Over the past several years, the future of work has seemed constantly in flux, leaving many leaders with uncertainty where clarity used to prevail. When creating a productive, creative workplace that welcomes employees and makes them want to spend time there, it’s critical to consider not only comfort and ergonomics but also how the environment affects everyone in it. By designing a workplace with multisensory experiences, you can offer areas with varying stimuli to better meet the needs of your workforce.
Multisensory experiences stimulate different parts of the brain using everything from workplace design and object placement to opportunities for socialization, creating optimal emotions, perceptions, and experiences. Ultimately, it can help everyone—including the organization—thrive.
When returning to the office, designing multisensory experiences can be particularly helpful as teams adopt hybrid work models. While working from home, employees had various opportunities for exposure to different stimuli throughout the day, like changing to a different room or seat, taking a walk, or brewing fresh coffee. By providing complementary scenarios in the workplace through the strategic use of sight, sound, touch, smell, and taste, you can create an environment that supports engagement, connection, and productivity.
How can you incorporate this human-centered approach to design in your own workplace? Here are some strategies for engaging all five senses in your design.
For Sight: Consider Color, Lighting, and Layout
When it comes to workplace design, sight may well be the predominant sense in play. After all, the majority of design caters to what you see. The building’s architecture, the layout of each work area, the lighting (both natural and artificial), and the aesthetics of the office furniture all play into the sense of sight.
Three essential considerations include:
- Color: The use of color affects mood and productivity.
- Lighting: Both natural and artificial lighting impact comfort and alertness.
- Layout: The arrangement of workspaces impacts workflow and collaboration.
There is an entire field dedicated to exploring how color and mood connect. You can use color psychology in your office design. Color psychology shows that specific colors affect mood.
For example, warm colors like yellow and orange typically feel cheerful. Cool colors like green and blue often feel tranquil.
Vibrant, bright colors increase focus. Lighter, muted colors calm and inspire. Neutrals, such as gray and white, may seem sterile alone but balance other colors.
Use colors wisely to reflect the feelings you want in your workforce based on their work area.
Lighting is another critical factor in creating a welcoming workplace that supports comfort and productivity. Inadequate lighting can lead to accidents, productivity issues, eye strain, headaches, and other possible health issues among employees, all of which can cost you in productivity and overall work quality.
Incorporating as much natural light as possible is key to enhancing the employee experience. Research suggests that nearly half of the workforce can attribute sluggishness and tiredness during the day to a lack of natural light in their workspace. Natural light can improve mood and concentration while reducing eye strain. When natural light isn’t available or is in short supply, maximize what is available with mirrors or elements like ambient lighting, plants, and greenery to balance things out.
The actual footprint of the office and the layout of the furniture and individual workspaces define how those spaces are used. The layout also affects how the lighting functions and how the workplace feels. Is it overwhelming, confusing, and disorganized? Or are the various workspaces uncluttered, easy to navigate, and clear in their function? If needed, add signage and other cues to help make navigating the office easier and more pleasant.
CORT can help make incorporating all three of these elements easier and faster. With CORT Permanently Flexible™ Solutions–4SITE by CORT paired with CORT Furniture-as-a-Service™ (FaaS)-you can set up, test, and modify different layouts to determine the design that best meets your workforce’s unique needs.
For Sound: Consider Acoustics and Layout
The layout of an office impacts more than just sight. It can significantly influence the sounds and noise levels too. In turn, this can dramatically affect employees’ ability to focus, concentrate, and accomplish their work.
Research shows that distractions cost an average of 23 minutes of productivity per day, with noise pollution being one of the top distractions at work. Worst of all, workers lose an average of 86 minutes each day due to distractions.
That’s why considering acoustics as part of office design and layout is critical. It requires understanding how employees may feel and experience the space. Leaders and decision-makers must recognize how noise travels in the area and remain aware of the need to separate quiet zones from collaboration areas.
Providing quiet areas for focused work and private meetings is a good start. Strategically using furniture and decor can help muffle and absorb sound. Soft elements like rugs, upholstered chairs, sofas, and pillows can absorb sound. Panel systems can offer additional privacy and noise reduction.
For Touch: Consider Temperature and Textures
Visuals aren’t the only important element in office design. How a space feels physically can also significantly impact concentration and productivity. For example, office temperature affects comfort, focus, productivity, and more. When it’s too warm, employees may feel sluggish and drowsy. On the other hand, when it’s too cold, productivity slows and mistakes often increase.
Textures are another key element that can set the tone in various workspaces. Engage the sense of touch using different textures in flooring, furniture, and other surfaces to achieve the right mood. While hard surfaces may feel cold, adding soft materials and natural elements can balance the look for a calming, inviting style.
CORT understands that high-quality, comfortable materials never go out of style. However, you may want to change things up occasionally. CORT FaaS makes it easy to change textures and mix hard and soft seating to find the perfect balance of practicality and comfort for your workplace. With options ranging from traditional office furniture to more home-like rentals, we can help you achieve a thriving culture and productive workforce.
For Smell: Consider Air Quality
The sense of smell is often overlooked in the workplace. However, when you consider the power that the olfactory sense can have over mood and productivity, you’ll see why it’s a critical factor in creating a positive workplace environment. When exposed to unpleasant odors, productivity can plummet and workers may struggle with frustration and decision-making. But when employees are exposed to pleasant aromas that they like, creativity and problem-solving abilities increase. Research shows that pleasant scents can increase focus, self-confidence, and efficacy in the workplace.
To address scents in the workplace, consider the proximity of waste bins and eating areas to workspaces. Lingering food odors may be distracting. Additionally, if you’re considering introducing scent, it’s critical to be mindful that it could trigger allergic reactions or sensitivities.
Additionally, dust, mold, mildew, and chemicals can all impact indoor air quality. Investing in a high-efficiency ventilation system, changing the filters regularly, and using air purifiers can help improve indoor air, leaving the workplace fresher for an improved olfactory experience.
For Taste: Consider Accessible Snacks and Drinks
Last but never least, you cannot neglect the importance of taste. Although it may not be the first thing you think of while creating your workplace design, it is a critical factor in creating a sense of community. Providing refreshments or an inviting space to enjoy them shows that you care about how employees experience the workplace.
A Multisensory Office Is the Future of Work
Engaging all five senses can make workplaces more welcoming and less stressful, increasing employees’ desire to spend time there. Using multi-sensory design helps bridge the gap between in-office and remote work, making employees feel more connected. Addressing what you see, hear, feel, smell, and taste shows your commitment to supporting employees and providing environments tailored to their needs.
CORT Permanently Flexible Solutions® simplifies this process. Discover how we can help you and your organization enhance the five senses and design offices to lead your workforce into the future of work.