How To Design An Office That Brings Out Best Of People
A working space is an environment in which a human being thrives and strives. At present, companies place people in cubicles where they feel isolated or make them sit in an open space where the highly stimulating surrounding tires the employees out. It would seem as if we were not capable of finding an optimal design for our offices.
If only we could go back to human nature, observe how people interact with new technologies at home, and implement this into designing the complexity of everyday life at the office — the change of moods, tasks, and differences in personalities — we could create a space that empowers the employees.
How Space Affects the Human Brain
At first, we need to understand that people seek physical and emotional comfort wherever they are — at home, the office, a coffee shop, park, etc. While in those places we see, hear, feel, or otherwise sense the environment and our visceral nervous system informs our brain about the quality of the surroundings. It tells us whether the place is safe or not and whether we can relax or keep our fists clenched.
A room that is full of buzzing, ringing phones, music playing in the background, vivid colors on the walls, bright lights, sharp objects, and clutter gives rise to a negative affect. We feel anxious or endangered, and our neurotransmitters narrow the brain processing — we start to focus on details and miss out on seeing a big picture of a problem we try to solve.
By contrast, a room covered with warm colors, comfortably lit, kept in mild temperature, shrouded in soothing sounds, furnished with symmetrical, rounded, smooth objects initiates a positive affect. Neurotransmitters broaden the brain processing, the muscles can relax, our natural curiosity arouses, and our mind is more open to learning and creating.
In this office space operated by Media Temple, a web hosting company, a balanced composition of natural wood and moderate lightning calms the space down, therefore allowing the employees to work in a relaxed state. The office design departs from cubicle style to an open-office, yet remains sensitive to the human need for physical and emotional safety.
How Introverts and Extraverts Feel the Room
A modern office design also needs to be aware of the differences in personality traits — of an introvert and extrovert nature. According to research conducted by Susan Cain, author of the book Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World That Can’t Stop Talking, introverts represent from 1/3 to 1/2 of all workers in any organization. The other half or 2/3 are extroverts, or ambiverts — a mixture of both.
The main difference between these types is that introverts recharge their batteries by being alone, and extroverts need to recharge when they don’t socialize enough. “On a deep neurobiological level, introverts and extraverts have a different nervous system. The nervous system of introverts reacts more to stuff going on, for better and worse. They feel more alive to subtleties in an environment. It also means that they are much easier overwhelmed, reacting to what’s going on around them,” explains Susan Cain.
Having a variety of people in one office is full of challenges because we need to create a space for both types — a cafeteria style setting for extraverts and alone time places for introverts. Here’s an example of a silent room in LiveChat’s office:
A small room in painted white with a delicate typography wall mural, furnished with a white desk and a light blue sofa for lounging is a perfect place for employees who need quiet time during the day.
Controlling the Environment
If you look at your colleague’s desk you will notice that he or she has already adjusted the space to their needs. This is what people do naturally — nest in their space. A smart office design reinforces these natural tendencies and offers employees opportunities to tailor their environment based on their mood or need for privacy and focus. Modular furniture, personal lightning, and floor-sitting space are excellent for making personal adjustments.
For example, in this room, designed by Steelcase, control over the space is in the hands of the user. Lightning, music, volume and digital content can be adjusted. The open floor space provides users with the opportunity to stretch, meditate and reset.
Various Positions At Work
People do not sit on chairs all the time. If you look at how people interact with their laptops, iPads, and iPhones at home, you’ll see that they use various postures — lounge, lay on their stomachs , squat or sit on the floor. In the office, we can create a natural environment that will enable people to feel relaxed and comfortable.
A vibrant red chair with a footrest placed in an intimate corner encourages a lounging posture perfect for learning or creative projects.
All people seek sensory stimulation, some of them need bright colors and loud music, others fresh air and nature. Here are two opposite examples of spaces for both types of employees that can be found at the PIXERS office.
A ping-pong table and a wooden dining table in a shared office area invite employees to play or sit around and recharge through stimulation.
On the other hand, an outside terrace by the river allows employees to find peace and air that helps them concentrate.
We can also use colors and patterns on the walls and furniture to maintain a sensory balance. Wall murals and furniture stickers are the easiest ways to color a space and bring a certain vibe to it — a calming or livening atmosphere.
A typography wall mural melted into a white office space makes the space calm, yet slightly enlivened.
A furniture sticker designed by PIXERS
A combination of a wall mural, furniture sticker and stained glass using a repeating pattern brings life to this simple space in a random office and brightens up the plain outlook of the room.
Places For Meetings And Guests
Meetings are stressful by nature, but we can get through them more easily with a little help from our surroundings. Warm, cozy, and home-like meeting rooms create an atmosphere of trust and help both parties relax.
A modular sofa placed at a bay window with pillows is a cozy place where meetings can be held in relaxed positions. This setting helps connect, share and build trust before, during and after a meeting.
Just like we enjoy lying down on the floor in our living room, our bodies need that comfort in the office, especially if we have an informal gathering there. Pillows, ottomans, and blankets will work best for these occasions.
An under-one-roof model of working turns out not to be the only one solution for human collaboration. Remote work, either full or part time, is a surging trend among companies. The pioneers of work from home, Basecamp or Buffer, explain that people are more productive in their homes because they feel good there.
Steelcase’s research confirms these observations: “31% of full-time employees do most of their work away from their employers’ location. Employees are looking to eliminate distraction, but also seek physical and emotional comfort and familiarity that is often found more at home than in the office.”
A working space at home can be arranged freely — a table in the living room, a classic desk, or a floor sitting space are just some of the possibilities.
Design For Life
The contemporary office design is in a phase of adjusting to how we live our lives using new technologies. Its job is to combine architecture, furniture, materials and technology to support specific postures, work modes, and expectations for quiet or stimulation.
The roots of all new concepts must reach the psychological and physical safety of human beings. With a deeper understanding that our bodies constantly react to the surroundings, office design has an opportunity to create a comfortable space that will foster engagement and a happy life at work.