Tie People to Their Senses, Not Their Desks 3

Wednesday, January 28th, 2015
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Whilst the focus over the past few years has been on sustainability and the impact of technology in the workplace, the future trend will be to design for productivity, creativity and collaboration.

The question now is, how can we better design to maximise human productivity, potential and performance?

Productivity is not sitting at the same desk all day with your head down. It is creating solutions, achieving outcomes and solving problems. This does not necessarily come from remaining isolated at a work station.

The world has changed. In the past, people had to sit at their desks if they needed to answer emails, but today, anyone can do that — or many other types of work — from anywhere. Mobile devices have released us from the tyranny of the desk. From a creative perspective, it is no longer necessary to make sure people are at their desks at all time.

Instead, it makes it more crucial to ensure people have a supportive, well-designed environment that gives them the freedom to work productively whilst connecting and brainstorming with each other. All their senses need to be encouraged to engage.

Designing a space with all five senses in mind can boost productivity in the workplace.  It can make employees happier and more engaged. In a 2013 TED talk, designer Jinsop Lee postulated that the best designs appeal to all (or most) of our senses.

Sensory design elements such as colours, lighting, sounds, textures and smells can be purposefully adapted to enhance the work environment and increase productivity. Spaces can be designed to meet the requirements of all of our senses, the most obvious of these from a design point of view is sight.

The easiest sense to appeal to, sight can be manipulated most obviously by implementing colour psychology. Brighter colours, such as reds, blues and greens, are conducive to higher focus and task accuracy.

Blue is associated with calm, promoting mental clarity, control and creative thinking. Some studies suggest it can produce twice as many brainstorming results when compared to a red environment.

Citrus hues like yellow and orange, stimulating colours by nature, help people feel more alert, allowing for clear decision making and encouraging lively discussions.

By using colour strategically and following the basic principles of colour psychology, you can promote desired behaviours.

The workplace of the South Australian Tourism Commission adopts directive colour

The workplace of the South Australian Tourism Commission adopts directive colour

Let there be light

With the sense of sight, the most important part of design is access to natural light. There is a strong relationship between workplace daylight exposure and office workers’ sleep, activity levels and quality of life.

Natural light is the most popular request by team members when interviewed about their requirements in their office. Focusing on natural light not only helps improve employee mood and productivity, it can also help save on cooling, heating and power costs.

GBCA's QLD office maximises natural light for illumination

GBCA’s QLD office maximises natural light for illumination

Embrace art

Engaging the sense of sight is about visual interest, and an easy way to introduce this is wall art or sculptures.

Art that has interesting or thought-provoking subject matters not only infuses a workspace with character, it can also stimulate discussion and inspires workplace creativity.

By working with a corporate art curator, you can select artwork that conveys your company culture and branding, sparks employee imagination, and also supplements your corporate social responsibility programs by supporting local, emerging artists.

Art hung on the wall of the Murphy Pipe and Civil office, QLD

Art hung on the wall of the Murphy Pipe and Civil office, QLD

There is also scope for art installations to change so the artwork that stimulated and provoked your team last quarter does not remain the same year-on-year. The objective for any corporate art curation is to rotate, build and grow the collection so it continually evolves and inspires your people.

The design of an office should not just address an employee’s immediate workspace, the design of the whole work environment needs to be designed to stimulate them, and encourage them to work to the best of their abilities whether it be as individuals, as teams or the overall Company.

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  1. Gary Co.

    Changes to the stultifying character of the standard office cubicle environment are definitely long overdue.

  2. Bianca Brazile

    Great breakdown Ruth. The workplace is definitely changing and I like that you've mentioned that it's a combination of working spaces for employees. Natural light continues to gain momentum and am happy you mentioned artwork, something that isn't always considered a design priority but can offer similar productivity/positive mood-evoking benefits to colour.

  3. Karen Smith

    Great article Ruth, very interesting. Another aspect that you could think about for future articles is designing to include plants in office spaces. There is a stack of research out there that discusses the overall health benefits of plants in office situations, studies have found office plants reduce anxiety, depression, reduced sick leave, increase concentration levels. I can give you a few names of peoples studies that have been published. One is Dr Margaret Burchett from UTS another is a doctor by the name of Mardie Townsend. I have heard both give presentations at conferences and very impressive. Building designs are becoming more conducive to incorporating indoor plants. Although I think there is still scope to come up with something schmick. Plants also absorb Volatile Organic Compounds produced by furniture, glues and paint. etc.
    Just a thought and congratulations on having your article published that is fantastic. Looking forward to catching up for the lunch xx