How to Make Your Office a Home Away from Home

Most of us spend at least a third of our lives at work. If we are going to be in any given place for so much time, we should make some effort to create an inviting environment for the good of our own mental health. Most of us take the time to carefully plan and design our home living spaces. The design of our work spaces deserves the same level of care and thoughtfulness. Even if you work in a cubicle or shared office space, you can use many of these same ideas on a smaller scale to make your space more inviting.

Tips to create an office that you will enjoy going to:

  • Make the space reflect your own personality. Above all, whatever accessories, knick-knacks or design elements you bring into your office, be sure that they are items that fit your personality and not what you think your boss would like. As long as you don’t display anything that might be deemed offensive to others in your workplace, it’s your office and should reflect your tastes.
  • Add some plants. Green, living plants are not only good for your health by adding oxygen to the air (which can get a bit stale in offices), but they are proven mood-boosters too. If you don’t have a green thumb and are prone to killing plants, seek out one of the types of houseplants that need very little care like a spider plant, pothos or snake plant.
  • Dress up your office with some artwork. Get rid of those “inspirational” corporate posters with phrases about teamwork and climbing mountains and instead find unique artwork that is personally meaningful to you. Frame up some items created by your children or scout out local arts and crafts fairs. Just make sure that whatever you display is something that resonates with YOU. Not only will being surrounded by original paintings, pottery or sculpture make you feel more at home and inspired, but they can be great conversation pieces when you meet with coworkers or clients.
  • Add inviting scents. It’s tough to walk into a room that smells like a stale mixture of old microwaved lunches and be inspired to spend much time there. Air out your office from time to time if your windows open. If not, running an air filter and spraying some air freshener should help. Set out a bit of potpourri, light a candle or put out a scented oil diffuser to fill your office with a light and inviting scent that will set you and your visitors at ease.
  • Surround yourself with photos. Having a few vacation snapshots and family photos on your desk helps to remind you of what you’re doing all this for and can be a great motivator. Looking at happy pictures of loved ones can also help to reduce stress and anxiety when your workdays become hectic.
  • Choose comfy furniture. There’s no rule that says that office furniture has to be sterile to be functional. And there’s no rule that says office pieces can’t be the same type of furniture you would use in your home. If you have the room to create a cozy sitting area with a couch or a couple of armchairs, you will appreciate having a space to stretch out and be more comfortable whether you’re brainstorming on your own or with your team, or meeting a new board member. Choose pieces that you like and that will also be practical, even if they are not “traditional” office furniture.

[Related: New Board Member Orientation Guide]

  • Choose soft lighting. Overhead fluorescent lighting can be very harsh and uninviting. Consider switching out your fluorescents for halogen and CFL bulbs to create a softer, warmer glow. Or get a few lamps and turn off the overhead lights altogether.
  • Add a couple of colorful throw rugs. Office flooring is notoriously bland and utilitarian. A carefully chosen accent rug or two can do wonders to brighten up a nondescript office space and make it instantly more homey. You can also use rugs to visually designate different areas within your office.
  • Create a tea and coffee station. Do you love a hot steaming cup of tea or coffee while you’re at work? Create a station near at hand with a small coffee or tea maker and all the other supplies you need. You’ll be able to top off your drink at any time and always keep it nice and hot.
  • Get creative with storage. Your office is never going to feel inviting if there are mountains of papers and files on every surface. Be sure to create storage areas and bins to organize your documents in a way that keeps your office uncluttered and orderly. And office storage doesn’t all have to be as ugly as typical metal file cabinets. You may find that a refurbished vintage record cabinet works great to store files, or a wooden steamer trunk can store rolls of architectural renderings. Think outside the box!

These are just a few ideas to get you started on creating an office that feels like a home away from home. Above all, be true to your own tastes, likes and dislikes. Your office mates will actually appreciate seeing the real you reflected in your space and it often opens up conversations so that you can get to know each other better as well!