Harmonising your working surroundings can bolster your employees’ wellbeing and efficiency: can someone fully concentrate on their job if the light above them is flickering incessantly, for example? Managers may want to go further than a routine tidy desk policy, but doing it so enthusiastically that the cash spent will result in a trip into an angry account manager’s office is obviously something to avoid.
So, before ripping up your office’s entire desk layout, costing thousands in re-wiring, or putting down a quarter-of-an-acre of artificial turf on the floor of the staff canteen, we asked design experts for their top cost-effective, beginners’-guide tips for getting the right working environment.
Lilli Hender, of desk and office-space marketplace OfficeGenie.co.uk says a lick of paint can work wonders: “Use bright colours to liven up a space. Colour can have an impact on your mood and your productivity: yellow is good for creativity, for example, so we have a big, yellow, back wall.”
TV presenter Georgina Burnett, who runs interior design and DIY website PropertyPornTV.com, agrees that colour on the walls is key: “This doesn't have to cost a fortune – one of my clients provides a large, blank poster each month and the team take it in turns for their kids to create colourful art to hang. Just watch the beaming faces of those competitive mums and dads.”
And if you want some more natural colour in the office, Georgina has the answer. “One of the easiest ways to improve the energy of an office is with plants,” she says. “The lushness of the green not only lifts the spirits but the leaves also soften the hard edges of office equipment and furniture.
“The best plants for purifying air, which are easy to care for, are Peace Lily (great to sit on desks), English Ivy can sit up high and cascade, giving you greenery at different levels. Lady Palm is a larger plant for greater impact.”
Nick Pollitt, Managing Director of DBI Furniture Solutions, is also in favour of plants as a cost-effective solution to office wellbeing. “It increases the overall oxygen percentage and they are aesthetically pleasing which in turn adds a positive impact on everyone’s energy level,” he says.
Improving lighting is a big factor in improving a workplace’s look. Lilli says: “Big windows and glass doors can help to let the sunshine in”. And if altering the infrastructure of the room isn’t going to work financially? “We've found SAD-therapy Lumie lamps to be a brilliant investment,” she adds.
Georgina says: “I can't stress enough the impact of having SAD lighting in a office. You don't need to be diagnosed with SAD to benefit from this and your team are far more likely to feel happier and more motivated as a result.”
In terms of space, Lilli says a good idea is to ensure spaces for greater relaxation and privacy: “Breakout areas with sofas and chairs can be good for more relaxed working and sound-proof booths can be handy for important calls. It can make a nice change of scene from your desk.
And Georgina sees the virtue in a good de-clutter: “Everybody should have adequate storage at their desks and away from the work space for coats and bags. It's obvious that clutter doesn't aid productivity and yet it has been an issue in every office I've worked with.”
And the positioning of furniture is important, according to Georgina. “Pay attention to angles as these can zap energy. If anyone has a filing cabinet or other furniture at an angle to their desk it's surprising how this can affect their mood.
“We have a basic need for symmetry and softness, so if a dominant item is sticking out at an angle in front of you every day it will feel like something is off-kilter. In interior design, when you place things asymmetrically and/or at an odd angle you are trying to make a statement by breaking the rules, but in an office you want people to be in their most productive state rather than preoccupied by something that just doesn't feel quite right.”
With those simple ideas in mind, perhaps the next step for a manager is to ensure the team have the tools and the knowledge to explore their own office Feng shui ideas. “At Office Genie we have a range of wellness initiatives in place, ranging from ordinary to more ‘out there’ ideas,” says Lilli. We host quarterly wellness workshops and have had them on everything from sleep to stress, posture to nutrition. We've also had in-house eye tests; a mental-health awareness session; and screened a film on minimalism (with popcorn and blankets in tow).