USP Creative

The chipmunk test

22/05/2017
Chipmunk Test

Last year the UK pet-care market was valued at over £6.4 Billion. That’s quite an investment in the well-being of our furry friends, large and small. But what about our colleagues, our employees. Do we as humans who run organisations feel the same warmth for the benefit of our fellows?

Sadly, too few companies consider the importance of place design and the impact it has on how people think, feel and behave. Research by some of the world’s leading environmental psychologists have proven how our sensory experiences and basic psychological drives (such as needing a territory) influence worker engagement, and mood; more positive moods link to higher levels of engagement.

Workplaces should be designed to enable workers to perform well and add value to their employer’s bottom line. Open plan offices don’t always contribute to work related collaboration or useful communication. Ergonomics, acoustics, lighting, temperature and décor all have a role to play in employee wellbeing. Some of the headline issues include:

Colour – and its impact on an environment should never be underestimated. White is alien to the environments in which we developed as a species and can make us tense. Relaxing colours lend themselves to work involving concentration or mental tasks whereas more energising spaces are fine where the work is less intense or more creative.

Input – from employees is important. Do they need privacy, zoned spaces for creative thinking and collaboration, what type of lighting is required, how does the space work for them? Spaces that reflect employees’ needs can boost engagement as workers are more likely to feel valued and respected.

So, The Chipmunk Test – As Environmental Psychologist Dr Sally Augustin PhD explains in Harvard Business Review, as humans we are wired to react more positively to environments where we feel comfortable and secure. Our ancestors climbed trees to escape wild animals and nestled into caves for security and warmth. Providing today’s employees with the same secure feeling is easy to do in the modern workplace. Smaller more intimate meeting spaces and acoustic pods encourage collaboration and help eliminate interruption which is often perceived as an invasion of personal space. At the same time, our innate need for territory and the urge to personalise one’s space is a major contributor to job satisfaction.

So, next time you see a chair with its back to a door, ask yourself would a chipmunk be comfortable with its back exposed like that? Is the positioning of desks natural and would you feel vulnerable or at ease sitting there?

At USP we help create meaningful environments that make for a happier, healthier and more productive workforce.