It’s no secret that our environments affect how well we work—the visual world matters, and lots of companies spend loads of money trying to crack the code on making their offices people-friendly. Still, there’s little evidence to show that an open floor plan is better than cubicles, or that beanbag chairs stimulate creative thinking.
Luckily, there are a few visual rules of thumb that work for most situations, including office layout. While there’s no magic bullet for making your coworkers smarter, faster, and stronger, design principles and psychology can help us out in optimizing aesthetic appeal.
Use (relevant) images
First things first: use images. Period. It’s hard to say whether any photo or painting is better than having no visual stimulation at all (a giant photo of a clown might not sit well with everyone on staff). Still, there’s no doubting the benefits of having high-quality visual stimuli in the office. A beautiful painting can spark ideas, sooth an anxious mind, and inspire hard work. Ditto for nice photos. So while you might think that your architecture or furniture (*ahem* swivel desk chairs) speak for themselves, the right visuals can be critical in creating the kind of space people feel comfortable in—whether that means your employees or simply guests to the building.
Nature = stress relief
Of course, choosing the right kind of image is a little more challenging. I personally spent multiple years trying to figure out what kinds of images were most appealing, and found that photos of landscapes ranked toward the top of the list. This was echoed in a study that showed that hospital patients can heal faster when viewing nature scenes. One option is to face office windows towards a lake or a forest, but if you aren’t blessed with prime real estate you might consider using photos or artwork as a substitute. Even if you don’t have a photographer on staff or the budget for a customized painting, Pickit has all kinds of beautiful and free stock photos of nature scenes to spruce up a space.
Don’t use cheesy stock images (even if they’re free)
Be sure to prioritize photos that are high-quality and relevant. If you work for a company that licenses medial equipment, it’s probably not relevant to show photos of carousels and baseball fields, even if your manager is a big sports fan. And rather than cheesy free clipart images of a smiling doctor and patient, something more subtle and genuine will help people to find value in these photos. Again, Pickit has so many free stock images to choose from, there’s no need to go with the same fluff you’d find in a women’s health magazine. Related: nix the cheesy quotes and mission statements that don’t actually add any value to people’s working experience. You’re better than that, and people see right through it.
Emphasize collaboration and individual work
Now, just because visuals are a good thing, that isn’t to say that everyone wants to be confronted with the same visuals all the time—especially if those visuals are in an open floor plan. If things get too busy or distracting, lack of stimuli (including visuals), may be just what some people need. Lots of big tech companies now provide nap rooms for employees, but even for the highly caffeinated bunch, a blank canvas can be the perfect antidote to a saturated brain. Quiet rooms with blank walls are a good contrast for individual work.
Give people tools to do their job—even if it’s outside their job description.
We wrote about how all jobs need to involve design thinking, and that means giving people access to the tools they need to help them think outside the cubicle. White boards, drawing tables, and computer software can elevate the quality and type of work people produce. Think about the natural assets of your company, and emphasize those. Bon Appetit Magazine recently moved into a new office that has more natural lighting than their previous location, which is better for their food photography. Invest in tools and technology your employees most need to get ahead, rather than fancy perks no one uses.
You may think that a flashy office is a good office, but that’s not necessarily true. Instead, what most people want is a place where they can do their work and be happy doing it. While standing desks and free snacks are always a plus, don’t forget about the more basic elements of a space that give it life. Photography and imagery are things we provide in our homes to add our personality and make us happy—by doing the same in the office, we make our coworkers feel like family.
Whether you're looking for quality visuals for your company website or your office walls, Pickit Business has what you need. As well as providing a perfect place to store your own company image bank. Learn more here.
Who wrote this?
This was posted by Anneli L. Tostar, a Harvard-trained anthropologist and artist, originally from Portland, Oregon. She now lives in Stockholm and is studying urban planning and design. Anneli speaks five languages and understands none of them.