Good things happen when we design the office based on the five senses.
The workplace is for the people, not for the machine nor the furniture.
As we know it, we humans are full-bodied sensors. Our five senses—sight, smell, sound, touch, and taste—help us determine, understand, and navigate spaces. Our brain processes the information our sensory organs collect, allowing us to react. What we see, feel, taste, hear, and smell affects our mood and behaviour, every time.
This is the idea behind multisensory office design.
Multisensory design acknowledges that people experience and react to space in many ways, subtle and obvious, consciously and unconsciously. - Work Design Magazine
The architecture industry believes it is an improved approach to our current workplace design. It's a notable part of human-centered design—the reason why people don't hate the office anymore. Moreover, the multisensory design is viable, regardless of the size of your business.
Here are 10 simple ways to achieve the multisensory office design:
1. Let the natural light in - Invite a lot of natural light in your office by placing strategic windows and skylights. Research suggests that exposure to sunshine help normalise your employee’s body processes including sleep, heart rate, and body temperature. It also boosts their alertness and accuracy. Moreover, natural lighting in the office lets them absorb vitamin D from the sun, strengthening the skeletal and immune systems of the body.
2. Employ biophilic designs - Simply displaying plants, hanging photos of natural landscapes, and using wood can increase office productivity and stimulate creativity.
3. Avoid an overcrowded office - Keep a considerate space in between workers who share a the office. Your employees will do better in their jobs if you give them personal space. Instead of choking cubicles, invest in transparent or frosted glass partitions. Giving out flexible working opportunities to minimise the number of people in the office works well too.
4. Use a scent diffuser - A pleasant office scent creates a strong, positive association to work. If you plan to use humidifiers in the office, choose oils with a fresh, subtle, natural scent. Strong smelling fragrance might irritate some of your workers.
5. Scatter the aroma of coffee - The smell of coffee, according to research, is enough to keep your employee’s mind awake and alert.
6. Keep the restroom smelling clean - The bathroom is an office necessity. If your bathroom has a pungent smell, it is disgusting and unhealthy. Make sure that the cleaning personnel frequently cleans the bathroom. Also, provide soap with a strong, fresh smell.
7. Offer a variety of food in the pantry - Turn a simple break time to a social time using food. Free food gathers your employees together in a single place where they can interact with their colleagues. When members are interacting well with the rest of the team, you’re helping build a stronger office culture and a happier office to work in.
8. Jam with relaxing or energising songs without its vocals - A study from England, songs with no lyrics are less distracting and great for concentration. You won’t feel the need to shift your focus to the lyrics of the song you like because you don’t hear the lyrics anymore. In fact, I'm listening to this track while writing this article.
9. Play ambient, natural sounds - The sound coming from nature are so random and tranquil, it hardly draws away our attention. According to the Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute, using this as background music in the office optimises our ability to concentrate and enhance our cognitive functions.
10. Keep a thermally comfortable environment - The optimal office temperature at 21-23 degrees Celsius. Employees feel comfortable with that. If it’s too hot in the office, they'll feel irritated. If it’s too cold, they might slack. An employee who’s not comfortable in the office always gets the sick building syndrome or the urge to skip work even if they’re not really sick.
There are a lot of ways to stimulate your senses in the office and bringing them all together is complex, hard work. You’re not designing a space for a single person anymore. We’re looking at an army—a group of people capable of a better business. You can unlock the future and full capacity of your business by paying attention to these simple multisensory details.
Charlene Ara Gonzales is a design writer in Superdraft Pty. Ltd.'s team of architects in Sydney, Australia.