The designed workplace – how to create a space that inspires great work

Workplace design consultant Barbara T. Armstrong says: “Working with businesses of all types and sizes, from Global 100 companies to growing entrepreneurial enterprises, I am certain of one thing: Workplace design can, and does, inspire innovation.”

This is a significant statement, drawing our attention to the importance of really thinking about office design – whether for your home office or a corporate office space – as the design of your workplace affects the quality of work produced. In such competitive times, we all need to be pushing the envelope, so having an environment conducive to imaginative and pioneering work is critical.

There are many elements to consider in terms of designing a workspace that inspires quality work, from proper lighting to collaborative spaces, amongst others. Below we discuss four of these elements and consider how and why they can help you to design your best workplace. 


The right lighting

Image via

Good lighting is imperative to good work. So let’s talk lighting basics …

Good workspaces have more than one light source so as to create diffused light, understanding that a single source of light from one direction causes deep shadows. Ideally you want to incorporate all of the following four sources of light:

  • Natural lighting
  • Overhead lighting
  • Task-specific lighting
  • Accent or decorative lighting

Natural light is arguably the most important type of light in a workplace, so consider large windows and skylights where possible. Fluorescent lighting is cold and harsh, but natural light is warm and costs nothing. Moreover, windows and skylights allow people to see outdoors, which is almost always a positive thing.

You do of course want to avoid painful glare and/or reflections on computer screens from overly bright or direct sunlight, so also think about installing blinds or curtains of some sort. Thin ones that cut out glare but still admit a degree of natural light are ideal.

Overhead lights are of course a good general source of light, but mix them with other, task-specific lights, such as desk lamps. Adjustable desk or floor lamps are a great choice as you can angle them to specific tasks such as filing and typing.

Also think about the type of lights you’re using. Yellow lights are much kinder and more welcoming than harsh white light. LED bulbs are popular and have definite environmental benefits, but if your lighting is too dim employees are likely to develop headaches, and, moreover, dim places can make you unhelpfully drowsy during the post-lunch slump!


Image via decorpad.comSitting pretty

Some chairs make you want to sit in them! Like these plush visitor chairs in a home office:

Finally, incorporate accent or decorative lights, such as statement chandeliers and ornamental lamps. Such lights can serve the dual function of adding more light whilst also contributing towards the chosen décor aesthetic.

Granted round chairs are not the kind you want to work in all day, but strangely enough so many desk chairs found in offices around the world aren’t either.

It may seem like an obvious statement, but if you’re in a work environment where you and your colleagues are going to be sitting for hours on end, every day, make your chair/seating choices a priority. We suggest you even make them a décor feature – that way you’re not prevented from choosing the very best you can find based on a clash with some other design element.

Choose truly comfortable, attractive chairs. Even better, have a selection of chairs: desk chairs, yes, but also couches where employees can move to with their laptops for a change of scenery and seating position. And perhaps bar stools by the kitchenette where employees can work while sipping coffee? Flexibilities like this can make such a difference in attitudes and productivity.

Remember that we all want to be comfortable, and furniture can either invite you into a space or repel you – make sure your seating invites employees, clients and visitors into the room!


Collaborative spaces

Corporate offices full of warrens and dens (aka passageways and box offices) are a thing of the past – or at least they should be. They hinder employee interactions and connections, and from a design perspective they’re generally, well … ugly. Open-plan and spacious offices tend to be more dynamic, happy workplaces.

That said, you can still have divisions; in the photo above you see how DAS wall panels have been used to create a division within a large room. This serves a functional role, designating parts of the room to different activities, and can also work as a screen, so you aren’t distracted by what’s happening on the other side.


Image via

Decorative elements

American designer Charles Eames said, "The details are not the details. They make the design." It’s a good quote, reminding us that (small) design and décor choices can make or break a workplace, just like with any other interior space.

In this modern office space you can clearly see that proper thought has been given to the design details of the space. The elaborate mirror frame, chandelier lamp and patterned carpet offer a nice contrast to the sleek lines of the background space, showing how you can go about Mixing contemporary and traditional for the best look.

This office space also incorporates the best of the other design elements we’ve already mentioned: there are various kinds of different lighting; there are different types of seating options; and there is a collaborative space. Moreover, the details are well considered and effective: the carpet, purple roof and walls, mirror, filmy curtain, and chandelier of the high table space all separate it from the main working area, which has an altogether different look and feel to it. The décor details in the foreground area give it cosier, softer look that is very inviting and conducive to socialising and brainstorms.

We hope you now have some handles for approaching your own office design, or redesign, and so can create a space that lends itself to truly great work!


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