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Making First Impressions Count

When people walk through the door of an office, the reception area is usually the first place they see. It’s a space where they are welcomed or, in the instance of a guest, asked to wait while the person they are visiting is tracked down. It’s in these moments where guests and employees typically form an automatic judgement of a workplace or company. 

Judging something on first impressions isn’t a myth – it’s scientifically proven. Research from psychologists at Princeton University reveals that it takes a tenth of a second to form a first impression. So how can you make a reception area as engaging and welcoming as possible to ensure that first opinion is a positive one? The answer lies in nature.

The term “biophilia” is based on the idea that humans have an innate need to connect with nature and the natural environment – a concept that has been proven to improve wellbeing. Using the reception area to ‘bring the outside in’ and exposes visitors to nature through interior landscaping can have a positive impact. By reinforcing your brand message and ethos through the senses of sight (plants), smell (ambient scents) and touch (organic textures and patterns) for example, you will create an emotional connection between your guests and your business. 

There are several ways in which an office reception can be helped to foster a great first impression, without the need to spend a fortune on interior design. 

Going green

Plants are an aesthetically-pleasing, easy-to-maintain addition to any lobby or reception area – but the benefits don’t end there. In addition to those studies which have shown that plants can reduce stress and anxiety, some plants have also been found to have air-purifying capabilities, which is especially important indoors where the air circulating can be more polluted than outside. 

Incorporating large potted plants by the entrance, complemented by smaller potted plants on shelves or on the reception counter itself is a great place to start for an instant natural feel. Snake Plants, Peace Lilies and Aloe Vera are just a few examples of beautiful foliage proven to purify the air and remove toxins. 

To truly achieve biophilic benefits, office designers should think about incorporating these elements in a way that fabricates a natural environment. For example, consider arranging plants of varying heights and textures in a more sporadic order, to keep with the random way that plants might appear in nature. 

Living walls 

Living green walls are a wonderful solution for those offices interested in making a powerful connection to nature, but where reception space is limited. They’re made up of panels of plants grown vertically using hydroponics, on structures that can be either free-standing or attached to walls. 

As styles and requests for living walls evolve, and businesses look for solutions that are even more natural, moss walls are becoming increasingly popular. The flexibility of these walls means that as well as reflecting the natural environment, brands can also express their personality by incorporating any logo design into the structure - the perfect solution for a reception area which should both be appealing, but also celebrate the brand it represents. 

Colour me happy

Earlier this year, the Pantone Colour Institute announced its 2019 ‘Colour of the Year’ as ‘Living Coral’ – chosen for its “animating and life-affirming” hue which “energises and enlivens with a softer edge”. Coral is a colour we often find in our natural surroundings through things like flowers and sunset, so for those office designers who want to stay on trend while improving the natural feel of a space, injecting coral into wall colours, fabrics and accessories should have a positive and uplifting effect. Dulux has also named its paint colour of the year as Spiced Honey – a similarly warm tone, but with more natural qualities. Bringing both these colours together in the reception area with leafy plants can create a palette which both inspires and calms guests and employees. 

Natural Lighting

A new survey by Future Workplace reveals that employees crave access to natural light and views of the outdoors above any other workplace attribute. The study also found that the absence of natural light damages employee experience. 

Biodynamic lighting is the latest trend in biophilic design that can create a positive impression. This next evolution of commercial lighting involves introducing systems that mirror natural sunlight conditions. During winter months, or in offices where the reception area has reduced access to natural light, this lighting innovation can help to regulate the human body’s natural circadian rhythm, leading to improved mood regulation, regardless of proximity to a window.  

Final thoughts

An office reception is the face of a brand, so it’s important to ensure it represents the company’s values and feels welcoming. By considering the biophilic elements you can inject into interior design through plants, colour and lighting, you will notice clear benefits to the way people perceive your business, and how employees operate.