Three Ways to Wake Up Your Workplace

Ask yourself where your happy place is.

You may have picked your favorite vacation spot, a certain restaurant, or even your own home. Chances are that your cubicle or office space didn’t make the cut. It’s no surprise, either. Many workspaces suffer from a dull design, spaces that don’t fully support an individual or a group, and an organizational flow that is not conducive to workers across an ever-widening spectrum of backgrounds, demographics, experiences, and capabilities – not to mention roles and responsibilities.

People want to wake up excited for work, just like they want to feel refreshed walking through the front door of where they work; however, that’s a tall order if you aren’t comfortable in the space where you work. Consider post-pandemic life, and the future of the workplace, especially office space, has changed to focus on comfort, authentic experiences and choice. The recipe for creating a comfortable workplace is to consider how you see it, how you move through it, and how it makes you feel. Here are three tips on how to turn your workplace from a space where employees survive into a place where they can thrive.

How you see a space

Making a workplace that is fresh and unique is not only preferable but also essential. People often reflect on their environment; if the workspace is disorganized and confusing, employees can feel uncomfortable themselves. If the workspace is welcoming, warm and full of character, employees are likely to feel at ease. An environment should never feel like an afterthought. We want an environment that is wholly integrated—that is nice to be in and feels comfortable – while also supporting a variety of work styles and enabling efficiency and effectiveness.

When thinking of how you want to improve an existing workplace – maybe one deemed historic; it’s easy to get lost in the vision of a completely new space. However, it’s critical to first observe what’s already there. It’s rarely about tearing something down and starting from scratch. You can miss many good opportunities that way. It’s more about how to leverage the existing architecture with modern interventions, something a thoughtful and skilled designer can seamlessly integrate.

It might mean reinforcing the original architecture using a hip color palette or replacing outdated furniture while restoring antique upholstery. However, you choose to wake up your workplace, honoring what it inherently offers while keeping its personability (and ever-critical “sense of place”) intact may spark an idea you didn’t know you had.

Take the fusion of classic and modern, for example, found in the Atlas Building. This historic building was previously renovated to cover its original architecture in favor of a more current corporate design, which left it devoid of character and warmth. After determining what would make sense to restore and what would be best to make new, we were able to reform the Atlas Building in a way that pays homage to its original structure while positioning for its next century of relevance.

How you move through a space

Being lost is never fun. Wandering aimlessly through an office building’s hallways without ever making it where you want to go can make you feel like a hamster on a beige, fluorescently lit wheel. To avoid this feeling, it’s important to consider how people will naturally move through the space. Design that helps people orient themselves is key.

When people walk in, they should intuitively know where to go. Lighting, materiality, color-strategy, and of course legible wayfinding – have a huge impact in this area. If you give each arrival point, whether that’s the service desk or a collection of offices, its own signature feel, wayfinding will come naturally to anyone who walks through the front door.

The Sky Lounge and roof deck at the 312 Elm Street building, also in Downtown Cincinnati, are good examples. They are on the 14th floor of the building, at the end of a long grey hallway. Originally, that hallway was like those found in most commercial office buildings — mundane and indiscernible from any other corridor in the building.

Our team designed a series of moss and wood panels, in addition to clear signage, to serve as a marker to help orient and ultimately lead people down the hallway. The far end of the corridor is the most dramatic intervention and serves as a beacon, attracting people to the indoor and outdoor tenant amenity spaces located there. It’s not just wall decoration. It’s a comprehensive strategy that connects the initial moment right off the elevator with what’s happening down at the end of the hallway.

How a space makes you feel

The French would call it je ne sais quoi. Famed entertainment judge, Simon Cowell might call it the “X” factor. We simply know it as how something makes you feel. In this case, what makes a space feel right.

If you want to make people feel better in a workspace mentally, start with what would make them feel comfortable physically. Prioritize furniture that softens the space rather than sharpens it. Furniture that is comfortable and oriented towards each other will allow for comfortable meeting spaces.

Keep in mind the surfaces of the space, as well. While floor-to-ceiling tile may look chic, it easily turns the space cold and uninviting. It can also make people feel as though they have a lack of privacy. The hard surface makes it difficult to take a phone call or have a conversation without the sound reverberating off the walls and across the room.

This is how the lobby of 312 Plum Street in Downtown Cincinnati started. To make the space more comfortable and encourage connectivity, our team wove warm elements like grass, wood and light throughout the space. A moss wall was installed here as well, creating a welcoming atmosphere and a clear path from the front desk to the elevators.

We didn’t renovate the entirety of the lobby or the building. We created moments that feel intimate and memorable on their own. Details like this make all the difference.

Bringing it all together

So, when you’re looking to renovate a workspace, take the time to sit in the space yourself and observe others as they come and go. Watch what they see and consider how it could be improved. Watch how they move and consider how adding warm elements can make navigation easier and more pleasurable. Watch their body language and the expressions on their faces and go so far as to ask some of them what they think could be improved to make the space feel better.

A workplace is more than just a building – it’s where people go to pursue their passions and make a living. By waking up the workplace, you can transform the walk into work from the worst part of someone’s day to the best part. All you must do is see, move, and feel.