Winter. Filled with blustery, coat-grabbing, scarf-wearing runs from our warm cars through the office's chilly lobby and to our desks. Turn on the space heater, start the laptop, and ah, what a nice, cozy start to our work morning. Doesn't sound like your cup of tea? It's not mine, either.
What if this could be different? What if, instead, once you step into the building, you are greeted by a warming scent in the air, thriving plant life, and an overall ambiance that creates a feeling of comfort and energy? Sound better? Of course, it does.
Conventional wisdom would have us thinking that cozy spaces have no place in the office. But thanks to trailblazing companies, extensive industry research, and a pandemic, we now know better. See what Bloomberg has to say about this.
It only takes a moment to think and realize we need more than a series of cubicles for our work. Sprinkle in a few meeting rooms; voila, you've created an uninspiring space powered by humans. After all, we are not worker bees or ants falling in line with a singular task assigned to our lives. Gretchen Rubin states that to be healthy, happy, productive, and creative, we need comfort, safety, growth, and beauty.
Work and life are one and the same. We work for life. To sustain life. We work to grow.
To once again refer to Gretchen Rubin, she wisely noticed in her research on happiness and its pursuit, a key component to human happiness is to be in a state of growth. Our workspaces should be designed to support this.
If this is true, which I believe it to be, spending a significant portion of one's life attached to a keyboard and mouse is not only uninspiring, it's a clear detriment to our overall health. We must move, see new things, experience beauty, and have times of activity and times of rest. If we want our employees to thrive, grow, and be of true value to our business (a goal common to our employees as well), we must make space for this in our workplaces.
Let's start with a visualization.
- Imagine your favorite place in the world. Close your eyes if that helps. Imagine a place that makes you feel great. It could be the beach, your backyard, a garden, up in the mountains, or wherever you feel happiest and most content.
- What do you see? What are the colors and objects? Look left, look right, and really experience the space. What do you notice?
- What do you feel? Your toes in the sand, a warm breeze on your cheeks, put yourself there and explore.
- What do you hear? Perhaps the gentle lapping of the ocean's waves, songbirds calling to one another, leaves rustling in the trees, what else?
- What are the scents? Is it floral, fresh, earthy? Really, dig in and describe it to yourself.
- And finally, are there tastes you experience? Where do you eat when you're in the area? Do you bring a snack or meal? What do you crave when you're there? Describe it to yourself.
After you've had a chance to immerse yourself in this space, go ahead and look around your workspace. What are some of the differences and similarities you can identify between that and your happy place?
Of course, your happy place will be different from your coworkers'. Regardless, the answer to enhancing your workplace for both you and your employees can be found in those gaps. While we all have our own preferences, we also have common natural reactions to our environments.
This article is coming out in winter because our bodies naturally want to go into a hibernation mode at this time of year. It would be nice if our work lives could slow down along with everything around us. But unless there's a paradigm shift in work culture, we will have to make this work. So, improving our winter workspaces can significantly boost our moods and effectiveness. If we're continuing to work at a clip over the winter, let's set up our spaces to be inspiring.
I offer you a few ideas:
Bright task lighting at each desk can be a way to mimic the sun. Open or install shades that allow for as much natural light to flow in as possible. Warm lighting in spaces intended for rest can encourage a deeper rest, resulting in better productivity once returning to active work.
While we tend to want to stay inside and be more sedentary in winter, science also knows that even a small increase in movement improves health, mood, and productivity. Creating spaces for light to moderate physical activity in the office can be a solution. Standing desks or a simple gym setup can be a huge asset to your business.
Extensive studies have shown that plants are highly beneficial to our mental health. Plants add literal and figurative life to a space. Some well-placed, low-maintenance plants can greatly impact the workforce that experiences them.
As Meik Wiking says in his book My Hygge Home, "One of my favorite things to do as a kid was to build caves." This is common for so many of us. Why? That coziness, that comfort, the ability to get away and hide in a few moments of solitude. It was precious to us as kids, and it is now, though we often don't give ourselves that space as adults.
So, this winter, where will you take this? To start, consider some small changes you can make in your own workspace and do them. Experience the effects on your mood. Then, make a plan. What can the greater office space be like next winter? The best time to have a cozy office is this winter. The second best... is next year.