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How to Create The Perfect Office Environment

Posted by Glassdoor Team

Career Advice Experts

Last Updated May 12, 2017

Designing an inviting office layout doesn't come naturally to everyone. Some business owners and managers just want to make functional spaces where people can work. They don't always think about how design choices affect the way employees and visitors feel in the office.

Before you choose a layout for your next office, think about how these five design options could make the space feel more inviting. How people feel has a noticeable effect on their performance, so you should take these aspects of your office's layout seriously.

Take Advantage of Natural Light

No one wants to spend eight hours a day in an environment that relies on harsh, unnatural light. Instead of filling your office with annoying artificial light, use large windows and skylights so natural sunlight can fill work areas.

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Colorful and airy, Unilever offers an energetic, inviting design for employees.

Natural light does more than create a welcoming environment. It can also improve the health and productivity of employees. According to research conducted at Northwestern University, people who work in offices with natural light sleep better, get more exercise, and enjoy a better quality of life than those who work in offices filled with artificial light. When your employees have happier, healthier lives, they can get more accomplished at work.

Follow Current Design Trends

It's difficult to trust the professionalism of a company that operates in an office that looks like it was designed in the 1970s. Following current design trends shows visitors, partners, and employees that your business keeps in touch with the latest concepts.

Many companies prefer industrial designs that have become popular in offices, restaurants, and apartments. The industrial style emphasizes open spaces that make it easier for employees to collaborate.

The industrial style also gives you more flexibility because you can design your office layout with metal instead of wood. The CEO of Signature Metal Works puts it correctly when he says that "the design world opens up a bit more when working with steel over wood. In general, metal is much stronger than wood and it can be utilized for safety/security while at the same time can be molded into a work of art."

Experienced metal fabricators like Signature Metal Works can mold steel into objects that serve decorative and practical purposes. For instance, steel stairs look beautiful and don't require as much support as wooden stairs. By using metal, you get a clean aesthetic that makes your office inviting and useful.

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Strong, sharp design punctuates Uber's San Francisco headquarters.

Get Rid of Cubicles

Some businesses build cubicle farms because they want employees to concentrate on work without getting distracted by other people and activities in their offices. Those companies get exactly what they ask for when they put workers in cubicles. Unfortunately, the cubicles make it difficult for people to work together and share information. Cubicle walls create barriers without giving employees privacy.

If you have cubicles in your office, get rid of them as soon as possible. You can replace them with large tables that encourage employees to interact with each other. The social atmosphere will also make employees feel more comfortable among their colleagues.

If you can't eliminate cubicles soon, then you should create a collaborative space in your office. Set aside a meeting room or other area where employees can work together to meet common goals. When you have the opportunity, expand the social concept to the rest of your office.

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Flexible work and collaboration spaces inside L'Oreal Paris.

Place Potted Plants Throughout the Office

People who live in urban areas often suffer from a condition called Nature Deficit Disorder. Without regular contact with the outdoors, employees can become depressed, which quickly leads to difficulty focusing on tasks.

You can't force your employees to spend time outdoors, but you can bring small pieces of nature into your office. Placing potted plants throughout work areas may help people feel more relaxed, happy, and focused.

Plants that make your office feel more inviting can also improve indoor air quality.

Companies that have healthy indoor air often see a boost in employee productivity. Since people get to work in a healthier environment, they also take fewer sick days. Some of the most effective plants for purifying air include:

  • Spider plants
  • Dracaena
  • Boston ferns
  • Aloe vera
  • Bamboo palms
  • Snake plants

Encourage your employees to keep small potted plants on their desks. Also, place larger plants in your office's reception area and work spaces to create a welcoming environment that makes people feel comfortable.

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Etsy's Green Library in their Brooklyn, NY headquarters.

Decorate With Art

Hanging artwork on your office walls can make the space feel more intimate and personal. Without art, you have blank walls that look boring. People who walk into an empty office may not immediately know why they feel uncomfortable. Once you decorate with beautiful paintings, drawings, and sculptures, though, they feel more at ease.

Choosing the right art for your company can get tricky. You don't want to choose anything that some employees may find offensive; so avoid pieces with overtly sexual, political, or religious content. Then again, you don't want to buy a piece of artwork that doesn't say anything. If you do, your office will end looking like a boring hotel room. You might as well leave the wall blank.

Talk to galleries, artists, and art experts in your area to find artwork that fits your corporation's personality. Once you have a few options, talk to your staff members to get feedback. They spend 40 or more hours per week in the office, so they deserve a say in what art you choose. Plus, having a conversation will give people a chance to explain why they like or dislike each option.

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Companies have plenty of options when choosing how to design and decorate their offices. Making the right choices could mean that you get to work with a happier, healthier, more productive group of people who enjoy coming to the office. If you make the wrong choices, then you could have the opposite experience.

You don't have to become an interior design expert to design an inviting office layout. As long as you follow these five tips, you should find that you can create a pleasant environment where people like spending time.

Matthew Thompson is a freelance writer in Louisville, KY. He enjoys writing about technology, politics, and dogs. Dogs should really be at the front of that list. Follow him @mallenthompson.