By Emily Suess

Office design does more than just influence functionality and productivity. It can also help (or hurt) your employees’ creativity. Smart, collaborative companies know this, and strive to design office space that fosters creativity instead of stifling it.

From lighting and spacing to furniture and organization, there are several ways you can design a better office for your creative staff.

1. Let Employees Design Their Own Spaces

You may not be able to buy all employees the thousand-dollar chair they’re eyeing, but you can let each one personalize his or her office or cubicle. Encourage your staff to bring in personal items to decorate their surroundings. It won’t cost you a thing, but it can cheer up a drab office and encourage personal and professional conversations among your employees.

2. Allow Pets

Welcome your staff’s furry family members or consider sheltering an animal at the office. Not only do pets help reduce stress, but they encourage your employees to get away from their desks. More active lifestyles can keep insurance costs down as well as foster outside-the-box thinking. Design pet-friendly spaces for this purpose.

3. Use Zone Design

Cubicles and desks are necessary when it’s time to work individually, but group seating concepts encourage creative thinking. Fun break rooms, comfortable couches and chairs, and unconventional conference rooms are more conducive to the free flow of ideas. Design areas for different purposes rather than taking a one-desk-per-person approach to office design.

4. Understand Color Theory

If your goal is to get employees to share, brainstorm, and collaborate, it’s probably a bad idea to paint everything gray. Use color theory—blues are stabilizing, greens are harmonizing, and reds are energizing—to inspire your zone design. Making use of color is especially important in spaces where natural lighting is limited.

5. Let in Natural Light

Poor workspace lighting isn’t just bad for morale; it can lead to migraines, eyestrain, and other health problems that restrict creativity and productivity. When picking out office space, you’re better off sacrificing a little square footage for more windows and skylights. Research suggests that after a few hours on the job, employees with natural light are more energetic and alert than those who work all day in artificial light.

6. Brand Your Design

Your office design should reflect your company’s brand, culture, and mission. When design and mission are in sync, all the pieces of the puzzle come together. Incorporate your small business logo and colors throughout the building, not just at the front desk.

7. Get Employee Feedback

If you’re not sure if your current setup is working, ask your employees! Your employees are the best judges of the kinds of things that are impeding creativity and workflow. Ask questions about furniture, organization, and space to find out what’s working and what’s lacking in your present configuration. Then be willing to change things up and make improvements.

Look around for inspiration on designing the perfect office space to foster creativity, keeping in mind that each business will have different needs.