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7 easy tricks you can use to improve your office on a budget

We all deserve to work in nice offices

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Andrew "Ace" Houston
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Andrew "Ace" Houston

Founder, House CosmopolitanA former Project Architect with WeWork and currently a Design Consultant for Birdnest along with his own design practice House Cosmopolitan. A former Project Architect with WeWork and currently a Design Consultant for Birdnest along with his own design practice House Cosmopolitan.

As a designer, I often get asked by growing companies how they can improve their offices and create maximum impact with a minimal budget. And it’s a great question, because engaging employees is key to recruitment and retention.

So, if you’re looking for ways to improve your company’s offices, or just your personal workspace, I’ve gathered seven easy steps to help you out. Enjoy!

1. Paint

A change in color is one of the easiest ways to give your space a new feeling. This can also be a straightforward way of taking your company’s brand and putting it right on the walls.

I’d recommend looking into color theory for specifics on mood, but a good thing to always remember is how much natural light you have in your space. One of our offices was recently painted white to spread limited daylight from a window further into this meeting room. Darker colors will absorb light and lighter colors will reflect more of it into the space.

2. Plants

Plants have been proven to improve people’s moods and can also improve indoor air quality, meaning they are key for clean air and a clear mind. In fact, a recent University of Exeter study shows that houseplants can increase productivity by 15 percent! That’s why coworking offices place so much emphasis on placing plants in their spaces.

The number of friends I have that have killed a plant at home could fill an auditorium, so given the nature of business I’d recommend a low-maintenance option like a snake plant paired with some taller plants like an indoor palm.

3. Abstract art

I classify abstract art as art that is open to many interpretations. It provides a conversation piece for visitors and office members alike or can simply be a punch of color in a monotone space. Other good art choices include pop art and/or something related to the company itself.

Extending branding to your physical space can send the message that you live your motto. A recent study from the British Council for Offices shows that 86 percent of employees believe that art “is more relevant than ever” in today’s office environment.

4. Varied lighting

Our brains like variety, and lighting can provide that. Usually offices only have overhead (typically fluorescent) lighting, which can be very drab. I’d recommend providing task lighting at each desk, or if the budget is tight, a showpiece floor lamp.

With lighting, you always want to think about what you are trying to light and what you are trying to do in that area. That will dictate the kind of fixtures you will need, the direction of the light, and the brightness of the lamp. Task lighting, as shown in the image above, is a great option because it gives users control and allows for some personalization. Research done by furniture brand Herman Miller also shows it’s great for your eyes.

5. Breakout space

The best offices provide at minimum two places, if not three: 1) desks, 2) a meeting room, 3) a breakout space.

This is because as an office worker sitting at a desk is fine for a few days, but sometimes a change in scenery is needed to get the creative side of your brain working.

Providing a more casual space with a comfortable couch or armchair allows for more casual conversations, and sometimes the best ideas come from those spur of the moment conversations. I’ve definitely had a number of lunches on couches with colleagues in the past that turned into design solutions that were applauded and implemented by higher ups.

6. Something soft

Recent trends in open office design have been all about wood, steel, and minimalism. What does this translate to? Beautiful, but loud.

Soft materials absorb sounds and can reduce the dreaded echo chamber. Whether you choose to add a carpet, a plush chair, or even curtains, these choices can also add a bit of approachability to what is usually a fairly stuffy or rigid space (think bean bags in an office).  

My go to choice depends on the size of your space, but if your budget is a bit higher you can try some of these options.

7. Break it up

For larger offices, one of the issues is that there are rows and rows of desks without any variety whatsoever. This translates to a dull and uninteresting environment that people do not want to be in for very long — or worse — a modern-day version of Office Space.

I would suggest using some of the earlier tips to create visual variety: this stimulation translates to mental stimulation and will keep your office engaged and interested.

A number of these items can be implemented on your own, however, I always recommend using a design consultant for your unique project. Every space is different and hiring a designer ensures that you can achieve your dreams of an office environment people want to be in and a part of.

Published June 10, 2019 — 07:00 UTC