How to design a welcoming workplace

With more employees requesting to work from home, you might be looking at ways you can encourage your teams back into the office. In this blog post, we share our top tips for creating a welcoming workplace that employees want to spend time in.

Returning to the office after COVID-19

Covid-19 gave many workers their first taste of flexible working. Many of us hadn’t experienced homeworking or a working pattern outside of the 9-5 before. When the world opened back up, mindsets had changed. Employees didn’t want to return to the office full time and hybrid working became the new norm.

Some companies, however, were keen to get staff back into the office. Office working undeniably has its benefits, particularly when your space is designed to support innovation and creativity. But many companies chose to mandate a return to the office.

Zoom, for example, made headlines this month when it requested that all workers who live within 50 miles of an office come into work at least part of the time. The move was called ‘ironic’ by many given the video communications company was so pivotal in supporting home working during COVID-19. And who can forget Elon Musk’s infamous ‘the office is not optional’ 2.30am email to Twitter employees earlier this year?

Creating a welcoming workplace environment  

Both these examples created a strong backlash from staff members – and it seems Zoom and Twitter (now ‘X’) are not alone. Many employers that forced staff to return to the office after the pandemic have said that they now regret their decision. In fact, a recent survey suggests that 80% of companies regret forcing employees back into the office and would do it differently if they had their time again.

‘Doing it differently’ doesn’t necessarily mean reversing the decision to come into the office though. We believe that by creating a space that employees actually want to come into, you can encourage your staff back into the office without the discord.

Here are our top tips for creating a welcoming office environment:

Start with your culture

As we’ve said before, pressuring staff to come into the office just won’t work in the long term. Flexible working consistently comes out as one of the top things employees are looking for. So, where you can, take a measured approach to office working. Trust your staff to make decisions about when they come into the office. With recruitment shortages plaguing so many companies now, you don’t want to risk losing employees by being too heavy-handed if you don’t need to be.

Instead, focus on creating a welcoming office culture when they do come in. Office design can support this which we’ll go on to discuss in a bit more detail below.

Employees gather around a table in the workplace


But first, don’t forget about communication! If you do need employees in the workplace on certain days of the week, be upfront with them about why. Take the time to speak to them, address concerns and answer any questions they may have.

Before you look at office design tricks to make your space more welcoming, speak to your teams about what they want from a workspace. An office filled with the features they’ve requested will already feel more inviting. Ask people what would encourage them to come into the office, rather than homeworking. Spaces to create with colleagues or fibre broadband, for example, are things that many of us don’t have in houses. When it comes to creating a welcoming workplace for your employees, communication is key. 

Designing welcoming spaces

Clever office design really can make a workplace feel more welcoming. Here are some ideas for ways you can design your space to make it more appealing to your teams:

Introduce creature comforts

One of the things so many of us have liked about working from home is access to creature comforts. If we’re hungry, we can quickly grab a brew and a biscuit. If we need a change of scenery, we can relax on the sofa for a few minutes or pop into the garden. A welcoming workspace shouldn’t seek to entirely replicate the home – but should weave in some familiar features to create a more inviting vibe.

More offices than ever now have lots of casual seating with soft furnishings where employees can have a break from their desk. Think sofas, cushions and beanbags galore. Outdoor spaces are growing in popularity too. Office gardens and terraces are fantastic for staff wellbeing as they enable us to connect with nature. Introduce comfy seating outdoors for bonus points!  

While it’s a bit of a cliché, investing in good quality amenities can also help to create a welcoming environment. Who doesn’t love a nice coffee from the machine or snacks at the ready? Some businesses even offer onsite gyms to help keep their staff fit and healthy. With the cost-of-living crisis continuing to bite, anything that saves your teams a bit of money will no doubt be welcomed.

Staff laugh over a coffee in a bright and welcoming office kitchen

Get creative with your décor

Let’s be real. Nobody is going to feel inspired to come into a bland, boring office. Make your workplace more welcoming by strategically introducing colour and pattern. Yellow is said to be the most welcoming colour – but there are lots of different colour schemes that will create a warm and inviting atmosphere. If you’re interested in introducing pattern and texture into your space, this blog post will give you some inspiration on how to get started.

Another great way to make your office more welcoming is allow staff to personalise the space. With many companies now favouring hot-desking, this is more difficult to do – but not impossible! Rather than decorating desks, why not create a wall in your office where staff can pin up something that’s important or meaningful to them. Another great idea is to ask employees to create the art that goes up on the wall. By giving teams some ownership of the working environment, they’ll feel much more inclined to spend their time there.

Hand-drawn art gives the workplace a personal feel

What’s next?

Ultimately, a welcoming workplace is one that works for your people. Speak to them about what they want and need from an office environment. Make sure any changes you make support them in their role or enhance their office experience in some way.

If you’d like any support or advice about how you can make your space more inviting for your employees, get in touch. We specialise in designing happy spaces that create happy people.

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