Just like conference rooms and offices, lobbies play an important role in contributing to a positive work environment through design, and they also reflect your brand. I’m quite fascinated with how lobby design affects work performance and how concepts like experience design can be applied to lobbies. Here’s a closer look at lobby design and how it can contribute to not only productivity but also branding.
From Waiting Room to Common Area: The Evolution of the Lobby
First, it’s worth taking a look at the history of the lobby and how it’s changed over the years. Traditionally, lobbies only served as an entryway or waiting space. It wasn’t uncommon to see only a reception desk and sparse furniture. To that end, the lobby functioned similarly to a waiting room, providing a place for visitors to relax while waiting for an appointment or meeting. This type of lobby can still be found in some commercial buildings, but the old idea of the lobby is being phased out in favor of a new perspective: the lobby as a common area and statement.
Many businesses have reimagined the lobby as a place for people to socialize, make plans, and prepare for the workday. As such, today’s lobbies are large and flexible. The same lobby can contain individual workspaces, group meeting areas, and even event spaces. As lobbies are seeing ever-increasing usage, it’s crucial to consider how they can influence work performance.
Lobbies and Work Performance
Lobbies are popular spots for doing work nowadays, sometimes even serving as impromptu offices. The Harvard Business Review spotlighted this phenomenon, citing that two-thirds of office work actually happens outside the office. Since today’s larger lobbies offer lots of seating options and other amenities, they’ve become ideal for employees to gather and work. This is typical of many successful corporations; as HBR noted, the first floor of Amazon Seattle (pictured above) is mostly coworking space. Some businesses, like the Ace Hotel in New York, openly advertise their lobbies as multi-purpose spaces. These installs suggest that it’s best to treat a lobby as a workspace and shared social space and design it accordingly.
According to Perkins+WIll’s Tony Layne, collaborative, flexible workspaces are the future of office design. In a society where people are always connected (both to each other and the world) with technology, it makes complete sense to create similarly connected spaces with abundant access to technology. As Layne says, “the workplace needs to support our whole person—and not just be a place to ‘get work done,’ but a place that allows us to recharge, reflect, and renew.”
For a lobby to optimize employee wellness and productivity, it’s design needs to be humanistic, considering biological and mental needs. Biophilic design is one answer to this, as its thesis is that a connection to nature improves occupant wellness. Studies have shown that incorporating natural elements like daylight and ventilation creates a healthier workplace. In biophilic spaces, workers typically experience increased productivity, reduced stress, and better sleep. Even including a few biophilic elements such as plants and natural light exposure can dramatically boost work performance across the board.
Elements like availability of food and beverage, Wi-Fi, and electrical outlets further improve a lobby and make it even more work-friendly. On top of all of this, the indoor environmental quality (IEQ) has to be taken into consideration. As more employees take to the lobby to integrate work more fully into their lives (and lifestyles), it’s important that IEQ be closely monitored to provide occupants with an experience that prioritizes health and wellness.
Lobbies as Brand Ambassadors
Lobby design is vital not only for employee health and productivity but also branding. The lobby is one of the first things a visitor or new hire will see upon walking into a building, which means it can have an enormous impact on how people feel. With some simple enhancements, a lobby can transform into a brand ambassador that gives a remarkable first impression and communicates the company’s mission through its design.
There are countless opportunities to establish a robust brand in lobbies. Brand imagery (e.g., photographs and signage) can instantly connect visitors to a brand, and the decor and color palette should match the brand aesthetic. Visitors may not even be consciously aware of these aspects, but for consistent, seamless branding, these elements can have a huge impact. The lobby should be a natural extension of the building as a whole, and this can easily be accomplished by persistent branding.
From Smith Design Co.: DTZ’s lobby represents its brand, incorporating signage and contemporary furnishings
Experience Design in Lobbies
I would be remiss if I didn’t bring up the concept of experience design. Biophilic elements and branding are undoubtedly essential to create a remarkable lobby, but many designers are going to the next level with experience design. The basic idea is that by maximizing interaction in the built environment, occupants will feel more connected to the space and want to return to it. Proponents of experience design argue that the way a person reacts to an environment is largely emotional. For example, people don’t go out to an expensive restaurant to eat but rather to have a unique experience.
In the context of lobby design, experience design means constructing a space in which people feel thoroughly comfortable working and interacting. In addition to being “a place that allows us to recharge, reflect, and renew,” according to Layne, the lobby must be a space that visitors genuinely enjoy, and they need to have a novel experience that they can’t have anywhere else. Here, experience design ensures that when people arrive in a lobby, whether for work or play, they interact with the environment in a way that creates and sustains positive emotions. Advertising agency Droga5’s lobby does this elegantly with a floating conference room, sleek wooden paneling, and a simple yet stylish lounge area.
From Office Snapshots: Droga5’s lobby offers a unique experience with an eye-catching floating conference room
Lobbies harness large amounts of potential that can be used to improve employee performance and even evangelize your brand. The lobby sets the tone for occupants’ experience, so it’s absolutely critical to put the same amount of design effort into your lobby as you would an office space. Whether you instill a sense of biophilia with reclaimed wood or provide comfort with a relaxing lounge, you can easily create an impactful, work-friendly lobby that your visitors won’t soon forget.