Sensory integration for the perfect office match

sensory-integration-for-office-layout and design

What would the perfect office look like? Do you prefer a quiet room all on your own or the hubbub of a big open space office? Do you do your best work in silence or prefer working to music or other background sounds? What about the lighting, do you like to be looking out of a window, or find the glare too much for you? And how about the air flow, do you like being near the air-con outlet or an open window? Would the perfect office have opportunities to move about? And what about the rest of the staff, what do they prefer?

My perfect office would be a quiet room, ideally all to myself, with views out of a window on to trees and green space. I know that I do my best work when noise and visual distractions are kept to a minimum. But, I wouldn’t want to be ‘shut away’ all day, I’d also need to be able to get up and move about and meet with colleagues for collaboration. However, we are not all the same. While I prefer to be tucked away in a quiet room, others would find this tedious or boring, and far from conducive to productivity.

What is Sensory Integration (SI)?

While we could easily dismiss such preferences as a mere whim, these preferences do in fact have a scientific basis. We are sensory beings and sensory information is pivotal to our understanding of and interaction with the world around us. Dr Jean Ayres developed a theory to explain how the brain works to process this sensory information, all 40 million bits per second, called Sensory Integration (SI). SI helps to explain how information from each of our senses impact upon how our brain is working, and influences attention and concentration, productivity and performance, as well as wellbeing. This primal, unconscious part of the brain is fundamental to our daily preferences, yet is often overlooked.

Part of the sensory system filters and organises the degree, intensity and our response to sensory information. Think of it as a filter at the base of the brain, that lets sensory inputs come up and impact on the rest of the brain. If you have small holes in the filter, you will not let much sensory information through to your brain. As a result you may be able to tolerate high degrees of sensory input (like noisy, busy office environments). If you have large holes in the filter, you will let a lot of sensory information through to the brain. As a result you may not be not be able to tolerate as much sensory input (and prefer quieter, calmer spaces).

How Sensory Integration affects workplace choice

How sensitive individuals are to sensory information impacts on their work and most likely influenced career choice in the first place. It determines the kind of work environment people enjoy, such as whether they work best in complete silence or like the hubbub of a busy office. Whether staff prefer looking at lots of colours and contrasts to spark their imagination or if they prefer plain, neutrals to look at. It also impacts upon how prone individuals are to stress and what types of stress management will work best for them.

Sensoria is delighted to be working in collaboration with Officeworks to provide sensory profiling assessments, along with staff training and development. The sensory profile assesses the sensitivity of each of the senses (size of the holes in the filter), helping you to find the perfect match between the individual and the office environment. It helps individuals to understand their unique sensory profile and how this impacts upon how they work, their preferred working environments and interaction with others. This self-awareness can also be used to improve productivity and performance, creativity and staff wellbeing.

Interested to know more about how this could help you and your office? Please contact Officeworks on 014442 875666 / or Sensoria directly on 07816 673 731 /

A guest blog from Tania Barney, Owner/Director at Sensoria