Office Design

Office design matters. After all, that's where you spend the majority of your waking hours.

Look around you. Everything you see and use is designed. The city you work in. The building that houses your office. The desk you work at. The computer you operate. The clothes you wear.

Designers do their best to balance esthetics and functionality. They try to create experiences, spaces, and products that both look good and work right. Most of the time they do a good job.

Office Design:
  • Physical Environment
  • Open Office
  • Cubicles
  • Furniture
  • Architecture & Design
  • User Experience (UX)

But some spaces, furniture, and gadgets are better designed than others. Some are so intuitively designed that you never think about them. Some are confusing and frustrating to use. Some even require ergonomic consultants to show you how to use them properly.

Design Your Office for Comfort and Productivity

modern open office designUnless you're an executive, an architect, or a facilities manager, you're probably limited in how much you can affect the design of your personal work space. The layout of your office, the colors on the walls, and many other design elements are already set.

And trends in office design aren't always helping. Executives now allocate fewer square feet per employee, so you can't spread out. Open-office designs let you collaborate more easily, but they can also lead to interruptions and other distractions. Some offices are doing away with personal work spaces entirely.

Still, there's a lot you can do to design your personal work area.


woman at cluttered deskThe first thing many of us can do to improve the design our workspaces is to impose order and organization on the piles of files and other clutter in our immediate environment (apologies in advance if I'm projecting my own sloppy tendencies).

Regardless of your natural tendencies toward chaos or neatness, finding a place for everything and putting everything in its place can bring a sense of calmness and control to your work.

Just don't go overboard in your decluttering. As Albert Einstein observed, “If a cluttered desk is a sign of a cluttered mind, of what, then, is an empty desk a sign?”

Bring the Outdoors Into Your Office

bamboo decoration in officeHumans instinctively love nature and the outdoors. One of the most glaring mismatches in the modern office is our disconnection from the natural world. A house plant, or even just a picture of an outdoor scene, can bring the calming, grounding benefits of nature to your work. If you can get an office with a view of trees and other greenery, that's even better.

Decorate Your Office Space

Even if the main design elements of your office are set, you can probably still decorate your desk and cubicle. One or two pieces of art that you choose, or even a simple panel with a splash of a favorite color, can give you a sense of ownership of the space you work in all day.

Design Your Office Space to Encourage Movement

And, naturally, in the modern active office, your office design should encourage movement. Even if you don't have a standing desk or a treadmill workstation, you can design your space to facilitate more routine movement. Move some of the gear that you use regularly so that you have to stand up to get to it. Improvise a standing desk with desktop riser or a cardboard box (paint it or cover it with shelf paper that fits your office decor). Put your phone on top of the filing cabinet so that you have to stand whenever you get a call.