What does your office’s reception area look like? If it’s poorly designed, it won’t offer an inviting and welcoming atmosphere for visitors. The reception area is a representation of your company. A negative first impression can cause you to lose prospective clients or customers. However, you can encourage visitors to stay by upgrading your reception area.
What Is a Reception Area?
Also known as a front office, a reception area is an open entryway for an office that’s managed by one or more receptionists. It’s used to direct and guide visitors to their intended destination. Imagine a prospective client wanting to learn more about your company’s products or services, or perhaps a vendor wishing to discuss the terms of a purchase order. Regardless, a visitor can tell the receptionist the reason for his or her visit. The receptionist can then direct the visitor to the appropriate area of your office. All reception areas serve as guidance, as well as a waiting space for an office’s visitors.
Furnish With Seating
It’s not uncommon for visitors to wait in office reception areas. According to one report, the average wait time for the Social Security Administration’s (SSA’s) Hallandale office was between 13 minutes and two hours. Without seating – or enough seating for that matter – visitors will be forced to stand. You can create a more inviting and welcoming atmosphere by furnishing your office’s reception area with adequate seating. Don’t just push a few low-quality chairs against the wall but, instead, use high-quality chairs that are both comfortable and attractive. Fixed-leg accent chairs work well in reception areas. They are modernly stylish and feature soft seat cushions and backrests. And with their fixed legs, they won’t roll or move around. Chairs with a five-point rolling system on the bottom are ideal for cubicles and other individual workspaces, but because of the ease at which they move around, they are a poor choice for a reception area.
In addition to fixed-leg accent chairs, consider furnishing your office’s reception area with a sofa. Most visitors will agree that sofas are more relaxing than conventional chairs. The downside to using sofas, however, is that they consume more space than traditional chairs. Therefore, it’s best to use conventional chairs, such as fixed-leg accent chairs, as the main form of seating in your office’s reception area, while using a single sofa as a complementary form of seating.
You should include some form of entertainment for visitors while waiting in your reception area. While most visitors will probably pass the time by playing on their smartphone, it’s proper etiquette for companies to offer a distraction in their office’s reception area.
One of the most common forms of entertainment found in office reception areas is magazines. Just a half-dozen or so magazines can keep visitors occupied while they wait for their appointment. You might be surprised to learn that many publishers offer free or heavily discounted magazine subscriptions if the magazines are used in a reception area. After all, it helps the publisher to reach and attract new subscribers. Some visitors may proceed to purchase their own subscription to a magazine after discovering it in your office’s reception area. You’ll need some tables on which to place the magazines. You shouldn’t store magazines directly on the receptionist’s desk. Instead, place them on side tables or coffee tables. The tables should be within arms reach of the chairs. Side tables, of course, work best when arranged directly next to chairs, whereas coffee tables should be in front of chairs. A magazine rack is a great alternative if you are fixed for space.
Magazines aren’t the only form of entertainment available for office reception areas. Another option is to install one or more televisions. Televisions have become increasingly common in office reception areas, and for good reason: They create a more entertaining and enjoyable space for visitors. You can even use a television to educate visitors about your company while they wait in your office’s reception area. Whether you play promotional material, sports games, news broadcasts or any other video programming, a television will help you create a better reception area.
Add a Coat Rack
A coat rack is an invaluable accessory for an office reception area. If it’s raining outside, visitors will probably want to take off their coat or jacket upon entering the reception area. No one wants to wear a rain-soaked coat or jacket. As a result, all office reception areas should include a coat rack. If your office’s reception area doesn’t have a coat rack, visitors will likely toss their coats and jackets on the furniture. Not only does this consume seating space that could be used for other visitors; it may damage your furniture. If a visitor places a rain-soaked coat on a leather sofa, for instance, the sofa may develop permanent water stains. You can avoid these problems by adding a coat rack to your office’s reception area.
Here are some features to look for when shopping for a coat rack:
- Large number of hooks, such as six or eight
- Balls on the end of hooks to protect visitors’ coats and jackets from damage
- Durable and heavy-duty construction
- Stable bottom to prevent the coat rack from tipping or falling over
- Built-in umbrella stand (usually around the bottom of the coat rack)
- An attractive style that matches the rest of your office’s reception area
Keep in mind that not all coat racks are freestanding. Some are mounted to the wall. So, should you choose a freestanding or wall-mounted coat rack for your office’s reception area? You can use either type, but many companies prefer the former because of their simple and classic design. If you choose a wall-mounted coat rack, you’ll have to install it on a wall. If there isn't a stud present behind the wall where you want to install it, you’ll have to choose a different area. On the other hand, you can place a freestanding coat rack just about anywhere in your office’s reception area. Just remember to choose a high-quality coat rack that supports a large number of coats and jackets.
Light It Up
If your office’s reception area features dim or otherwise insufficient lighting, it won’t create a welcoming atmosphere for visitors. Dimly lit office reception areas have the opposite effect by discouraging visitors from staying. The lack of lighting creates a gloomy atmosphere that reflects negatively upon your company’s brand image. When designing your office’s reception area, use a combination of artificial and natural lighting.
