The office does more than provide a place to work — it can also deeply impact your mood and your productivity. Employees who have control over their workspaces are happier, healthier and, ultimately, more productive, says Meredith Wells-Lepley, Ph.D., senior research associate at the Institute for Workplace Innovation in Daily Worth.

Whether they share an office or enjoy a private office, employees need the flexibility to add personal touches to their workspace, noted Jennifer Carpenter of Jennifer Carpenter Architect, who designs workspaces for corporations and institutions. Her goal is to make people happier. When employees feel a sense of ownership in their workspaces, they take more pride in their work, as well. Research finds that when open-office workers can maintain a sense of control over their space by personalizing it, it mitigates the adverse emotional exhaustion that low levels of privacy can cause.

“A lot of companies struggle with how to allow their employees to personalize their space,” said Carpenter. “In the ideal vision of an architect’s design, everything stays neat and uniform.” Too much personalization can quickly turn into clutter and make the space distracting and unprofessional. “Striking a balance is key.” she continued.

Carpenter suggests some personalization options that still keep the space looking tidy.

  • People who switch between using a computer and paper and pen need different lighting. Allow employees to choose from three or four pre-selected lamp styles.
  • In an open space design, make dividers functional. They can be magnetic, marker or tack boards. Spruce up the tack board with cool pins.
  • For people with private offices, allow them to choose from select accent colors to paint a wall in their offices.
  • Make name plates moveable, elegant and customizable.
  • Allow everyone to choose from preselected plants and planters.

Plants in the office? They’re more important than you think

Bringing nature into the office has a lot of additional benefits. Data shows that office plants have multiple benefits including improving air quality, concentration and workplace satisfaction, as well as objective measures of productivity.  Other research reveals adding nature in the offices results in productivity gains, less absenteeism, fewer health problems, and a better sense of well-being as reported by the individuals who participated. Another study found that workers with plants or a view of nature reported greater job and life satisfaction. If you don’t have a window view of green spaces, decorating your space with photographs of nature, adding wall treatments with nature-based imagery, or buying small plants for your desk can help relieve stress.