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How to stop people getting lost in your office

For any building to be efficient and effective the way people move around it needs careful management. One of the prime ways that good people-flow gets disrupted is when people get lost.

In busy working buildings there are always plenty of visitors and staff who might struggle to navigate. Even in a large but familiar office, it's possible to get lost on your way to an unfamiliar location – be it the post room or a meeting on another floor. It's a common cause for complaint from staff or tenants to facilities managers. So what causes problems for people finding their way around?

Getting lost

People get lost because their previous experience of buildings gives them certain expectations about their layout. Problems occur when their preconceptions don’t match reality.

Our brains interpret and store spatial information, but even in your own office environment distances and locations can be misremembered. In the absence of artificial cues it’s simple to get lost among the beige walls and cubicles of a typical office.

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Believe it or not, there's a science to getting around. It’s called wayfinding – and it's not always easy to get right. Poorly thought-through, missing or overdone wayfinding solutions can make for inefficient offices. Ineffective wayfinding systems cost businesses time and money as people spend time searching for a desired location – eating in to the working day and delaying meetings.

If a wayfinding system is inadequate, people rely on nearby staff to direct them to their destination. Users may also become so frustrated with the environment that they will not return – a particularly important point in a retail environment.

Information overload

Typically, information such as signs and maps are viewed for less than a second. People make quick judgements and if they can't absorb the information they need to find their way or complete a task easily and quickly, they’ll look elsewhere. So simply putting up signs to help people find their way won't necessarily solve the problem.

Most office environments are guilty of being unnecessarily noisy and cluttered and this makes it hard for people to take in information. In fact, when people suffer information overload, they compensate by taking in even less information. This means they could be unable to take in the information they need, even if they are looking at it!

How to fix the wayfinding problem

Wayfinding is basically problem-solving in space - which means that psychology and behavioural economics can help. It's about knowing where you are in a building or an environment, knowing where your desired location is, and knowing how to get there from your present location. Good wayfinding in buildings boils down to three questions:

  • What do you see? Poor lighting could leave people simply unable to see your buildings signs.
  • Why did you see it? Good use of lines of sight (such as positioning signs at eye-height at junctions) could mean your signs stand out and are ultra-visible.
  • What did you do with the information? Well-done signage will enable people to act on the information they see.

A good wayfinding system gives strong indicators of where a person is and how they can get to their destination. But they also need these indicators at the right time – at corridor junctions, lobbies, open-plan areas and so on. Wayfinding needs to work with the obvious landmarks of the environment, which could be any permanent and stand-out feature.

Remember, it has to work for different people in different circumstances: staff members, visitors, suppliers and delivery people. For this reason signs need to be designed to be understandable at their most basic level. An effective wayfinding system has to help people without making them think. This means that the messaging and visuals must be:

  • Clear
  • Comprehensive 
  • Consistent

How StepJockey can help

Beyond basic journeys around an office, wayfinding systems can be used to trigger positive behaviour change in the workplace. StepJockey does just this.

StepJockey Smart Signs are both informational and directional. The signs point the way to the stairs, but also provide information about the health benefits of taking the stairs.

StepJockey Smart Signs are based on the principles of good sign design. Our expert surveyors will give your organisation a full strategic understanding of how best to use the signage and which package will be the most cost-effective for your working environment. StepJockey’s installation experts pinpoint the key locations in your building that fulfil the criteria for great signage.

In fact, they work so well that they are even reported by facilities managers to have improved time taken in fire drills because staff have have become familiar with using the stairs.

So the next time you get lost in an office building, find a stairwell, and then take the stairs!

Want to know more?

If you're having trouble with inefficient people flow, StepJockey has ways to help, so get in touch today.

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