Instead of tying people to their desk, Tie them to their senses

Whilst the focus over the past few years has been on sustainability and the impact of technology in the workplace, the future trends is to design for productivity, creativity and collaboration. How can we better design to maximise human productivity, potential and performance?

Productivity is not sitting at the same desk all day with your head down. It is creating solutions, achieving outcomes, solving problems. This does not necessarily come from remaining isolated at your desk.

The world has changed. In the past, people had to sit at their desks if they needed to answer emails, but today, anyone can do that—or any other work—from anywhere. Mobile devices have released us from the tyranny of the desk. From a creative perspective, it is no longer necessary to make sure people are at their desks at all time.

Instead it makes it more crucial to ensure people have a supportive, well-designed environment that give them the freedom to work productively whilst connecting and brainstorming with each other. All their senses need to be encouraged to engage.

Designing a space with all five senses in mind can boost productivity in the workplace.  It can make employees happier, more engaged. Designer Jinsop Lee in a 2013 TED talk, postulated that the best designs appeal to all (or most) of our senses.

Sensory design elements such as colours, lighting, sounds, textures and smells can be purposefully adapted to enhance the work environment and increase productivity. Spaces can be designed to meet the requirements of all of our senses, the most obvious of these from a design point of view is sight.


The easiest sense to appeal to, sight can be manipulated most obviously by implementing colour psychology. Brighter colours, such as reds, blues and greens, are conducive to higher focus and task accuracy.

Blue is associated with calm, promoting mental clarity, control and creative thinking. Some studies suggest it can produce twice as many brainstorming results when compared to a red environment.

Citrus hues like yellow and orange, stimulating colours by nature, help people feel more alert, allowing for clear decision making and encouraging lively discussions.

By using colour strategically and following the basic principles of colour psychology, you can promote desired behaviors.

Let there be light

With the sense of sight, the most important part of design is access to natural light. There is a strong relationship between workplace daylight exposure and office workers’ sleep, activity and quality of life.

Natural light is the most popular request by team members when interviewed about their requirements in their office. Focusing on natural light not only helps improve employee mood and productivity, it can also help save on cooling, heating and power costs.

Embrace art

Engaging the sense of sight is about visual interest, and an easy way to introduce this is wall art or sculptures.

Art that has interesting or thought-provoking subject matters not only infuses your workspace with character, it can also stimulate discussion and inspires workplace creativity.

By working with a corporate art curator, you can select artwork that conveys your company culture and branding, sparks employee imagination, and also supplements your Corporate Social Responsibility programs by supporting local, emerging artists.

There is also scope for art installations to change – so the artwork that stimulated and provoked your team last quarter does not remain the same year-on-year. The objective for any corporate art curation is to rotate, build and grow the collection, so it continually evolves and inspires your people.

The design of an office should not just address an employees’ immediate workspace, the design of the whole work environment needs to be designed to stimulate them, and encourage them to work to the best of their abilities whether it be as individuals, as teams or the overall Company.

This Article was published on in January 2015 and can be viewed at

by Ruth Newman