Employee Wellbeing | Article

Optimize the Office for Happiness & Productivity

Many leaders have been seeking out plans to get employees back in the office. Part of that plan should be rethinking the space itself.

Since the pandemic, tons of employees have learned how to work remotely. They enjoy having fewer distractions and avoiding the commute. Working at an office in person holds a lot of value, but organizations need to earn the commute.

Designing office spaces in specific ways can trigger the brain’s release of dopamine. In turn, people are more focused, productive, and happy. To create this environment for your employees, and earn their commute, check out these tips:

1. Reduce distractions with layout

Offices should have different spaces for accomplishing different tasks. Open offices have become more common, but they can leave people very prone to distractions. There needs to a balance of collaborative spaces and spaces for people to focus. Encourage the use of separate focus work areas so people can enter their flow state without being interrupted. If there are no conference rooms or cubicles at which people can focus, reconfigure your floor plan to create some.

2. Put clear transitions between spaces

Another element of separating different spaces if having clear transitions. Designing these a certain way can subtly communicate to employees what is appropriate in which space. It could be a hallway that starts in an open area then gradually funnels down to more private meeting rooms or quiet areas. Walking through spaces that are shaped differently can actually trigger brain activity. That means you’re stimulating minds for creativity and boosting energy with every transition point!

3. Soften the space

Th brain sees sharp-edge patterns as threatening and they can even trigger cortisol, the stress hormone. It sounds crazy, but the little details matter. Opt for curvy furniture, architecture, and decor. Another thing to keep in mind with decor is to keep the art soft as well. Avoid super detailed images as they can distracting. Overly jarring or detailed paintings can be especially disruptive for neurodivergent individuals.

4. Fill it with lots of green

According to the American Psychological Association, nature is mentally restorative. The research shows it has a lot to do with the shades of green, shapes of leaves, and visual complexity of plants and trees. Many of these elements can be brought indoors for similar effects. Just seeing a plant can reduce stress levels! So fill your office with plants that don’t need as much sunlight like snake plants, aloe, cacti, jade plants, and philodendrons. At the very least, go for fake greenery (which can often look very real) to spruce things up (pun intended).

5. Give out reminders of positive moments

Allow employees to design and decorate their own desk space. In doing so, they’ll often display trophies or other memorable things they receive at work. Those physical representations of positive moments are a great way to boost employees’ moods and keep them motivated. Let’s say an employee just hit their 5-year anniversary. Their co-workers throw a surprise lunch party. Now when that employee looks at the trophy on their desk commemorating their five years of service, they fondly remember that day.

Trophies, certificates, handwritten notes, and other mementos can put a smile on employees’ faces and keep them motivated. You don’t have to spend a ton of money to give these types of things on a frequent basis. Just make it meaningful.

It’s the simple things. Creating separate spaces, softening the edges, setting out some plants, and giving out small tokens of recognition. They don’t all seem like significant changes. But when executed thoughtfully, they can make a world of difference for your employees.