Let’s be honest, no one enjoys waiting in a waiting room, but it’s something we all do and sometimes we can wait a while. Recent research found the average time a person spends in a doctor’s waiting room is about 21 minutes. That’s why the impression your waiting area gives off could be a make or break experience; it is extremely important to ensure guests feel comfortable and welcomed while they are sitting in your space. Your waiting area should also be a reflection of what you and your company or organization represent. Because of all of these guidelines it can be overwhelming to know where to even start when planning out your space. That’s why we’ve put together some tips and advice to take the guessing out of the process:
Pay attention to traffic
When arranging your reception space you want to have a clear idea of where your guests will be entering and exiting and make sure these areas are clearly marked. There is nothing worse than showing up for an appointment and having no idea where to go; it can be off-putting right away. You want to make sure the foot traffic can flow freely around the waiting area and doesn’t bottle neck, which may be even smoother if you have a separate exit to keep traffic moving in one direction. Also be sure to flow patients through a visit without making them cross paths with other patients or retrace their steps.
Fill with the right furniture
The most important part of your waiting area is the furniture; not only is it the first thing your guests will see, it determines how comfortable they will feel in your space:
Your reception desk should be the focal point of your waiting area and easily viewable and accessible from the entrance. It should also be inviting and clean; the last thing you want when guests arrive are papers, boxes and packages scattered around the reception desk. If this is a familiar sight at your front desk you will want to be sure to choose a reception desk with adequate storage so you have somewhere to tuck away deliveries and other items. Also be sure you will have enough room for all of the necessities such as phones, computers, printers and scanners, as well as enough room for the amount of people who will be at the desk at the same time. You will also need to decide what shape of desk you will need depending on your space and preference as well as other design decisions (like will you need an elevated front to conceal confidential information, etc.). You want to choose a finish that will fit into your décor and provide the durability you need (wood grain laminate is very hard wearing), and you can even add some finishing touches like steel or plexi-glass. No matter what reception desks you are considering, the most important thing is to measure everything! You need to carefully measure the reception space you are filling to guarantee the desk you choose will fit into the area with no problem.
Measurements are just as important in the seating area of your waiting room; your space needs to look professional and attractive while comfortably accommodating your visitors. Take the measurements of some of the reception furniture you are considering to ensure it will fit in your space. To decide how much furniture you will need, consider how many waiting room chairs would be used by your guests on the busiest day, then add some tables to the space as well. Don’t forget when you are measuring to leave room for guests to move around freely and for a comfortable amount of space between the seats. You may also want to consider what seating pattern you use, for example, some clients typically do not want to sit with their backs to any doors and using a square or “U-shaped” seating arrangement may be a good way to allow guests to decide how they would like to interact with others waiting.
When choosing what reception chairs will work best in your setting, there are many things to consider:
- Is it comfortable? Uncomfortable seating can actually make the wait seem longer, so the best test is to try it. Would you want to sit in it for possibly 20+ minutes?
- Consider all of your guests, their sizes, ages and mobility. This will determine things like if you need chairs with arms or chairs of differing sizes to accommodate everyone.
- What type of upholstery will you need? Combination fabrics and engineered fabrics tend to be more durable than natural ones and work well in high traffic areas. Also, the tighter the weave, the longer the fabric tends to hold up. Vinyl seating is another cost effective option and can even be treated with a PERMABLOK® finish which creates a barrier against germs, abrasion and stains. Healthcare vinyl works well in some waiting areas too because it is easily cleaned and resistant to sulfide, urine, common stains, moisture and bacteria.
Finally, when deciding on all of your reception furniture your budget will be one of the biggest factors as well as when you may need it. Make sure to leave an adequate lead time if you are planning to have your reception area done for a particular date, for an open house for example, because there is nothing worse than waiting until the last minute and not having your new furniture for your big day.
Choose colors carefully
The colors of the furniture you choose as well as the colors of your walls and fixtures can have a direct effect on the way your visitors feel. If you are designing a doctor’s office waiting room you may want to choose calming or reassuring colors such as green or blue with a touch of pink for compassion. Blue denotes honesty, loyalty and security while green is calming. This is also why if decisions need to be made in the reception area, choosing a soft-blue green can help with decision making. In other office reception areas, such as in a salon, a pink shade may let your clients know they are going to be pampered, while yellow and red may cause anxiety and aggression. While choosing colors don’t forget you may want the colors of your company reflected throughout your waiting space as well. If you are unsure about what colors will work best, make sure to order fabric samples to see how they will look in your space and in your lighting.
A dash of décor
Once you have decided on your furniture and colors, you want to pick out some décor items that can also set the mood in your reception area. Pick things that people will remember and be sure to cater things to your clientele. For example, set yourself apart by adding tasteful art pieces, an aquarium full of exotic fish or a relaxing water feature; giving them something interesting to view will not only make your office unique it can help relax your guests before their appointments. The waiting room is also the perfect place to display information about your business and don’t forget to have some neatly arranged reading materials set out to help your visitors pass the time.
Set the mood with lighting
Adjusting the lighting in your waiting area can enhance the comfort of your visitors as well and can set a certain mood. Soft, bright light creates a sense of calm and increases the appeal of items on display, which would be good in a business office setting. Low, warm light, meanwhile, emits a “homey” quality and can add to the charm if you are going for a family vibe. Artificial looking light can comes off as harsh, so you may want to stay away from the fluorescent bulbs in your reception area, and natural light can make your space look larger because windows can connect the room with the outdoors.
Just because your guests are in your waiting room, it doesn’t mean their work stops. That’s why you may want to consider making outlets easily accessible so they are able to charge and use cell phones, iPads and laptops while they wait. Free Wi-Fi is also a great thing to offer, and don’t forget to provide the password. While they are working and waiting is the perfect time to promote your company too with the use of technology: use flat screen TVs to display information about who you are or even give them a virtual tour.
If you need help
If you just aren’t sure where to start or how to set up your waiting area, there are online design tools that you can turn to for help. Programs like 2020 Giza and Concept Draw can easily help you create the best layout and design, develop quotes, and even design your office space down to your printers and phones. Your furniture supplier can also help you decide what is right for your space.
Your work isn’t done
Just because you may have set up the perfect waiting space, doesn’t mean that’s all you need to do to keep your guests happy:
- Make sure your receptionist smiles and is pleasant to your guests (even on the worst of days). He or she is the first point of contact for your company and can set the tone for the entire visit.
- Keep your waiting area clean, including the reception desk. A cluttered waiting space could give guests a negative expectation of you for the future.
- Make visitors feel welcome by providing them a place to hang their coats, freshen up, or even a place to get a drink of water or coffee.
- Try your hardest to not keep your visitors waiting. There are going to be times where this is just not possible, but don’t make a habit of it; your guests have busy days just like you!
The best way to know if your waiting area is a great place for your guests is to simply put yourself in their shoes: actually sit in the area and document your experience regularly and have other employees do the same to see if any changes need to be made. You may even consider sending out a survey to your regular customers to see if they have suggestions.
Have you designed a new waiting area or redesigned an old one? What did you find helpful when making decisions about furniture, colors and decor? Did you do it on your own or did you turn to someone or a program for help? Let us know your experiences and how they can help others tackling the same project!