Work environments affect how we feel and perform. Comfort and happiness in the workplace are two of the biggest determining factors in improving productivity. And happy, productive teams can have a proven impact on a business’s bottom line.
As a small business owner, it’s easy to look at workspace design and think: “That’s great, but I don’t have the time, money, or expertise to implement this.” But the truth is, workspace design doesn’t need to cost a fortune, and it’s simpler than you think.
Use these research-backed methods to design a workplace that improves your (and your team’s) well-being.
Create Strong Boundaries
The line between your work life and your personal life can blur easily, especially when you run your business from home. While it may seem like a good idea to work from bed, or at the kitchen table, make an effort to set boundaries that help you step away from your workspace—mentally and physically—when the day is done. Stop “checking in” on Slack or email late at night, and create a dedicated physical workspace in your home.
Living with family or roommates makes this even more important. It’s much easier to separate work and life (and avoid shoulder-taps) if you can close the door. The financial bonus is that, by having a dedicated space for your home office, you can claim the home office deduction on your tax return.
Focus on Space, Not Size
If you don’t have enough space to make a dedicated home workspace, find a corner (or a closet, like these entrepreneurs) that you can turn into a mini office. Alternatively, consider membership at a part-time coworking space. Renting a desk a couple days a week from a coworking space like WeWork is a great option.
Don’t Try to be Pinterest Perfect
Too often, people strive to make a space “Pinterest Perfect.” But the right space for you is the one that makes you feel comfortable and at home. If you feel best in an uncluttered, minimal space, do that. If you prefer to have all of your favorite things around, then by all means, go for it.
Design blogs like Apartment Therapy and Design*Sponge are great places to start looking around for workplace design elements that appeal to you. Look at the colors, prints, furnishings, and general mood of the spaces you like. Gradually, you’ll narrow down what works for you. When it comes to your well-being, looking forward to going to your workspace is invaluable.
Let There Be (Plenty of) Light
If you’re serious about workplace wellness, good lighting isn’t a “nice-to-have.” It’s a must-have. Access to natural light will enhance your psychological well-being, but you’ll need adequate ambient and task lighting in your workspace as well.
It’s best for each workstation to have task lighting that the individual using it can control. Task lighting should have on-off controls within easy reach, and the ability to control the projection of the light.
Not having enough light, or not having the right kind of light, can cause eye strain and headaches. You’ll know you’ve created the right balance of lighting in your workspace when you and your employees feel physically comfortable in the space.
Use Scent to Affect Your Psyche
Smell has a profound influence on our psyche. Every day, retailers use smells as a marketing tool; the smell of fresh bread entices you into a bakery, and the smell of fresh coffee triggers your addiction to caffeine.
Similarly, how a workplace smells affects the brain activity of employees. The Takasago Corporation researched how smells affect the accuracy of typists, finding “54% made fewer errors when they could smell lemon, 33% fewer with jasmine, and 20% fewer with lavender.”
You can easily tap into the power of smell in your own workplace, too. Buy an aromatic candle, or invest in an air diffuser. (This MUJI diffuser uses essential oils and evenly spreads scent through your space.) Smell is a relatively affordable, often overlooked investment that can improve the quality of your workspace and your well-being.
Don’t Sit or Stand: Do Both
To sit, or not to sit? If mainstream media is to be believed, that’s the question plaguing entrepreneurs these days. Turns out, you shouldn’t just do one or the other; striking a balance between standing and sitting is best. Invest in a sit/stand desk, and enjoy the best of both worlds.
But for the Times You Do Sit...
...invest in a good chair. The long-term health benefits of using an ergonomic chair are priceless. While you might be tempted to pick a chair based solely on its looks, there are plenty of options that are both beautiful and ergonomically sound. Some good options include the Herman Miller Sayl chair (an investment, but fantastic) or any of the chairs in this Meelano collection.
Use Color Consciously
The colors that surround you all day have an effect on your mood. To improve efficiency and focus, aim for "low-wavelength colors like restful green and calming blue.”
Mellow yellow is listed as another good choice; energetic and fresh, the color triggers innovation, and is said to be effective in workplaces “where artists, writers, designers, developers and other creative professionals work.”
If you can’t paint the walls in your workspace, fill your desk and immediate surrounds with images and objects in colors that work best for you.
Invest in Art
Similar to color, artwork can have a profound impact on the workplace. According to Forbes, the right art can:
- Inspire and unlock creative potential
- Help you connect with your clients
- Affect the atmosphere of a room
- Improve employee experiences
Filling your space with art needn’t be expensive. Sites like Minted and Etsy are great sources for affordable art. If you don’t have the budget to acquire artwork outright, companies like Artsicle will let you rent art for a period of time (do a quick Google search to see if there’s an art rental company in your local area). You could also enlarge and frame free hi-res images from Unsplash and Death to the Stock Photo.
Aim for a Clutter Free Experience
A tidy space equals a tidy mind. If you feel stressed at work more often than not, and the mess is piling up around you, set aside some time to declutter.
Marie Kondo, author of The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up, has a simple method for eliminating clutter: look at each individual item in your workspace and ask yourself “Do I use this? Do I love it?” Some items will fall into both categories, and some may only just belong to one. Generally, though, if you only keep things in your life that you use and/or love, your space will be a peaceful, clutter-free zone.
If you struggle with mountains of receipts and paperwork, learn how to make your business paperless before you get stuck into decluttering.
As you invest time and money into designing your workspace, don’t get caught up in the idea that there’s “a right way” to go about it. Your workspace will grow and change with you and your business. Keep experimenting. Hold onto improvements that uplift productivity, happiness, and well-being for you and your team. And be quick to change anything that doesn’t. It’s all part of the process.
Kendra Murphy is on the Design Team at Bench, and she runs Kit + Forage, a studio that specializes in interior and prop styling. Kendra has overseen and implemented the interior design at three of Bench’s office locations.