Appealing to the Senses: How Shared Workspaces Tap into the Potential of Sensory Input

Coworking has been on an upward trajectory in recent years, and it’s easy to see why. Benefits of shared office space include reduced costs for companies and the self-employed alike; prime locations in and around major cities; and chic, high-end offices, often with luxurious amenities included in the cost of membership.

It doesn’t stop there. More and more upscale coworking spaces are taking a more holistic approach to the customer rather than trying to cater only to work-related needs.

At Metro Offices, we know the importance of sensory input to high-quality work output. Factors such as furniture design, sounds, decor, lighting, and even color scheme can have a significant impact on people. We take this into account when putting together and maintaining our office spaces. 

Below, we give the top five ways coworking spaces can and should go the extra step and consider sensory-input elements when planning or upgrading their locations.

Ergonomic seating

We may have laughed at “The Office” episode in which Pam so eagerly awaits her boss’ choice of a new desk chair because it means she gets his old one, but office seating is no joke. In a survey, the overwhelming majority of office workers reported being uncomfortable in their work seating, and nearly half (41 percent) said the seating was so bad it was physically painful. 

Don’t skimp on cost when it comes to your desk chairs. “In addition to protecting your employees’ physical wellbeing by correcting posture, providing quality chairs delivers a huge morale boost,” writes Rhett Power, an Inc. contributor, in a recent piece. “By investing in your employees’ daily comfort, you’re showing them that you care.” Comfortable needn’t mean outrageously expensive, either; Ikea’s Markus, for example, is a comfortable ergonomic chair that retails for less than $200.  

For those times your people don’t want to stand (after all, constant sitting is now widely known to be bad for you), consider offering sit-stand desks. Surveys show workers like and want them. Plus, they’ve been shown to up people’s productivity. It’s a win-win.  

Appealing color and decor

That red accent wall your uncle chose for his man cave might say relaxation to him, but not so for the vast majority of office workers. When painting and decorating, think lighter, more neutral tones. While specific-color affinity and dislikes are ultimately a matter of personal taste, some shades seem to be universally enjoyed. Blue is most people’s favorite color, for example, while red is known to generally diminish analytical thinking and increase anxiety.

As far as decor goes, less is often more. A too-cluttered space can sap productivity. So rather than having a multitude of useless tchotchkes in glass bowls in your common areas, consider larger pieces of art for the walls (preferably by local artists), bookshelves with real books, tasteful, simple flower arrangements and interesting ‘focus’ pieces that stand out without overwhelming the room (think a glass-topped steamer trunk as a coffee table for your entryway).  

If possible, choose spaces with lots of natural light. Exposure to it has been shown to increase productivity in workers. 

Ambient sound

One of the downsides of being in a desirable locale convenient to everything is the noise. If you can still hear traffic and other ‘city sounds’ from your office space, though, all hope of a peaceful work setting is not lost. Just pick the right ambient noise to muffle it. 

White noise “played in the background at a consistent level is proven to help mask unwanted sounds,” according to a recent blog post on the topic. “Some proven forms of background noise include rainfall and waves crashing on the beach.” So take a cue from your infant and use a noise machine or take advantage of one of the many great ambient-sound apps that are out there. 

Plants

Bringing in a bit of the outdoors can have some great physical and mental health benefits for your people, and it can add a peaceful, elegant bit of flair to your office decor. Consider adding some (inexpensive) potted plants to your office space’s common areas. Plusses from doing so include lowered stress and upped productivity for employees, as well as cleaner air for everyone.

Don’t have a green thumb, or worry your administrative staff might be too swamped to remember to water live plants? No sweat. Some beautiful, fast-growing plants make our list of hard-to-kill greenery that’s well-suited to office life: cacti, dieffenbachia, and money trees.

The right food-and-drink amenities 

A cappuccino machine might look shiny, fancy and inviting, but if your workers are plain-old-drip-coffee drinkers who take it black, that piece of gadgetry will just become a costly dust collector. Before investing in any common-area perks, try to get a feel for the people who work in your space. Perhaps it turns out your money would be better spent on stocking the kitchen with plain La Croix and some non-perishable, always-available snacks, like dried fruit and pretzels. 

Scintillating scents

Human beings’ sense of smell is perhaps the most emotive of the five senses, being the most closely linked to memory and even capable of influencing mood. So why rely on artificial, industrial spray scents that remind you of “fresh laundry” about as much as a purple popsicle tastes like an actual grape? Or, perhaps worse, let the aroma of people’s leftover lunches and stale coffee create its own unappealing, office-wide scent? 

Consider an aromatherapy diffuser and a universally appealing, mood-boosting scented oil, such as citrus (think orange, grapefruit or lemon, known to up mental clarity), mint or lavender. Remember that however subtle and widely liked a scent may be, there’s no guarantee everyone will love whichever you choose. Some people are simply more sensitive to smells than others, so be willing to do away with the diffuser if it doesn’t have the intended effect. 

If you’ve recently started your own business, struck out on your own as a freelancer, or need a way to cut costs for your organization without sacrificing on location, consider Metro Offices. The leader for more than 25 years in shared, virtual, and temporary office space in and around the D.C. area, we have nine prime, amenity-filled spots in the nation’s capital. Browse our locations today!

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