3 min read time
While humans have evolved from the sapien origins of our ancestors, we can’t forget that we still hold onto some of our base animal instincts. These are the ones that stem from our hunter/gatherer origins, which see us being naturally defensive of our surroundings. There’s a lot to be said about adopting animal instincts into office design, and it’s not all faux fur and leopard print!
In the same way that a predator stalks its prey from behind, people naturally feel defensive when being approached from behind. We’ve previously explored the psychology behind different seats in meeting rooms, and a lot of this comes from the basic animal instincts of approaching prey. This is why meeting rooms shouldn’t have their doors or entrance facing a row of desks. It makes employees using those desks feel like they’re constantly being watched (because, well - they are!). It also discourages people from using the meeting room, as they feel that they’re continually being observed from behind. A way around this is to pivot the doors so that the space behind your colleagues isn’t used as a thoroughfare to the meeting room.
We see a lot of human behaviours trace their roots back to the wild. Think about animals and birds in the wild - they’ll always build their nests high up to get the best view of their surroundings, providing a first mover advantage in the case of prey approaching. We see similar behaviours in the use of space and desks in the office. If people are given a choice of where to sit in an open plan, often the first desks to go are those on the outside. These often provide the best visibility of colleagues and the most privacy. While we might not be constantly under threat in the office, this choice of position comes back to an innate desire for safety.
A recent client study proved this through implementing hot desking on a first come, first served basis. Early birds got the better seats on the side and late comers were forced to sit at the more exposed seats on the inside. This forces people to go against their natural animal instincts of protecting their nest.
While not everyone can have a ‘safe’ corner desk that looks out over the floor, there are steps that we can take to ensure that even those in the more exposed seats still have a reasonable level of privacy. Simply using screen protectors or films that limit the screens’ visibility to a direct-on view can provide relief and decrease anxiety. This also protects sensitive information, allowing whoever’s working at the desk to focus on their work, rather than whose looking around.
Just like animals, our bodies work with the sun. Humans aren’t meant to be nocturnal animals, so we need to support our natural rhythm as best as we can. Offices can facilitate this through providing ample natural light throughout the floorspace. This provides crucial vitamin D exposure which has a profound effect, impacting our sleep and wellbeing - both in and out of the office.
Just like zebras meeting giraffes at the Savannah’s waterhole, the psychology behind shared services in the office is incredibly similar. Just replace your different species for different teams, and you can see how shared services quickly bring together people from different teams. Just replace the muddy waterhole with a printer, kitchen or teapoint and you’ve instantly got a source of inspiration.