How to Design an Office to Boost Productivity + WellBeing

By | 2018-05-10T19:33:00+00:00 April 19th, 2016|Workplace Design|

Workplaces communicate with people. Not to worry. Big Brother isn’t implanting Siri into your office furniture. But the office environment you’ve designed sends a message to the people that work for you.  

“Workplaces where employees are engaged communicate to the people who work there — and anyone else in them — that their employer values them and the contribution that they make.” writes Sally Augustin, Ph.D. in the Harvard Business Review. “The psychological lift that comes from feeling respected enhances engagement.” Augustin is a practicing environmental psychologist and principal at Design With Science.

“A place indicates respect for employees when it supports them as they do their jobs,” writes Augustin. Workspaces can be designed to improve problem solving, creative thinking and even getting along with others. It’s not just an old wives tale, it’s backed up by scientific research.  Be sure you’re sending the right message with these tips.

Match color to work effort  

The colors of your surroundings can make you more or less productive. You can support workers whose jobs require intense concentration, by painting walls with less saturated and bright colors such as sage green. For others who have less taxing jobs, keep them energized by surrounding them with saturated colors but not too bright, such as emerald green. Avoid yellow. Yellow is disliked more than any other color. Stay away from red because it reduces analytical thinking. Want people to think more broadly and be more creatively? Then green is the color for your walls. If you want a color that almost everyone will like, then pick blue for your office.

Keep it simple

“Moderate visual complexity is best,” says Augustin. Limit the number of colors and patterns you use. However, don’t go too far. A stark environment feels alien and makes people tense.

Allow some control

Great if your office furniture can be reconfigured. turnstone and Steelcase (turnstone’s sister company) collections allow you to do this. For less flexible environments, let people control their lighting with a desk lamp and the height of their chair with an adjustable chair. Allow people to personalize their space with items that are important to them.

Improve health and wellbeing 

Plants not only brighten a drab office, they can improve air quality and reduce stress. Need help picking the perfect office plant? Read Good Plants For The Office Environment.

Create opportunities for privacy

The bathroom stall shouldn’t be the only place workers have privacy in the office. You can create small meeting spaces in alcoves. However, make sure that people’s seats aren’t lined up with their backs to a walkway. It makes people feel exposed and vulnerable advises Augustin.


Geri Stengel is president of Ventureneer, a marketing research company targeting small business. Geri is a regular Forbes contributor, consultant, Kauffman facilitator and the author of Forget the Glass Ceiling: Building Your Business Without One.