Your waiting room is the first thing people see when they enter your office space, and it has a bigger impact than you may realize. Studies show that first impressions are made within 7 seconds of meeting someone, and the same could be said of your work place. When guests, stakeholders and employees enter the front doors, their first focal point is the reception desk. You want your best foot forward when greeting new and existing clients, so here are some specific ways to make sure your front desk, and by extension your brand experience, provides a positive reception.

Welcome, Yet Secure

The type of business you're in does matter in the choice of a reception desk. If clients entrust you with extremely personal or secure information--such as an IT company selling state-of-the-art proprietary software, or a doctor's office, where patients require privacy for their medical needs--you want a desk that acts as a barrier between the waiting room and the inner sanctum.

However, barriers make people uncomfortable. While you want to control who gets past reception, you don't want to turn people who have business with you away. A desk with a high counter is more secure, but it also separates your point-of-contact person from those seeking the help your company provides. Consider a lower desk surface, even if the desk itself is wide and imposing. This hides your receptionist less from incoming customers, and gives a sense of openness. Yes, you're keeping sensitive information secure beyond the desk, but you're available to help those who seek you out.

Professional, Not Stuffy

As the focal point of the waiting room, a reception desk absolutely should reflect your company and your brand. Are you on the cutting edge of technology? Then a big, boxy number won't speak to the innovation happening within your offices. Is your company more avant garde? Don't be afraid to show it with the décor in your waiting room.

A custom made desk with curves, textures, or even strategic lighting gives off an air of originality and tells your business contacts that your company is at the forefront of your industry, and you're not going anywhere. Incorporating texture into the desk, perhaps with a design lit from within, or a pattern on the surface helps draw attention to the entry point of your business, and done tastefully, the reception desk can become art in and of itself.

If your business needs more of a classy feel, consider wood or chrome and glass options, which showcase taste and power as well as efficiency without being distracting from the business at hand.

Don't Sacrifice This One Element

You absolutely want your waiting room to be beautiful, inviting, and reflect your company and brand, but there's a big thing to remember: this is an employee's workstation. It has to be functional for them to do their job efficiently. Because it's front and center to new business, it can't be a mess. Proper storage for files and personal items help keep your receptionist organized and able to maintain a clean workspace. Clever design can build in nooks and crannies for all your receptionist's needs--including personal touches that help make the desk their work home. 

Showcase Your Assets

Don't overlook the opportunities for marketing in your waiting room. It's not unusual for companies to have a flat screen monitor mounted on a wall with a continuous stream of content about the company or products and services. But what about incorporating your brand into your furniture? The company logo prominently displayed in the design of the reception desk can be eye catching, and the surface is ideal for brochures and product placards. Your guests approach the desk first thing upon entering, so why not get their attention while they wait to be greeted with reasons your products and services are superior?

Size Does Matter

In a busy setting, where more than one person works at reception, such as a hotel, you'll need to ensure the desk has an ideal amount of space for multiple people. If your receptionist is involved in space-consuming projects when they're not helping customers, give them room to move and store their work. The nature of their job means they're the least mobile of your staff, so proper treatment of their workspace is vital to both their job, and the look and feel of the entrance to your building.

A reception desk and the waiting area of your company is the most important space you have. By considering carefully the type of furniture and message you want to convey, you can ensure that yours has a wow factor your customers will appreciate.

Published on: Feb 23, 2018
The opinions expressed here by Inc.com columnists are their own, not those of Inc.com.