Why you need a beautiful office

Andrew Badham 2018-12-03 12:08:19


Of all the reasons to feel blue walking into an office on a Monday morning, the colour of your office was probably not the first to come to mind. You’d far sooner attribute your discomfort to office politics before referencing the lack of pretty pictures on the wall. Nevertheless, you’d probably choose a beautiful office over a purely functional one, if given the chance. Is that choice purely superficial? Is there any practical reason we might prefer one environment to another? The exceedingly simple answer is, yes.

Even something as simple as the colour of an office can have a profound effect on the people working there. A study from 1988 looked at the difference in productivity and perceived emotion of staff working in either a blue or a red coloured office. As you may have guessed, the folks in the blue office felt a little more depressed, while the workers in the red environment felt more anxious. In terms of productivity though, there was very little difference; that is, except for participants who were asked to move between the two offices. That group made far more errors in their tasks than those who stayed put.

Of course, colour is by no means the only factor to consider. What about light, space, access to greenery? All of these contribute to our sense of wellbeing. For example, access to natural lighting from well-placed windows helps regulate circadian rhythms. Access to green spaces improves mood and alleviates anxiety. Buildings designed in the golden ratio or those that make use of fractal designs release hormones not altogether different from falling in love. It’s unsurprising then that people will sometimes say, “Oh, I just fell in love with Paris.” or any other beautiful place they’ve found.  

What is the practical application to business though? For the most part, it’s the alleviation of all the downsides of an ugly environment. When people live or work in less than ugly, messy or simply even boring environments, their levels of depression go up. Even mild levels of depression correlate with drops in productivity. In other words, it’s in a business’s interest to ensure their staff are happy. One of the ways they have direct control over that is the workspace itself. You may not be able to change your employees home situation, but you can put some ferns in the office; you can hire an interior designer to work out your colour scheme and ergonomics; you can place pictures on the walls.

There are so many things you can do to improve your spaces, but of course, there is always a cost. That cost is not just the price of the designers or products, it’s the cost of change. Whenever people move into a new environment or their environment changes significantly, they take time to process the change. It’s like moving a cat into a new home, they have to sniff out the whole place before they feel comfortable to settle down. So don’t worry if your initial changes don’t yield immediate positive change; give it a couple of weeks to see real results.

The best part of beauty is that we all understand it on an intuitive level; we feel that something is beautiful or not. So, don’t get hung up on the technicalities of redoing your space. Design it in a way that makes you feel good and you’ll be well on your way to a better environment and better results.  



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