In your personal life, you probably don't doubt that your physical environment affects your mood. Just think about how a messy house can get you down or a walk in a pretty natural landscape can calm you. In life, we routinely change location in order to influence our moods.
Why wouldn't the same be true of your office? Think about things in this light and you can probably see that your drab surroundings aren't doing anything for your team's happiness, creativity, or productivity, but then you put your sensible business owner hat back on and start counting up the costs of a remodel.
Is souping up your office really worth the outlay it takes to create a warm, inviting space that inspires your employees and impresses your visitors? That very much depends on the approach you take to your office overhaul. It's entirely impossible to pimp your workspace without spending a fortune, according to a slew of experts. Here are some of their best tips.
1. Invest in air freshener
When you're fixing up your office it's natural to obsess about how things look, but don't neglect another important sense--changing how your office smells can also make it a much nicer place to be at basically no cost.
"In Japan the Takasago Corporation carried out research into how smells affect the accuracy of typists. It found 54% made fewer errors when they could smell lemon, 33% fewer with jasmine, and 20% fewer with lavender," reports Jon Card in the UK Guardian newspaper. "So perhaps what businesses need most of all is an improved air freshener?"
2. Accent with the personal or quirky
The best office spaces aren't just functional, clean, and not ugly; they also capture something of the spirit of the company. So make sure that once you have the bare bones of your design in place, you also splash out on a couple of quirky touches. They need not be expensive. A feature wall with your company logo is one place to start, or "mix in some vintage touches, a kitschy accessory, an antique, or something handmade," suggests Kentin Waits on blog WiseBread.
"I've seen doors made into coffee tables, milk-bottle crates converted into lights for a milk company--I've seen some amazing things, cheaper than buying a piece of art, that reinforce not only a brand but also its green credentials," Chris Booth, managing director at leading UK office design specialist Overbury, told Forbes. The Chief Happiness Officer blog has also rounded up lots of cool suggestions.
3. Trade in your corporate art
For the love of all that's holy, please, please don't subject your people to soul-destroying posters of eagles and inspirational phrases! There are many, many better alternatives that won't break your budget.
"Search online and download a digital photo with the appropriate Creative Commons license. Make it your own by cropping, zooming, or adding custom effects," says Waits, or "enlarge and print a favorite poem, quote, or excerpt from a book. Matted and framed, it can become an unexpected and unique art piece." Just don't skimp on size--at least one or two truly big pieces will anchor your office, he advises.
4. An alternative to the whiteboard
Looking for an even larger decorative touch to give your space a distinctive character? Waits has another idea. "We've all seen chalkboard spray paint used in kitchens and kids' rooms, but what about your office? A chalkboard is a quick way to take a note while you're on the phone and it's more stylish than a startlingly white whiteboard," he suggests.
5. Opt for the Amazon desk
Even companies with vast budgets can come up with thoughtful ways to economize on office design (that you can steal). Just ask Amazon. "That's right, a company worth billions understands that frugality is smart in good times and bad. They do it by taking a solid-core wooden door with no pre-drilled holes and attaching pillars as legs. You can do the same thing in your home office, using any large, workable surface," reports Suzanne Kearns on Money Crashers.
6. Do you really need that reception area?
"Doing away with reception areas is a trend we're increasingly seeing," notes Booth. "If you've got clients coming in all the time, maybe you need one; if not, is it essential?"
Pondering ditching your reception area but nagged by worries that clients might feel lost at sea when they step into the office? Maybe the answer is right under your feet. One company that Isabelle Glinka, principal of LUX Design, worked with "needed a way to guide their clients through the space since they did not have a receptionist. We put their branded bubbles on the ground, some in blue, some in green. The different colors lead to different rooms, making it very easy for them to explain to the client where to go." The cheap and colorful floor markers also personalized and brightened up the space.
7. Be a neat-nick
Not to sound like your mom, but cleaning up costs nothing and radically improves the look of your office. "It's amazing how quickly a neat and tidy office can turn into hurricane zone," says Paul Kelly, head of marketing at design firm Morgan Lovell. "We have a 'no eating at desks' policy, which keeps rubbish in its proper place as well as crumbs off the floor. We also recommend that you ban bins at desks to avoid the inevitable pile up of rubbish at workstations. It also encourages recycling," he says.
Also, don't forget that tangle of cords. "Is your computer area turning into a dusty and tangled nest of cables, cords, wires, and plugs?" asks Waits. "If so, it's time to get organized. Label each with plastic bread bag tags, wrap with Velcro strips, and run cords along the backside of a desk using eye hooks or clips. Or explore other methods to control the web of wires."
8. Bring in the great outdoors
Any glimpse of nature has been shown to boost creativity, so make sure you incorporate some way for your team to connect with the great outdoors. "Get a live plant that will survive and look great, or if you know you'll kill it, arrange your desk to look outside. You'll love to see something green and alive right there at work and it will make that creative thinking view so much nicer," Curbly advises. Even using natural materials like unpainted wood can help on this front.
9. Renovation as a money spinner?
You expect changing up your office to cost you money, but here's a radical idea. If you end up having a few desks to spare, improving--and then renting out--some of your space can actually make you money.
"All too often we waste space, not really using every spare foot to its maximum capacity. If you have an office, the chances are you have lots of extra room, even if you don't realize it yet. Take a step back and ask yourself: How full is my office, really?" suggests Tom Reynolds on the Bplans blog. Suddenly that office upgrade might even be able to pay for itself. Check out the post for more details on how to do this.