In the digital realm, people can adjust their environment to their personal preferences and needs.
Whether it’s customizing their desktop image with a photo of a happy memory, making the screen brighter or dimmer, adjusting the volume of meetings, or “snoozing” notifications to accomplish deep work, individuals are in control. In the physical office space however, this optionality is not offered.
How to create happier physical spaces:
Color theory: There is a strong link between colors and mood. Even off-the-shelf smart lights such as Samsung Hue can change the environment to support the activity being undertaken, whether it’s concentrating, collaborating, or socializing. For example, green as a low wavelength color promote restfulness and calm, improving efficiency and focus.
Scents and sounds: Similarly, scents and sounds can be used to positively influence our mood. For example, brown noise and a peppermint scent for concentration.
Social interaction: While countless studies relay how the number one office annoyance is interruptions by colleagues (oh dear!), spaces can (and should) be designed to encourage social interactions, which counters our society’s loneliness epidemic. Providing agency for an individual to both opt in and escape is important.
In the world of hybrid work, it has been argued that team cohesiveness and a sense of belonging have been lost.
Organizations should not just consider the impact of the design of their physical office space, but how their corporate identity can flow through to the experience for both WFH physical spaces, and digital spaces including Zoom and the Metaverse.
That is to say, they should be thought of as one and the same. For example:
Color, scent, and sound theory: Pre-programmed settings that promote concentration, socialization, relaxation, etc. can be achieved at home by providing team members with pre-programmed smart lights and IoT equipment that the team member can adjust to their needs.
Virtual office hours: Where a Zoom room has an “open door,” allowing anyone to drop in and chat without having a scheduled appointment, allows for casual social interactions.
Avatars: Let the team choose who they want to be in the digital realm. In the same way that much effort is put into corporate headshots, encourage and cultivate the development of individualistic digital identities.
To create a happy hybrid workplace, employees need agency to create a positive environment for both their physical and digital surroundings. Organizations can play a role in equipping them with the tools, technologies, and pre-programmed settings to enable this.