Alter your business environment to encourage productivity

An Advertorial Feature

You may think of office design as a non-revenue generating outlay; a necessary expense that’s really about nothing more than a fresh coat of paint, making sure your company looks like it can afford to stay smart. Perhaps you see decor as nothing more than brand reinforcement.

But your office design can make an enormous difference on the outlook & response of those within it, be they employees or clients – whether they trust you, return, have faith in the future & security you can provide them. Sure, your brand design may incorporate psychological thinking – but the emotions you aim to evoke in your customers may be an unsuitable daily mindset for your workforce. Virgin’s red colour-scheme is certainly energetic & confident – but imagine if the walls, ceiling & chairs at Virgin’s customer service centre were all that shade of red? Fun for a few hours, perhaps, but the visual strain would intensify over time – staff would grow aggressive & restless.

Creating the right environment is an investment: however shaky your outlook secretly is, staff with faith in their employer’s future will be more relaxed, creative & hard-working; installing energy-efficient fittings can save you money on overheads. And inspiring confidence in your clients is essential.

It’s essential to consider what effects you need from whatever space you’re designing, & plan to achieve them, instead of slavishly reproducing your brand, your own tastes or even the tastes of whoever worked there before you.

Tidy versus cluttered

Clutter can be immensely distracting & can even halt productivity – if a work area needs tidying before it can be used, for example. Piles of waiting files tell of inefficiency, backlog, delays, long lead times. Messy stationery cupboards & kitchens lead to waste, unaccounted stock & excessive buying when things can’t be found. That said, demanding that everyone constantly tidy up can also hinder process during busy times, while a complete absence of visual stimuli is sterile, boring & frankly a bit stingy.

The best approach? To incorporate any filing, clearing of packaging waste etc into your processes, daily routines & lead times – certainly don’t expect staff to clean up outside their remunerated hours. And then incorporate some planned, creative clutter into the environment – preferably on the walls, in corners & unused spaces. Plants are excellent for softening the space, creating a sense of being taken care of by thoughtful hosts. They also help lessen the urge to gaze longingly out of the window; they even improve the breathable atmosphere within the space.

Art can also create useful visual stimulus, but be careful what you choose. Cheap & cheerful “inspirational” posters can seem generic, unimaginative, but go too expensive & highbrow, & you risk alienating your administrators & IT team, who can just about afford smart clothes & lunch after they’ve paid their mortgage, & may resent your original Rothko (or whatever) hanging over them.

Of course, more specific styles & tastes can be expressed in specific industries. Graphic design agencies might recruit a graffiti or street artist to decorate a wall, while an upmarket beauty therapist might get away with nudes on the wall without distracting or embarrassing anyone. In fact, it’s often easier for businesses to design their client-facing areas than it is their back office space. If this is true for you, get to know your workforce as if they were your client-base, & spend some time thinking about what you want from them before you create the space they must spend every day in.

Suzie Saw is a writer & small business owner who advocates the creation of productive, sustainable communities & environments.