When it comes to employee wellness and productivity, office design matters. We know - through decades of research - that an employee’s working setup has an enormous impact on their happiness and stress levels at work.
Workspace design is relatively easy to control in the workplace, but a nightmare to manage when your staff work from home.
- Does their workspace allow them to focus, or is it rife with stressful distractions?
- Can they easily access everything they need to do their work?
- Is support immediately available to them should they need it?
- Is their workstation ergonomically designed to avoid physical discomfort, injury, RSI, etc.
If you’re leading a team of remote workers, we would bet BIG money that these are factors you already have under control, as most companies and corporate leaders are now on the ball in this department (thanks, Covid).
The frantic scramble to adjust to remote workforce management is over and we’re back in business. But, don’t be so complacent as to think there isn’t still room for improvement.
There is SO much more to workspace design than functional equipment, ergonomics, and finding a spot where your attention-seeking cat can’t crash important meetings.
Did you know - for instance - that your individual home office setups should differ based on the type of work they do? No? Well, prepare to be enlightened…
Optimising workspace based on job type
Our brains respond to different stimuli, in different ways - okay, no surprise there. Let’s elaborate within the context of work activities…
Some work activities are based on efficient, repetitive execution of a single task. Others demand the solving of a problem that has one, specific solution. Then, you have tasks that require free, outside-of-the-box thinking, to generate multiple possible solutions or ideas.
It follows that these different ways of working are better suited to different environmental stimuli, or to put it plainly, different home office designs.
Training your team members on how to optimise their workspaces, based on their job type, will help them feel happier working from home. It can also increase productivity, quality of work, and engagement with the company culture.
Workspace design for creative tasks
Graphic designers, artists, web designers, marketing personnel, copywriters and other team members whose work activities are inherently creative, should consider the following in their workplace design:
- Wide, open spaces
Open plan spaces with high ceilings encourage our brains to engage in free-flowing creative thought. Finding a spot like this isn’t always easy when you work from home, but there are a few tricks your team members can employ to give themselves the space to get the creative juices flowing,
For instance, change things around so that their desk or workspace is facing out into the room, rather than towards a wall, or corner. If they can position themselves so that a window is also in view, they’ll have the added benefit of being able to see out into the garden, street, or whatever lies beyond the home office environment.
- Colour, shapes and art
Injecting colour into the home office area is an absolute MUST for creative workers. Choosing just two or three, bold, complimentary colours is the best bet, as a cacophony of clashing colours could derail creative focus (and cause a few headaches)Art and decorative pieces are also a fantastic addition to a creative person’s workplace. Again, it’s important for the environment not to be confused, or over-stimulating. Though, don’t be afraid to include a variety of shapes, textures, and styles, to encourage different modes of thinking.
It’s important for creative professionals to have flexibility in their home work stations, as much as possible. Being able to change your view, seating position, and desk/equipment layout will allow you to think on different planes, and generate new ideas when you hit a creative wall.
At a minimum, employees should have a comfortable office chair with wheels, to allow for movement. They might also consider adding some fun additional seating, like a bean-bag chair (no longer just for edgy tech start-up offices!), so they have the option of a completely different perspective. Where possible, equipment, tools and decorative items should be mobile rather than fixed, should the employee wish to change them around.
Workspace design for methodical tasks
Programmers, accountants, paralegals, developers, researchers and other team members whose jobs revolve around methodical or maths-based activities should consider the following in their workspace design.
- Contained spaces
Cosy, contained spaces (more like a traditional office cubicle) work best for methodical, repetitive or maths-based activities. People who work in these roles benefit from the lack of distraction and functional setup these spaces provide.
In the home office environment, this might involve tucking a tidy little work space into a corner or a small spare bedroom, where the employee’s back is angled towards the room and they’re not faced with distracting views. Adding a room dividing screen to “box in” the work space will limit distractions further, while adding a lovely decorative touch.
- Neutral aesthetics
People who work at methodical tasks need an aesthetically pleasing and personalised workspace just as much as creative workers do. However, they should focus more on calming, neutral colours, like creams, whites, greys and pastels, that will encourage focus.
As for art and decorative items, choosing one or two simple pieces of similar style will create an elegant, comfortable environment without being provocative enough to cause mind-wandering and distraction.
- Uniformity and familiarity
Unlike creative professionals, methodical workers need uniformity and a sense of “sameness” to perform at their best in their home working environment. Encourage them to consider the most efficient placement of their equipment, from monitors and printers, right down to staplers and notepads.
Positioning items at right angles - if possible - will create a soothing sense of order. As much as practicality allows, items and equipment should be fixed in place (or always be returned to the same place), so that the worker can intuitively reach for and use them without breaking focus on the task at hand.
3 general home office design tips
We’re going to finish up with three final tips that can and should be applied in all your team members’ home workspaces.
- Natural light
Exposure to sunlight is essential for personal wellness and encourages productivity. Whatever your team members’ roles or home setup, they should make sure their workspace gets plenty of natural light.
Plants absorb carbon dioxide and release oxygen into the air (plus, they’re just nice to look at!). Office design usually features plenty of hardy plants and greenery, as a well-oxygenated space helps workers to think clearly and perform at their best.
It may not be possible to go full-on botanical gardens in a compact home office space, but a pot plant or two should be achievable for most!
- Encourage company culture
One of the main downsides to having a remote workforce is that your team members are detached from that vibrant company culture you’ve worked so hard to build.
So, our final bit of advice is to delicately encourage your workers to incorporate a little of that culture into their home office setup.
This might include using company colours somewhere within the design or providing branded equipment that features your company logo. You might also consider issuing monthly certificate-type awards for exceptional performance that employees can display at home.
However you approach this, the goal is to remind your team that they’re part of something bigger, and to encourage them to be proud of it.