Improve Company Culture Through Intelligent Office Design

For those who work in the office interior design sector, the impact architecture has on people’s psyche is a topic they know well. Universities even offer interior design psychology courses that cover subjects such as Proxemics of Space and Perspectives on Privacy

These theories were first brought forth by Sigmund Freud and Walter Bendix Schönflies Benjamin in the late 1890s and early 1900s. Thus, the correlation between one’s physical surroundings and their mental health was established well over a century ago. Freud and Benjamin suggested that interior design psychology allows one to indirectly influence the inhabitants of a place through perspicacious design strategies.

The Power of Interior Design Psychology

Commercial enterprises have long struggled to realize how interconnected the human psyche is with its environment—at least when it comes to employees. Institutional organizations, on the other hand, know very well the art of interior design psychology. For example, The Yale Journal of Law features an entire section about using architectural design in crime prevention. This has led to a field of architectural study called Crime Prevention Through Environmental Design (CPTED). 

CPTED includes methods like labeling some areas as “designated” but not labeling other areas as “restricted.” Property managers tend to use this tactic in facilities where they want to avoid creating a sense of restrictiveness. Subtle mechanisms tend to work better in triggering subconscious compliance than using straightforward approaches in certain environments. This is in stark contrast with correctional institutions where restrictiveness is a matter of security.

All of us encounter mechanisms built into architecture that subconsciously influence our behaviors, thoughts, and even our emotions. This holds especially true in retail stores, malls, entertainment venues, resorts, and numerous other commercial establishments. Another example of interior design architecture occurs in the health and wellness industry—soft color palettes, shiny surfaces, biophilic environments, as well as integrating outdoor-indoor spaces are a few examples.

Aspects of Proxemics As They Relate to Intelligent Office Design

An American anthropologist and cross-cultural researcher named Edward Twitchell Hall, Jr. coined the term proxemics in the mid-20th century. Today, proxemics refers to the study of people’s use of spaces and how distinct variations in use can alter their feelings about those spaces. It consists of two primary classifications:

  • Personal space: In academic circles, this is called an individual’s “personal territory.” Most people call it personal space or their personal “bubble.” While the boundaries of personal space differ from person to person, the general rule for non-acquaintances ranges from two or three feet to as much as an arm’s length. Of course, not everyone agrees on what exactly constitutes as an acquaintance, making personal space boundaries more complex. It’s important to note that a person is always an occupant of his or her personal space and is always at the center of it.
  • Physical territory: Unlike personal space, people need not always be in or at the center of their physical territories. An example of physical territory in the workplace is someone’s office or desk. Furthermore, even if someone stakes claim over a physical territory, they can’t be as strict about who enters it and who does not; they’re not required to reclaim it each time they leave and return to their physical territory, nor does absence make their claim over it any weaker. Lastly, physical territories are almost never guaranteed to be permanent.

Important aspects of proxemics include the following things.

Perspectives on Privacy

Patricia Brierley Newell from the department of psychology at the University of Warwick in Coventry, England, wrote that privacy, as it relates to Proxemics, is a deliberate and temporary state of separation from the public. Furthermore, someone’s inherent desire for privacy is quite often linked to psychological stress or distress. By providing employees privacy whenever they need it enables them to separate themselves physically and mentally from everyone else and relax.

In psychology, the ability to obtain privacy within an environment is crucial in regulating behavior and wellbeing. In relation to crowding and personal space, privacy dictates the perception of comfort. In other words, the displeasure of one’s environment is often linked to proximity with others. As a result of this, employees feel more stressed which leads to diminished mood and performance.

Perception of Space

The Perception of Space consists of three primary things: 

  1. Evaluation. The aesthetic, affective, and symbolic meaning of space
  2. Power. The energy required for people to adapt to certain spaces 
  3. Activity. Links sound within a space to employees’ involvement and comfort in completing their tasks

In an article published by Forbes, it’s suggested that this may be the reason why open office designs cause employees to become less productive.

System of Objects

The System of Objects was developed by French sociologist, philosopher, and cultural theorist Jean Baudrillard. It proposes that people’s relationship with objects in interior environments holds notable psychological implications. In fact, the meanings people attribute to an environment determine their interaction with it. 

Space-Time Relationships

The Emergence of the Interior written by Charles Rice discusses such topics as interiorization and experience. Experiences are instantaneous in today’s faster-paced modern society. Thus, in many ways, modern employees are missing out on the accumulation of wisdom over time, as well as long experiences such as a connection with tradition. 

Benjamin puts forth the assumption that this has led many to reforge a sense of this relationship through inanimate objects found in their environments. One’s relationship with objects embodies a sense of experience, fulfilling that inherent longing for reciprocity with tradition. One example could be a fireplace, representative of the ancient fireside ritual of handing down oral traditions.

Ways of Tapping Into Psychology to Improve Company Culture

It’s important to understand how critical a pleasant office environment is to your company’s culture. Today’s employees seek an organization that provides them not only resources but a fantastic culture as well. 

There are plenty of great examples of companies with fantastic cultures. For example, Zappos, an online shoe retailer embodies a fantastic company culture. Not only does Zappos offer a fun and exciting workplace but it features an awesome hiring process. On top of that, if new employees decide the job isn’t right for them within the first week, Zappos gives them a $2,000 severance payment.

If you haven’t yet created a company culture per se, it’s a good idea to first define your culture and then build a workspace around it. By defining your company’s culture from the start, you will be able to decide whether a traditional office, open office, or hybrid office design is a better fit. Remember that everyone is different. This mindset has made office spaces that offer choices an up-and-coming trend.

When it comes to things like lighting, it’s time to move away from those drab fluorescent lights. Consider installing more delicate lighting, such as orange and yellow. Natural light is always archetypal of peaceful environments and should be included where ever possible. You can engage with employees in unique ways by incorporating televisions with entertaining content. 

Employees should be encouraged to contribute to the content which also allows them to contribute to the company’s culture. 

Lastly, biophilic office designs are another way of improving company culture. While promoting a greener environment, biophilic office designs are conducive to a comfortable and productive work environment. For information on the support resources FreeAxez provides including CAD, REM/VIT, documentation, and installation plans, please feel free to get in touch with one of our design specialists today.

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