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If you work in an office, you’ll inevitably know how important the ‘front of house’ area is. Your reception is where customers, clients and visitors will typically be welcomed into the building, and your meeting rooms will potentially host important conversations. Ensuring these spaces are welcoming, engaging and vibrant is crucial to helping foster positive impressions and judgements of an organisation. But it’s not just about the customer.

An office’s interior design can also have a positive and inspirational effect on your staff. After all, it’s a company’s employees, those people who keep a business’s cogs turning and their customer relationships thriving, who are likely to spend the most time in the office.    

Happy team members are far more likely to do their jobs to the best of their ability than unhappy ones, resulting in a better overall customer experience. So, while good management and competitive remuneration may go a long way towards employee happiness, ensuring ‘back of house’ is just as engaging a place to work in, as ‘front of house’ may also play an important part in overall employee wellbeing. 

Your business’s bottom line
Research from the International WELL Building Institute found that payroll costs are 10 times higher than office rental costs, and 100 times higher than utility costs. These figures suggest that creating a positive working environment beyond the reception area and meeting rooms, where people feel motivated and productive, could have a direct impact on your business’s bottom line. This responsibility doesn’t just lie with the office manager, but increasingly the HR team.

Embracing biophilia
Biophilia is humanity’s inherent need to connect with nature and living organisms, with many workplaces now aiming to “bring the outside in” to improve employee wellbeing. This goes beyond just having a few plants around to make it feel more homely, it’s about using design to stimulate employees’ senses and create an environment that feels natural and open. New research from Ambius found that almost two thirds of office workers said they would appreciate their office more if it had more natural elements, such as plants, natural light and exposed wood. Here are some practical ‘biophilic design’ changes employers can make to help improve the workplace in the eyes of their employees.

Start with plants
Studies have shown that in addition to their aesthetically-pleasing nature, plants can reduce stress and anxiety and have air-purifying capabilities. To help encourage a sense-driven connection to nature even further, consider arranging your plants in a way that reflects how they are seen in the natural environment – i.e. positioning plants of varying heights and textures in a more sporadic order.

Eye to the Sky
Exposed wooden ceiling joists are increasingly popular, with their earthy colour and texture subconsciously creating an association with the outdoors. They also offer a good home for hanging baskets, allowing plants with long leaves to dangle freely, and natural light to flow underneath. For those offices with limited space and natural light, skylights are another option worth considering.

Natural materials
Wood is one of the most popular biophilic construction materials and through chairs, tables and room dividers, is an easy material to play with to create areas of privacy or breakout spaces in the office. Reclaimed wood has started to become a more popular choice thanks to its authentic and ‘rustic’ appearance. The fact that it’s recycled from its original purpose is also important from a sustainability perspective, which your staff should appreciate. Green wall dividers are another option – guaranteed to inject life into a space wherever it’s needed.

The feeling of a surface under foot can be quite a powerful sensation. For example, the feeling of walking barefoot on grass or the sand between your toes on the beach is something that can last in the mind. Innovative designers are beginning to incorporate texture into floors, for example indoor grass, natural stone, moss or even elements from forest floors, to create a clear link to the outdoors.

Final words
While your front of house plays an important role in creating a positive impression with clients, your employees are the ones who build the lasting relationship. The physical workspace has a significant impact on their wellbeing and motivation towards your business.

By combining several elements of biophilic design, you’ll create an environment that doesn’t just stimulate employee’s senses but contributes to their overall health and wellbeing, and it’s hard to put a price on that.

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