Words by Jake Cooper

The team’s growing Rachel from accounts is sat on the windowsill because, well she likes natural light and with just the right amount of force the small filing cabinet will just about close.  Sure there’s no space for everyone to sit down and it would be nice to have a little extra space but is it worth the hassle of moving when Gary can do his sales calls from those neat little cubicles in the men’s loos. 

If this is you and you have finally taken the plunge and got yourself a bigger office space then congratulations, it’s an exciting time however, now you have the space for everyone to sit down and maybe even have a private meeting or call it’s time to think about the design of your space.  A well-designed office can massively impact the productivity and creativity of your employees as well as making you the flyest place to work in whatever affordable workspace you have chosen to hang your hat.   

It’s been pretty well documented over the last few years that bringing employees back into the office is proving to be a bit of a battle.  One of the ways that will help to drag those pyjama dwellers back to the office without them kicking and screaming is to create an environment that feels desirable to work in but also hangout in. 

So where to start, The first thing to consider is orientation of your desks. The key thing here is to think about collaboration, who needs to work with who and when, think about who the noisy people or teams are and place them away from the teams or people who need quiet time.  If you have a compact office and you need somewhere for a salesperson to make lots of calls then you could consider a phone booth.  Get this right first time and you will find the office a much more cohesive place and your life will be much easier. 

For some reason when people wrote the rules on office furniture they decided that desks and chairs needed to be ugly and dull, grey white and black has become the office standard. So, I suggest trying something different, you wouldn’t allow an office desk in your house so why put up with it in your cool new space.  My hack is to order a piece of wooden oak work top and some hairpin legs and use it as a desk it comfortable .  The natural wood tones add a nice homely feel to your office, it’s hard wearing and cost effective, if oak feels a bit boring then explore some more interesting solutions like dark American Walnut or Rosewood.

Now on to colour, there is a tendency to lean towards white when it comes to offices but in my opinion there is nothing more boring than a white office, it creates the kind of environment for David Brent to excel.  In the late 70s an experiment was undertaken to test the effects of colour on inmates behaviour in a prison, they painted all the walls pink and observed a significant reduction in aggressive behaviour.  Now I am not suggesting you paint your office pink, however, it is well documented that colour can have in impact on mood, productivity and mental well being, so use it.  There are few suggestions that certain colours promote different things, blue for example is said to promote efficiency and yellow creativity, I say this is a load of old tosh.  

Colour is difficult to get right but my rule of thumb is if your space is darker with less natural light you can create a cosy space by using a darker colour if it’s bigger and brighter then use a lighter colour to accentuate the sense of space.   Green is a colour associated with calm and I often find myself leaning towards a dark green in our communal coworking spaces and meeting rooms to create cosy nooks for people to sit in and calming but interesting spaces for meetings.  Save yourself some money and get a colour match to one of the bigger brands like Farrow & Ball, Little Greene or Edward Bulmer and have fun, if it doesn’t look great you can always repaint it but remember, white walls say nothing! 

Now this is an obvious one but adding greenery into an office is always a lovely touch, however, it’s important to think about what will be happy in your space because plants are not cheap to replace.  The best place we have found to buy plants for offices is directly from New Covent Garden Market, even here you can easily spend £180 ono a large rubber plant or Fig tree which are always popular.  However, some of the best plants for offices are devils ivy and vines or cheese plants which are much more affordable and seem to more hardy for the office environment.  Make sure you are careful where you place the plants in your office, they generally hate aircon and don’t want too much direct sunlight and definitely don’t want to be over watered.  

If your office is big enough you may want to incorporate some fun or social spaces into it, think about things that people might enjoy using that will stimulate office interactions.  A bar is a fairly in-expensive and fun way to get people in your office socialising, it creates a hub for people to have a drink on Thursday evening or a team event.  Alternatively thinking about office games, people generally lean towards ping pong and rightly so, ping pong tables are constantly in use at our flexible workspace.  However, there are other options which are a bit quieter and still lots of fun, a small putting green or a giant chess board can offer a good opportunity for team building and socials.  

Whatever you choose to do make sure it’s not just an after thought, thinking carefully about the design of your space will keep your employees happy, make your more attractive to new hires and promote your business to any visitors so it’s worth the effort.