Sight. Sound. Touch. Taste. Smell. Every sense has the power to influence how we perceive the world and how we remember experiences. So what if a space was designed with all 5 senses in mind? Would that make us happier? More productive? More engaged? These questions have been examined by numerous researchers.
Sensory design elements such as colors, lighting, sounds, textures and smells are now purposefully adapted to enhance the work environment and increase productivity.
Here’s a look at how the 5 senses impact employee performance and how you can strategically incorporate sensory design in your workplace:
The easiest sense to appeal to, sight is manipulated perhaps most obviously by implementing color psychology
brighter colors (such as reds, blues and greens) are conducive to higher focus and task accuracy. Blue, not surprisingly, is associated with calm, promoting mental clarity, control and creative thinking. Some studies even suggest that it can produce twice as many brainstorming results when compared to a red environment! Citrus hues like yellow and orange, stimulating colors by nature, help people feel more alert, allowing for clear decision making and encouraging lively discussions.
Another essential component of sight, when it comes to corporate design, is access to natural light.Natural light is, without a doubt, the most popular request by meeting planners.
Studies have shown that focusing on natural light can not only help improve employee mood and productivity, it can also help you save on cooling and heating costs.
And finally, an easy way to introduce visual interest in an office is by incorporating wall art.
Poor acoustics have been known to cause students to miss 50% of what their teachers say. But what about sound pollution at the workplace? According to a recent study, if you can hear someone talking while you’re reading or writing, your productivity can dip by up to 66%.
Perhaps the least studied of the senses, in terms of office design, our sense of touch is closely associated with the emotion of comfort and warmth (or lack thereof). We may be able to immediately pinpoint what makes an office look good, but identifying why it feels good is another story. It’s a well known fact that natural materials like wood and textiles like the soft wool in a shag rug are often associated with a “warm, cozy feeling.” On the other hand, materials like metal and plastic can convey sterility and coldness and are generally not very inviting.
While the sense of taste may not be directly related to productivity, the ingredients in your office lunch or your meeting’s catering menu can certainly impact your alertness levels. According to this study, a wandering mind is key to creativity. However, drinking too much caffeine can make you too focused. Their solution? Trick yourself by drinking decaf (but imagine it’s caffeinated!).
Often paired with the sense of taste, smell is arguably the most indirectly powerful of all senses, as the olfactory bulb is part of the limbic system, the emotional and memory center of the brain.
According to a recent article in Apartment Therapy, these five scents can help boost productivity: cinnamon, mint, lemon, orange and rosemary. You can activate these scents with strategically placed candles, oil burners, or – for more sophisticated scent delivery – you can look into high tech services provided by scent marketing companies like ScentAir or Air Aroma.
What sensory design practices have you implemented in your office or meeting room?