WHAT IS MULTI-SENSORY DESIGN?
Multi-sensory design can best be described as an approach to design that encompasses a full experience, one that radiates the desired essence or vibe of a brand using sound, sight, touch, smell, and even taste. Over the past several decades entertainment, retail, and commercial companies have adapted this approach and implemented it to express the brand’s identity and create a lasting impression with its customers. Similarly, it is important for the workplace. While aesthetics and being ‘on-brand’ represent one aspect of multi-sensory design application, the mental, physical, and behavioral effect on those in the space is crucial, especially when considering the health of employees and the sentiment your space evokes.
Sight is considered the primary architectural and spatial sensibility. It is undeniable that when you first enter a room, you are guided by your visual understanding of the layout and furniture, color, light, art, and so on. These different visual elements can play a vital role in an employees mental and physical health as well as creative ability. For example, influential or even branded art pieces can trigger creativity and inspiration in employees. Here are some other benefits to making sure you’ve got ‘SIGHT’ covered!
- Visual access to light and nature to aid circadian rhythms which are tied to mental and behavioral health.
- Access to sunlight, providing Vitamin D for bone health, immunity strength, and reduced inflammation.
- Warm toned, natural materials like wood create positive biophilic effect.
- Making sure there is no overcrowding and that boundaries are created and respected amongst coworkers.
The second most important, and often times hazardous sense impacted in the workplace, is sound. Sound has become an even more overwhelming issue since companies have moved towards using harder surfaces for furniture and more open and collaborative layouts.
- If you plan on having or already have hard surfaces for your office furniture, try to balance this with a soft lounge space that includes pillows, cushions, sofas, rugs and so on.
- Utilize acoustic panels and acoustic art for branded and functional art that will absorb sound made by chatter, HVAC technology, and other distracting noises.
- Plants are a great natural way to reducing sound bouncing off of walls and create a positive biophilic effect.
- Refer to our 5 Ways to Improve Office Acoustics blog post!
Touch can be described as everything from the stiffness or softness of your chair to looking at a chair from across the room and imagining what it would feel like to sit in it. This is the mental impact furniture can have on us on a day to day basis. Another aspect of a space which effects ‘Touch’ is the humidity or temperature of a room. The temperature of a room can easily decide the productivity and overall health of your employers. When focusing on ‘Touch’ in particular consider the following:
- Natural fiber material based furniture instead of plastic create a calming space.
- Offices kept too warm contribute to “sick building syndrome” which affects employees well-being, productivity and overall desire to be there.
- While temperature is important, keep an eye on airflow as well.
- Chose custom furniture to ensure the best materials and optimize your space
- Ask about ergonomic features when considering office furniture!
Smell is the sensibility most closely related to memory. For this reason, retail and commercial spaces often create a signature scent to be associated with their brand and contribute to this idea of a multi-sensory experience! Workspaces too, can depend on smell to help workers feel comfortable and correlate positivity with their work environment. Making a work environment more personal and less sterile through scented candles in the restroom for instance, is a low-cost but effective way to show your employees that you are designing for their comfort and taking their multi-sensory experience into account!
Last but not least, taste! Food and drink are important for representing a community, especially with the amount of time employees often spend in their workplace. Offering your community healthy food options shows that you value their health and ultimately their work and contributions to the company. Many shared workspaces or larger company’s often have food trucks in the parking lot on certain days. When people eat and drink together, they are more likely to bond. As social beings, we should support a healthy, multi-sensory experience.
- Provide good coffee for your employees, as many find it to be a necessity and it promotes a productive workspace!
- Host happy-hour for an end of the day celebration to boost spirits and company morale.
- Stock brain foods that will contribute to a productive workforce!
- Dark Chocolate
- Allowing for a variety of healthy snacks to be offered in a pantry or vending machine shows that you hope to include everyones tastes and care about their health!
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