When clients arrive at your office, it is often necessary for them to have to wait a few minutes before the right person can come to greet them. The office waiting area is one of the things your client will remember about their visit to your business premises. If you are setting up a new office, or thinking of giving your existing office a make-over, giving some thought to how you decorate your office waiting area is always a good idea.
Generally, the office waiting area will be directly inside the main doors of your office space, at reception. Occasionally, larger offices may have a secondary waiting area, perhaps on each floor or in each department. The waiting area may be an open space, or a room designated for the purpose.
First impressions count, particularly in business. Asking a potential or existing client to wait in a dark, smelly room no bigger than a closet is not going to give the right impression at all. Your waiting area needs to be comfortable, well lit and with some kind of entertainment or reading matter for your guests.
Seating is important in an office waiting area. If you are expecting a heavy flow of visitors, then leather (real or fake) upholstered couches and chairs are a practical solution. Choose dark neutral colours such as chocolate or black, which will not show any stains and can be cleaned easily. It is a good idea to have at least 2 different seat heights. Making use of a corner space with modular seating can create a sense of seclusion, so that your visitors do not feel exposed while waiting.
Neutral colours are also advisable on the walls and flooring of your waiting area. Cream and beige may be bland, but they allow you to add accents and features in your corporate colours that will stand out. If you have chosen dark brown for the seating, go for a mid-shade of brown for the floor covering with a pale shade on the walls. Flooring needs to be heavy duty because of the high traffic; carpet tiles are often more practical than a room-sized carpet as individual tiles can be replaced when worn.
Once you have the basic structure of your waiting area in place, you can then focus on making a statement to your visitors. If you have corporate colours, you can add small items to match such as a coffee machine with coloured mugs instead of plastic cups. The artwork you choose to display can say a lot about your company. Traditional prints of pastoral scenes imply a mature although sometimes boring company outlook. Modern art on large canvases suggests a forward-thinking company with lots of energy. Consider the impression you want to give your clients and select artwork to reflect that.
You may also want to give your visitors some information about the company while they are waiting. Interpretation boards are a great way to do this. If your company has recently completed a building project, then some facts and figures accompanied by a before and after photo can provide a focal point for the waiting area. Leaflets, booklets and other advertising literature can all be displayed, but it is better to have these spread out on a low table rather than in boxes. If you want your visitors to read something, you need to make it look like others have wanted to read it too.
If there is no natural light in your waiting area, the choice of electric illumination should be carefully considered. Overhead strip lighting can be very harsh, and in some cases can induce headaches. You could use an alternative light system that has daylight bulbs instead; you may need to use a few more than if you were using conventional bulbs, but the glare is much reduced. Lamps and light-boxes are a more subtle way of illuminating your waiting area, and again you can use them to add your corporate colours or logo to the space.
If you want to include some plants in your waiting area, always choose live specimens. Plastic or fabric leaves only look real from a distance, and your visitors are going to be close enough to notice. There are companies that will supply and care for real office plants at very reasonable rates, and this is a wise investment if you are not green fingered yourself. Choose plants that are large enough to fill the space; tiny pots of cactus in a big room will not be noticed at all.
Finally, having something unusual in your waiting area will keep your visitor alert while they are waiting to be received. A fish tank, or vivarium with tropical frogs can provide interest as well as entertainment. A sculpture or indoor water feature, if placed sensitively, can help calm your visitor before their meeting. Complimentary drinks and snacks are also a good idea, but make sure you also provide a place to dispose of the rubbish.
Decorating an office waiting area so that your visitors feel comfortable and welcome is important. It is one of the ways you can make a good impression on your visitors, without having to say a word.