, throats, and eyes
- Discourage employees from using overbearing fragrances that could be an aversion to other employees or clients
- Avoid harsh cleaning chemicals like bleach or ammonium, which often has a lingering smell after its used
Taste in the workplace matters more than you think
Though it might not be obvious as sight or sound, taste also holds a valuable place in offices – and we’re not talking about the taste of envelope seals or the end of your pen.
Food and drinks are major parts of creating a sense of community in the workplace. Pouring coffee in the break room is where coworkers begin asking non-work related questions – the ones where people make real connections and get to know each other on a personal level.
Stocking your break room shows employees you want to provide something more than the bare minimum, which can make employees want to put in an extra effort as well. Besides, sharing a meal or even just drinking amongst others is a bonding activity.
But aside from your staff, people you’re attracting to your business are always enthusiastic about refreshments – whether it’s a candy dish, coffee machine, vending machine, or tea. Long waits at the bank, car dealership, or elsewhere go by MUCH faster when there’s a popcorn machine or drink station.
Sight – much more than the obvious
Now we’re getting into familiar territory, as sight is obviously the primary sense we use to take in our surroundings. Sight is more than awareness of architecture and spatial order – it’s made up of many different parts such as:
- Exposure to outside views
- Clean lines, uncluttered surfaces
- Reducing the appearance of crowding
Natural light and bright primary colors used in a space can have a significant effect on occupant performance, satisfaction, comfort, and health – this is in part due to the influence that greenery and natural light has on creativity, stress, and our circadian rhythm. Natural material and warm, earth tones offer positive biophilic effects.
Sound- the good and the bad
When we think of sound in the workplace, usually it’s what noises we don’t want to hear, such as distractions down the hall, loud phone conversations, or beeps and buzzes from various office equipment. However, sound can be used to set whatever mood you want to achieve with music. Plenty of studies show that customers spend more time shopping when music is played than without. It also makes lobbies more pleasant to be in.
For better acoustics in your workspace, you’ll want to provide sound proofing or barriers where necessary – especially in confidential environments, or where private conversations take place. Meeting rooms and break rooms are other places in the office that benefit from drowning out what’s happening on the other side of the door.
Tactile experiences in the workplace
Our sense of touch in the workplace has most to do with how comfortable you are at your workstation. Do your chairs have sufficient padding and lumbar support? If you have a standing job, is there at least a padded mat where you do most of your standing? Straining eyes, being too cold or too hot, sore backs, and carpal tunnel all fall into the category of our sense of touch.
Comfort should also be taken into account when designing your lobby, or any other areas customers come into contact with. Plush sofas, even temperatures, and a welcoming handshake are ways you can make visitors feel more comfortable.
Now when you think about the impression your workspace gives off, think about it from the point of view of all your senses.