His and Hers

How to design an office everyone on staff will love.
Magazine Contributor
3 min read

This story appears in the August 2007 issue of Entrepreneur. Subscribe »

You can usually walk past someone's office and accurately guess the occupant's gender--there's something about the way the room is decorated, organized and lit that tells the visitor if a man or woman works there.

Feng shui consultant and interior designer Johanna Pockar says that this is because rooms usually reflect each person's instinctual need to balance their gender energy.

"Too much of anything isn't good," says Pockar, owner of Cleveland-based Energy by Design. "When I'm designing a woman's office, I usually want to balance her space with some male energy and give her more strength and assertiveness. I create a light, bright space with lots of right angles."

In contrast, Pockar explains, men usually function best in offices that ground them and calm them dowoffices with lots of wood, heavy fabrics and deep colors. But since people don't fall into simple categories, Pockar has to consider the balance of male and female energy within each client to design the kind of office that helps him or her succeed.

For instance, the light-bright formula didn't work for one high-energy female entrepreneur Pockar worked with. Pockar wanted to design the office to cool down her client's natural fire, so she chose a violet-gray paint for the walls and dark wood office furniture. She covered the floor-to-ceiling windows with treatments, leaving only a 3-foot gap of open sky at the top. The end result? A more relaxed and stable work environment for an entrepreneur who used to feel as though she was bouncing off the walls.

How can you design your business's work space to boost employee success, whether your staff is predominantly male or female or whether both sexes share the space? Michael Payne, interior designer and host of HGTV's Designing for the Sexes, says he does everything he can to make corporate spaces as warm and inviting as a home office. He believes that most women already try to make their offices as homey as possible--and that even though men seem to be satisfied with plain, undecorated rooms, they appreciate office style, too. "We all know it's an office, we know everyone is there to work, but it should still exude warmth," Payne says. "I like to use color on the walls and art nicely lit with spotlights. These make everyone feel good."

If you're thinking of reworking your office space and hope to enhance everyone's productivity, don't forget the most basic piece of office furniture: the chair. Research at the University of Waterloo sponsored by Keilhauer, a Toronto-based company, shows there are fundamental differences between the way men and women sit: Women perch and men slump. Based on this research, Keilhauer--a family-owned firm that designs and manufactures office seating--has developed the Sguig task chair that suits men and women equally well, allowing both the comfort and support they need to succeed.


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