Most offices need a makeover. Flickering fluorescent lighting, drab cubicles, and sterile break rooms are anything but inspiring. 


And the impact is more than aesthetic—science has proven our environments affect our moods, energy levels, and cognitive functioning:

  • Clutter increases feelings of stress, overwhelm, and anxiety while stifling productivity and even leading to erroneous decision-making.

  • Lousy lighting causes sleepiness, irritation, eye strain, and migraines.

  • Loud noises elevate stress symptoms by increasing heart rate and blood pressure while reducing blood oxygen levels.

  • Workers in stark white offices tend to make more mistakes than their counterparts in colored offices. 


The good news? Even small environmental changes can spark more inspiration and motivation. Here’s some science-backed advice for adjusting your office space to improve your employees’ moods, energy levels, and overall performance.  

Use Design, Color, and Light to Create More Inspiring Office Spaces

Design With the Employee Experience in Mind 

Aside from waiting rooms, we tend to take a utilitarian approach to office design. But how an office space feels can be just as important as how it functions. 


For example, the expansive look of an open office can be impressive to the eye, but the ample noise that comes with an open office is less soothing to the ear—and it can take a toll on productivity. If you’re working with an open layout, divide the office into zones that support connection and focus where they’re needed most. Create a designated collaboration area that offers everything your team needs to ideate and share: a few comfortable couches, a whiteboard, some scratch pads and pens. Then choose a quiet corner of the office to be a library or deep focus area. Equip it with acoustic panels, dividing screens, or tall planters to minimize sound travel and visual distractions. 


Be thoughtful about including elements that can make your team feel more comfortable throughout the workday: 

  • Allow employees to personalize their workstations with pictures or mementos, which has been shown to boost mood and improve feelings of autonomy.

  • Use coat hooks, shelves, and cabinets to eliminate clutter and keep working areas clean, which can reduce stress and distraction for employees. 

  • Access to nature improves well-being on multiple fronts—so include plants and greenery in your office design, display green spaces on screens throughout the office, or even consider playing nature sounds as background noise to improve cognition. 

  • Don’t overlook rugs, artwork, and other accent pieces, which can make the office space feel more comfortable and inviting. 

Improve Moods and Cognition With Color 

Many commercial spaces have neutral color palettes. Shades of white, taupe, brown, or gray are common because neutral colors are easier to maintain and can complement a variety of decor styles. 


But neutral colors are also “safe”—they don’t make much of a statement. And they can negatively affect performance: Workers in white rooms make more mistakes, and gray can decrease workers’ confidence and energy.


Vibrant colors, on the other hand, can give your office space a distinct personality. Leverage color psychology to set the mood: 

  • Blue, the world’s favorite color, is commonly associated with security, dependability, and trust—which is why blue is often the preferred brand color of finance and insurance brands. Lighter shades of blue evoke feelings of serenity and can be used to create a more soothing atmosphere.

  • Yellow is correlated with joy, optimism, and enthusiasm. We associate yellow with sunshine and energy, so decorating with yellow can foster motivation and excitement. 

  • Green is commonly used to represent nature and sustainability, which is why food brands favor it. Green also evokes feelings of newness, prosperity, and growth—we can’t forget that it’s commonly correlated with money in the US. 

  • Orange is associated with confidence, creativity, and warmth—and it feels fun rather than corporate (Fanta and Nickelodeon feature 2 of the most popular orange logos). Orange is a fitting color for creative industries because it can foster ideation and innovation.


If you can’t paint walls within your space, introduce pops of color with artwork, rugs, throw pillows, or accent lighting. To really crank up the color, invest in couches or chairs featuring bold colors or prints. 

Energize Your Team With Better Lighting

Light exposure affects mood, sleep quality, energy levels, and even metabolism. 


A study by Northwestern University and the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign found that “workers without windows reported poorer scores than their counterparts on quality of life measures related to physical problems and vitality, as well as poorer outcomes on measures of overall sleep quality and sleep disturbances.” In contrast, workers with windows received a whopping 173% more white light exposure and slept 46 minutes more each night.  


If your office space has plenty of windows, there may be a simple solution to helping employees feel more energized: rearrange. House workstations closer to windows so your team members can take advantage of natural light. This will help them keep their circadian rhythms in check, meaning they’ll work more productively during the day and sleep better at night. 


If window access is a challenge, smart artificial lighting can still work wonders. Here are some pointers: 

  • Avoid dim or harsh lighting. Dim lighting causes eye strain, headaches, and sleepiness, while harsh lighting can disrupt circadian rhythms and energy levels.

  • Use cool blue and white lights, which are good for waking up and concentrating. 

  • Avoid fluorescent lights, which can trigger migraine symptoms. Opt for energy-efficient LED, incandescent, or halogen lights instead.

  • Invest in timers or dimmers so you can easily adjust lighting and save energy when rooms aren’t in use.

Office Inspiration Is On Order

Inspiring office design is so much more than hanging up a few generic motivational posters. The right mix of color, lighting, and decor can create an office space that energizes and excites your whole team. 

Check out our buying guides to start browsing office design ideas, or connect with our team to take advantage of free design services.


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