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It’s time to inspire workplace sense-ability

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Written by: Alberto Brioso

The sights, sounds, and scents within an office can boost the morale and productivity of the people working there. Regardless of the tasks we perform, our senses are with us. Even when in “heads-down” mode, we see, hear, and inhale the atmosphere of an office.

When the office atmosphere is pleasing, the positive human factors can help us to happily accomplish more.


Simple adjustments in color can bring long-lasting benefit. Yellow is said to increase concentration. A spectrum shift toward green promotes a more relaxed work environment. Blue can be a catalyst for a more dynamic environment. Studies have proven that it increases productivity.

Color changes can be applied as quickly as a coat of paint, and as inexpensively as a poster or wall hanging. A blue conference room might enliven sales meetings, which green walls in high-traffic work areas could overlay an element of calm.

If a roomful of optimists is needed, try plain and simple white.


In an open-plan office, workers take twice as many sick days as those in traditional workplaces. Beyond the spread of germs, open office spaces make work less pleasant. Noise and interruptions hinder the ability to focus and achieve.

  • Headphones and ear buds

    The obvious, expensive solution of private offices for everyone reduces collaboration while exploding the budget. Fortunately, there is no need to close doors or to lower the cone of silence. Common headphones or ear buds are lightweight, low-cost solutions to noise intrusion. Both styles are available with built-in noise-cancelling capability.

    Of the hundreds of varieties, light, on-ear headphones receive highest recommendation. It’s best to keep the recorded sound level low and let the noise-cancelling feature and ear pads block external sounds.

    Headphone and ear bud use can be encouraged by initiating a free CD lending library. Such libraries quickly grow as streaming audio becomes more popular and plastic CD cases gather dust on shelves at home.

  • Telephone headsets

    If investing in a quieter workplace, company purchase of inexpensive telephone headsets could mute another bitterly-lamented noise source. Speaker phones and handheld cell phones cause disruption and so are not recommended for open plan offices. Instead, conversation can be at normal voice level when using a lightweight headset.

  • Retreat spaces

    For the price of a table, a power outlet, and a comfortable chair in a quiet corner or reserved room, a space for quiet concentration can be made available. If competition for use develops, that’s a sign of success. It also may require scheduling the resource or finding a second quiet corner.


Heavy perfumes may trigger complaints and even allergic reactions, but lighter scents can improve the environment in some office areas. One study found that 54% of typists made fewer errors when they could smell lemon. Another 33% achieved similar improvement when jasmine was in the air. Lavendar helped 20% of the typists.

To engage in some 21st century performance engineering (even with only yourself as the subject), consider using air fresheners or diffusers with these scents:

  • Jasmine

    Inspires optimism confidence, for the energy to take on challenges

  • Lavender

    When a calming effect is needed

  • Lemon

    A good everyday scent which helps with concentration

  • Peppermint

    Brightens the mood

  • Pine

    Sharpens awareness