You’re well aware of the importance of first impressions.
Make a good one and you can win a sale, client or new employee within a matter of minutes. Make a bad one and you’re doomed before you even get started.
While we spend most of our time thinking about the way we look, our body language and our words, what’s often missed in the concept of first impressions is the reception area of your building.
What does it look like? What does it say about your company? Would you want to work in your office based only on what you see in the reception area? These are all valid questions, particularly because they’re all on point.
You’d never walk into an interview in shoddy clothes plagued with wrinkles, right? Logically, then, you wouldn’t want a messy, dirty reception area “welcoming” visitors to your place of business.
But tidiness is only part of the grand picture of what your reception space says about your company. Much has been written about how you can improve this area of your office, and we’ve extracted a few key points we think can boost the professionalism and amicability of your workplace.
Add a Little (Tasteful) Art
It’s time to rethink those calendars behind your receptionist’s desk, or that generic “Leadership” poster-meme with the soaring eagle.
Talk with someone in your office who knows art and pick out a few prints. A well-chosen piece of art not only adds visual pop to the area, but it also communicates something to anyone who walks in, says Entrepreneur editor Kim Lachance Shandrow.
“This will help to convey your intelligence and add a calm influence,” she wrote in a 2015 article.
But don’t just pick up the first generic print you see at Michael’s. Scroll through some popular prints on Art.com. If you’re looking for a sophisticated pop of color and fun, try a print of Catalan artist Joan Miro’s “L’Oro dell’ Azzurro”.
If it’s measured elegance you want, try a Rothko print. His straightforward (yet fascinating) pieces usually feature a limited amount of colors you can easily pair with your office décor. Try his “Untitled 1967”.
Feature Some Branding
A few weeks ago we dropped by a medical office and were struck by how clean their reception area was. On top of that, they had a small table set up with water bottles, a few shirts and one or two other branded items for sale.
We couldn’t quite put our finger on why we liked it, but we did. And it turns out they were doing exactly what you should do with a reception area: feature some of your branding.
U.K. office experts Office Supplies Supermarket highlighted the branding principle in an article they posted on Medium.com.
“Whether it’s vinyl logos on windows, a brand-colored carpet, or a massive logo right behind the reception desk, branding is an important element of the perfect reception area,” they said.
Just as we mentioned in the previous section, choose your branding materials wisely. You don’t want your reception area to be business-kitschy.
Lighting is Crucial
Nobody should feel like they’re walking into a morgue when they arrive at the front desk of your place of business.
Yet many times that’s what you get in reception areas: the buzz of aging fluorescent lights and an eerie bluish-white glow soaking every corner of the room.
If you take your lighting seriously, you’ll find there are many choices for colors and intensity.
In a 2013 article by Web PT, contributor Brooke Andrus made some great observations about how different lighting types can affect the mood of a room.
“Soft, bright light gives people a sense of calm and increases the appeal of items on display,” Andrus wrote. “Low, warm light emits a ‘homey’ quality and can add to the atmosphere and charm of your practice.”
Whether it be for price or ambivalence, some companies choose to go fluorescent. That’s a big no-no, Andrus said.
“Fluorescent bulbs often come off as harsh, cold and industrial, and generally do not work well in a reception setting,” she wrote.
Natural light, many experts say, works best.
More Tips for Your Reception Area
Several articles we researched emphasized green. They weren’t talking about environmentally conscious facilities; they were talking about live plants.
Kim Lachance Shandrow even went as far as to recommend dracaena steudneri, a plant which “provides a natural contrast and shows that you are able to take care of things.”
A few other tips: Make sure your front-desk team is bubbly and friendly; have coffee, water and tea available and make your Wi-Fi information easily readable for guests who will participate in meetings where internet is necessary.