Northern Alberta Institute of Technology

How to design a comfortable, functional workspace

Tips on office decorating, furnishing, storage and more

How much time do you spend in your office or work space each day? Probably a quite a bit, right? Most studies suggest that you’ll spend about a third of your life at work. You may even be reading this at your desk.

Whether you have a home office or a cubicle in an office building, you should be comfortable and happy in that space, say NAIT manager of planning and architecture Joylyn Teskey and space planner Nicole Kemp. Here are their tips to turn your work area into a place you’ll enjoy spending a lot of time.

Consider colour

Kemp encourages you to incorporate small accents of colour, like throw pillows or art, but don’t go overboard. “Huge amounts of colour everywhere can be distracting,” she says.

“It’s a cheap and cheerful way to change things up.”

“It’s a cheap and cheerful way to change things up,” says Teskey. “If you get sick of it, you can change things up without having to re-do [the entire space].”

Be a good host

If you’re going to do collaborative work or host a lot of meetings, design a space that is dedicated to accommodating several people at once, “in a way that doesn’t have you dragging your furniture around the room every time,” says Teskey.  

If you’ll have a lot of people in your work space, find furniture that can last. At NAIT, Teskey and Kemp are experimenting with durable foam furniture called Feek (pictured). “We went looking for something that was comfortable and kind of funky, but will hold up,” says Kemp.

functional, comfortable, stylish office space NAIT EdmontonFree up space

Kemp says to consider how much floor space is devoted to storage.

“A lot of times, you’ll get the [short] lateral cabinets that run all the way around the room,” she says. Those eat up a lot of space that could be used for something else, like another chair or place to put your desk. She recommends taller shelves that have a smaller footprint, but hold just as many items as the short, wide variety. 

“You don’t want to pile things so high that you feel like you’re living in a canyon, but people forget about the upper wall space.”

Shed some light

Not only is light important for function, it’s “a wellness thing, proven to make people feel better in their office,” says Kemp. “We try and make sure everyone has access to [daylight].”

There are 3 parts to consider when lighting your work space, Teskey says. First, think about good daylight. Then consider overhead lights that can be adjusted, whether by direction or brightness. The final step is to supplement with task lighting – those lights are designed to be used while working on specific projects (think sewing, drawing, etc).

Seek inspiration

Everyone is different, Teskey says. “Think about what you’re doing in the space and what is the right fit.” If you’re unsure where to start, take notice of other spaces. “I’m a big fan of walking through IKEA to get ideas,” she says. “For offices in particular, I always look up Google’s offices. There’s something really cool about how they think about office space.”

“Look through tons of images,” says Kemp. “Whether it’s Google Images, Pinterest or magazines, plan ahead. Figure out what you like, then go and implement.”

office meeting room table NAIT, furnishing tips



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