Studies have shown that office workers, including receptionists, are more productive when they are exposed to natural light. For visitors, natural lighting can uplift their mood. So, embrace natural sunlight in your office’s reception area by opening the window curtains or blinds. You’ll still need artificial lighting – overhead fixtures, freestanding lamps, table lamps, etc. – but natural lighting offers a more Eco-friendly source of illumination that can manifest in the form of increased employee productivity as well as increased visitor satisfaction.
Can visitors access Wi-Fi while waiting in the reception area? If not, you should consider adding a guest network to your information technology (IT) infrastructure. Wi-Fi is an essential amenity that will improve visitor satisfaction while simultaneously projecting your company as being a leading and authority figure in its respective industry.
Statistics show 81% of Americans now own a smartphone, compared to just 35% in 2011. Without Wi-Fi in your office’s reception area, visitors will have to rely on mobile broadband to access the internet from their smartphones. Unfortunately, mobile broadband is often slow and unreliable. By setting up Wi-Fi in your office’s reception area, visitors can access and use the internet without relying on mobile broadband. Whether a visitor has a smartphone, a tablet computer or a laptop computer, he or she can connect to the Wi-Fi to take advantage of blazing-fast download speeds.
For security purposes, it’s recommended that you create a separate guest Wi-Fi for your office’s reception area. Allowing visitors to connect to your office’s main Wi-Fi is never a good idea. For a visitor to connect to Wi-Fi, he or she needs the network’s password. Rather than giving out the password to your office’s main Wi-Fi, create a separate Wi-Fi using a different access point (e.g. router). Doing so ensures that visitors won’t be able to download or access your company’ sensitive data.
Install a Multi-Line Phone
All office reception areas should have at least one multi-line phone located behind the receptionist’s front desk. Visitors won’t be able to access the multi-line phone. Rather, it’s used specifically by the receptionist. When someone calls your company’s office, the receptionist can forward his or her call to the appropriate executive or employee. Unless you operate a particularly small company that receives few or no calls in a typical day, you should install a multi-line phone in your office’s reception area.
As the name suggests, multi-line phones support the use of multiple landlines. While standard phones only support a single landline, multi-line phones support two or more landlines. With a multi-line phone, you aren’t restricted to using a single landline with a single phone number. You can use multiple landlines with multiple phone numbers. A four-line phone, for example, supports four landlines with four phone numbers, whereas a six-line phone supports six landlines with six phone numbers. Some phones can even support up to ten landlines and phone numbers, making them particularly useful for large companies. By providing your receptionist with a multi-line phone, he or she will be able to guide visitors to their intended destination more quickly.
Choose a Cohesive Color Scheme
The color scheme can make or break your office’s reception area. Different colors instill different moods in visitors. According to a study conducted by researchers at the University of Texas, offices consisting of gray, beige and/or white instill feelings of sadness. In comparison, colors with low wavelengths like green and blue instill feelings of calmness and relaxation. If your office’s reception area consists primarily of gray, beige and/or white, it may have a negative impact on visitors’ experience. Green and blue aren’t the only effective colors for an office reception area. There are plenty of other colors that work well in office reception areas. Yellow has been shown to instill feelings of energy, while red triggers feelings of passion. Regardless of which colors you use in your office’s reception area, they should all flow together in a cohesive manner. In other words, don’t use multiple colors that clash with each other. Some colors naturally clash with each other, such as black and brown. For an attractive reception area, you must use a cohesive color scheme in which all the colors flow together without clashing.
Keep It Clean
Because it serves as a welcoming space for visitors, you should keep your office’s reception area clean and tidy. Allowing trash and clutter to accumulate will only hurt your efforts to design an attractive reception area. You can keep your office’s reception area a little cleaner by placing trash receptacles near the chairs and sofa. If the only receptacle is located behind the receptionist’s desk, some visitors may simply leave their trash behind. Over time, this can lead to a dirty and cluttered reception area that projects an unwelcoming atmosphere. If visitors have access to trash receptacles, however, they can throw away their trash so that it doesn’t contribute to dirt and clutter. Even with accessible trash receptacles, you should consider hiring a professional office cleaning company. There are cleaning companies that specialize in commercial offices. They have the equipment, skills, and experience needed to thoroughly clean your office’s reception area. And if you need other areas of your office cleaned, such as cubicles or individual workstations, they can clean them as well.
Don’t let your office’s reception area discourage visitors from engaging with your company. You only get one chance to make a first impression. If your office’s reception area is poorly designed, it will leave an equally poor impression on visitors. Follow the tips outlined here to design a welcoming and inviting reception area to which visitors respond positively.
President at Office Chairs Unlimited – I have been in the furniture industry for over 20 years, and I’m an expert (just ask me) on all things furniture. I know a thing or two because I’ve seen a thing or two.