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The Psychology Behind Healthy Cubicle Workspaces

Environmental psychologists study how people live in the physical world. They investigate the psychological implications of sensory experiences from how color influences mood to how furniture should be placed. What they tell us can help create a workspaces that make employees feel secure, calm, and capable —  so they can accomplish their best work. Here are some tips based on the psychology behind human comfort in the workplace.

  1. Research shows that humans are more comfortable when they sit so that their backs are not exposed. Make entries into cubicles be form the side, so employees don’t have to site with their backs to passersby.
  2. Research by Andrew Elliot shows that people do not work as well cognitively when they see red, which may be linked to childhood experiences with the color – teachers using red pen to denote failures and red being the universal sign for danger or stop.
  3. Research shows people work better in spaces with leafy plants and are better at doing things that require attention. The best plants have rounded leaves and not pointy ones. Even images of trees and plants can have a calming, focusing effect.
  4. Research indicates that allowing employees to customize their workspace for comfort can make them feel more ownership. Let them pick their desk chair, adjust the temperature in their cubicle with a fan or heater, and add their own decor. They’ll be more satisfied with their job, leading to positive repercussions.

Use these ideas to help create a great environment for your employees. They will appreciate their space more, take ownership of it, adapt to working in small spaces and be more productive if you ensure that they feel in control of and comfortable in their space.

Judith Heerwagen, founder of J.H. Heerwagen & Associates, a Seattle research and consulting firm, focuses on design ecology, the study of the relationship between people, psychology, and physical space.  “People communicate better when they can see one another,” says Heerwagen. She argues that “water cooler” conversation is now merely a myth—most conversation happens within cubicles. Low-partitioned cubicles allow for spontaneous collaboration as workers pass by a colleague’s cube. Food for thought next time you consider upgrading your cubicle workspaces!



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