How to Make the Office Feel More Like Home

In the age of open, beautiful offices, even the most svelte modern spaces tend to suffer a fatal flaw.

The open part of the floor, where employees’ desks reside, might as well be the set of The Apartment, a grid consisting of bad fluorescent lighting, rows on rows of tables and people packed in like sardines. For all the growing awareness that happiness brings out the best in employees, the spaces they inhabit are rarely designed with happiness in mind. Is the open office concept really that far a cry from the workplaces of yore?

The Apartment (1960) served as a major source of inspiration for the design of the Sterling Cooper office in early seasons of Mad Men
The Apartment (1960) served as a major source of inspiration for the design of the Sterling Cooper office in early seasons of Mad Men

True, when it comes to efficient use of open space, the options are limited. Companies have to be smart about how to accommodate headcount, and employees need organized surfaces for completion of their work. It’s hard to argue against rows of tables for such a task.

Still, while the home-like comforts of most offices (plants, sofas, magazine racks) are necessarily reserved for guests coming through Reception, why the massive discrepancy in comfort between that and the rest of the floor?

Office managers can play a huge role in closing this gap. And it all starts with small changes that infuse a little bit of home into the office.

1. Mood Lighting

Even with access to a surplus of natural light, most offices still need to supplement with overhead lights. Unfortunately, all too often they’re of the fluorescent variety, making the office feel more like an interrogation room (this probably isn’t a coincidence, if you think about it) than a comfortable place to work.

A number of studies have linked repeated exposure to fluorescent lights to eye strain, headaches, migraines and anxiety. The prevalence of fluorescent lights in offices can go a long way in explaining the stressful relationship many people have with their workspace.

Office lighting can be the difference between a relaxing space and an anxiety-ridden office
Office lighting can be the difference between a relaxing space and an anxiety-ridden office

Luckily, poor lighting can be helped. In some cases, overhead lights can be adjusted to less harsh lumens with a dimmer. If that option isn’t available, it may be enough to simply turn some of the lights off to cast a softer glow on the office floor. If you want to get a bit more ambitious, replace all the bulbs with full-spectrum lights instead.

2. Office Slippers

If you wear slippers at home already, you understand the appeal of bringing their cozy function to the office.

Slippers are designed as a buffer between the cocoon-like comfort of your bed and the harsh reality of a cold, wood floor, and I can think of no better metaphor to describe leaving the house for the office in the mornings. True, you sort of have to wear shoes to get to work, and for the sake of professionalism, keeping them on reflects good judgment.

But there is an optimal state between shoes and no shoes, and that’s the office slipper. It’s a fairly easy, affordable win that will literally change lives. In addition to making everyone dangerously comfy, your cleaning service might notice the floors are in better shape at the end of the week, too.

3. Terrariums

The presence of plants has been linked to a reduction in stress, noise and air toxins in the workplace. And they are aesthetically pleasing.

Terrariums are the perfect office plants: they’re small, require very little maintenance, and are easily personalized.
Terrariums are the perfect office plants: they’re small, require very little maintenance, and are easily personalized.

Here again the open floor housing most employees tends to go neglected, while Reception and under-utilized “lounges” spread haphazardly throughout the office get the greenery. If you want to share the magic directly with employees, consider Terrariums for everyone’s desk that they can maintain and decorate as they see fit.

4. Book shelves

Book shelves can completely enliven a wall, add character and charm to a space, and subtly recall a home office.  Shelves also serve a practical purpose beyond propping up select works you want everyone to read: they can store office supplies like notepads, pens, batteries and paperclips in a highly visible, aesthetically pleasing way.

With minimal effort, the workplace can start to resemble one of those perfect home offices you see in IKEA catalogues.
With minimal effort, the workplace can start to resemble one of those perfect home offices you see in IKEA catalogues.

5. A Kitchen Full of Snacks

What was once a perk typical to startups is now becoming the norm for office culture – with good reason. 67 percent of people in jobs that feed and hydrate claim to be “very happy” with their employer. And as we saw earlier, happiness leads to productivity. And using Hivy to request the snacks you want is an even bigger boon to the latter.

*     *     *

So putting it altogether, imagine the following scenario: You get to work in the morning, promptly change into some cushy slippers, shuffle to the pantry in the kitchen for a healthy breakfast, slip past pleasingly arranged book shelves on your way to your desk, where you take your seat under the soft, caressing rays of full-spectrum lights, and admire the Terrarium flourishing next to your computer.

Don’t you feel more relaxed already?


Brandon Carter

Brandon is a Senior Content Marketing manager at TheSquareFoot, a commercial real estate marketplace helping companies find the space their business deserves. He lives in Brooklyn and enjoys pretending to be a foodie. Follow him on Twitter @brandedcarter.


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