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Does your heart sink when you enter your office? Does the work interest you but the environment fills you with boredom or even horror?
Some workplaces can drain the life out of you before you’ve had your first meeting where others can be an instant source of inspiration and a lift to your mood after the tedious commute.
There is no debate: our environment directly impacts our mood. Colours influence how we feel and access to natural light will give us a spirit that is easily dampened in a windowless basement or fluorescent-lit room. The decoration on our walls and the choice of furnishings give us a sense of place and a belonging to an organisation or an ethos.
But does your workplace practice any of this thinking? Is it branded to reflect what the company stands for? Has it been designed to bring out the best in you and your innate productivity or have aesthetics and ergonomics been discarded in favour of low cost options and a ‘grin and bear it’ mentality?
Your Company’s History
This week I had the pleasure of visiting the House of Parliament. This is not your average office, I’ll grant you, but it’s an interesting case study because it was designed very much to give an impression – the impression that it had stood there for centuries.
The building was designed by Charles Barrie and decorated by Auguste Pugin in the `Gothick’ style. And while it was only built in the Victorian era (relatively young in our architectural history) it looks like buildings from the medieval period – several hundred years earlier.
Why? Because they wanted the buildings to look established. As if they belonged there. As if they’d always been there.
Does your business place look as though it has stood for centuries? Is that the impression you want to give or do you want to look fresh faced, a new kid on the block?
The Houses of Parliament are decorated throughout in traditional English greens and reds, with red white and blue tiles and a great deal of the wood and statues have been gilded in gold.
There are long corridors of carpets, curtains and leather seats in rich red. Elsewhere the flocked wallpaper is dark green and blood red. It’s a heavy décor denoting traditional values and heritage. And importantly, it sends this message.
What message do the walls of your office send? Do beige walls, blue carpet tiles and black chairs have anything to say for themselves?
Details – emblems and accessories
The Houses of Parliament is literally studded with emblems and symbols. The same patterns repeated over and over in case we might miss their messages of power, strength, compassion and mercy.
The symbols favoured by Auguste Pugin are heraldic – the wallpapers and panels covered in shields, lions, griffins and crosses. All of these symbolise nobility, chivalry and regal power. We know them to be regal because they have been consistently used over centuries. They do not waver from one decade to the next but are a bedrock for future generations. And in using them on the walls of the buildings, Pugin knew that those who entered would feel their message.
What covers the walls of your building? Do you have a logo? Is it used only on marketing literature? Would you feel it to be too kitsch or contrived to have it as part of the fabric you are sitting on?
You could be right. I’m not suggesting excess logo use is right for all brands and for all cultures. But think about Google campuses. How far are they away from the emblems and colours of the Houses of Parliament? Not as far as you might think. Visually yes but symbolically, they are very similar.
Where Google uses primary yellow, Pugin chose gold plated, where Google uses primary blue and primary red, Pugin chose deeper versions of the same. Where Google has slides, fun and a sense of joie de vivre, the Houses of Parliament have heritage and a sense of authority and tradition. Both have a style and a message. Both say a lot about the place that you are entering.
What does your building say about your work? What message does it send to your employees and to your clients? And most importantly can you afford to get this wrong when it can be so easily resolved and have so much impact?