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Environmental Graphics and employee performance

As the world emerges from a global pandemic, the likes of which have not been seen for over a century, one aspect of everyday life we have yet to redefine is the modern office environment. For two and a half years, millions of people have been working from home, adapting to a new work model and experiencing the benefits that come with a certain level of flexibility.

Today, as companies are trying to encourage their employees to return to the traditional office environment, three groups have emerged: those who are satisfied at home and do not wish to return; those who prefer a hybrid work model; and those who are anxious to return to a face-to-face office environment. How can employers generate excitement for those who have decided the pre-pandemic office is obsolete and/or have health concerns about returning?

With very little financial investment, effectively using Environmental Graphic Design (EGD) can add inspiration to a space and create a sense of security in the current workplace. EGD is a multidisciplinary field in which the disciplines of graphic design, architecture, art, lighting, landscape, and other fields are utilized to enhance the user experience. We will address five creative ways in which employers can use EGD to welcome employees back during the return-to-office transition, creating a renewed sense of community and encouraging a face-to-face work model.

Office Wall Mural in Carmel, Indiana
Custom designed wall wrap

Encourage Flexible Office Space

An open office plan office is a flexible way to accommodate various working styles determined by the perception of health and safety. These can include collaborative booths, cafes, and communal spaces supported by pods, comfortable furniture, and solitary nooks. Wall murals and window graphics can further support these flexible spaces by defining maximum capacity, creating visual interest, and encouraging psychological safety.

Color can also draw people together or define solitary space. For example, art and graphics installations often attract groups and promote spontaneous interactions. Likewise, hue and quality of light directly influence human emotion and can create an atmosphere of calm in solitary spaces. These small, inexpensive changes to an office space will show employees they have access to a variety of modern workspaces, making their preferences heard and valued, and spark an element of curiosity that will draw people back.

Graphics Inspire Excitement and a Feeling of Safety

Art is encoded in our DNA. Humans have always craved creative output and are instinctively drawn to things that are colorful, engaging, exciting, intriguing, complex, and joyful. A sterile office wall contributes to a feeling of isolation and, if combined with harsh lighting, can even feel hostile. By making room for arresting graphics, however, positive associations with the space are easily created. Graphics also play a crucial sole in wayfinding; a centralized mural can serve as a key device in psychological mapping and improve orientation of the space.

For minimal cost, companies can use the prolonged work from home time as an opportunity to refresh workspaces with art and graphics to excite their employees about the transition back to the office. A soft grand-reopening with new wall graphics and flexible work areas further demonstrates the company’s interest and investment in their employee’s mental well-being and creates an opportunity to generate interest and curiosity.

Office wall wrap
Custom designed office wall wrap

Graphics Support Biophilic Design

The integration of plants and nature has long been a part of office design strategy to reduce employee stress. Today, the trend is in high demand, not only because of its physical and mental benefits, but also air purification and oxygen production. Living walls are known to reduce stress hormone levels and improve air quality, reducing Sick Building Syndrome which causes occupants to experience acute health issues linked to time spent in a building. If living walls are not possible, plant forms can be integrated into art installations through graphic motifs, such as plant patterns and organic shapes.

Mural wall in living room

Create a Sense of Joy and Togetherness

A big question for employers today is, “How do we regain the feeling of togetherness we had before the pandemic?”. Many employees feel detached from friends, families, and co-workers, breeding a sense of isolation and numbness which can transform into low-level or even long-term depression. Employers can help alleviate this sense of insecurity by injecting social energy into the workplace.

Friendly gatherings where employees create something together encourages a feeling of community and belonging. For example, employers can organize an employee-made art project and integrate it into the space. Or make plans to paint a wall mural on the side of the building and use color and graphics in the outdoor areas to build visual interest. Display employee art or commission a community artist to create art in prominent areas to greet occupants and clients alike. These moments together and collaborative projects build relationships and create a sense of community.

Support Wellness and Mental Health

There is no doubt, the psychological health of a company’s employees is extremely important to every aspect of a business. Creating spaces for people to experience downtime, movement, or exercise has many benefits, including the alleviation of stress and lasting recharge throughout the workday. Colors have a direct effect on mood and can be used to create a sense of calm or invigoration. Soft and warm textures create a feeling of security for employees to regain composition, while dynamic graphics and patterns propagate sports and activity. For a simple solution, allow for standing desks and areas where walking and movement are safe and encouraged.

Architectural graphics are hugely beneficial as companies navigate the back-to-office transition and can help employers stay competitive in this new environment. EGD allows companies to answer, “Yes!” when employees’ question whether their company acknowledges their physical and psychological health; elevating and invigorating an office space with minimal financial impact.

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