When was the last time you thought about the inside environment you’ve created for your healthy lifestyle business? Of course you keep it clean and inviting, but have you taken a fresh look since you first opened the doors all those years ago? Are your lobby, locker rooms, and exercise areas psychologically conducive to the services you provide?
Restaurant owners know it. Modern hospitals know it. Attorneys and real estate businesses know it. How your business space is designed and decorated has great influence on the people that spend time in it. It’s a reflection of the type of business therein and it sets a tone.
Let’s take a look at how environmental psychology can play a big role in enhancing your business and your customers’ experience just by creating the right setting.
A friend of mine used to have a membership at one of the big national workout chains. She liked it at first because it had brand new equipment, the locker rooms were clean, and the price was right.
She lasted three months.
Her current fitness center is in an unremarkable strip mall. It’s locally owned. The equipment is clean, but not new. She’s been going there for two years. “It just feels better,” she says.
When pressed for clarity she talked about the windows and natural light. She can see trees from the treadmill. She knows when it’s snowing or raining or sunny, even when she’s lifting weights in the back. The national chain didn’t have any windows except at the very front by the check-in counter. After that it was just artificial lighting and no views of the outdoors. She also likes the potted plants spread around the rooms at her current gym. She likes the organic ambiance they bring inside.
The national chain felt too impersonal for her liking. She told me she feels comfortable at her current place.
A Room With A View
Windows are nice, but that’s just a preference, right? Actually, there have been several studies (here and here) that show that patients in hospital rooms with a window recover more quickly and ask for less pain medication than patients in rooms without windows. Other studies show that in an office setting, workers who sit near a window are more productive and more satisfied with their jobs than the folks stuck in cubicles with no natural light (here and here).
Windows bring in natural light. It’s a bonus if there is also a view to green space or natural setting of some kind. It’s hard to think of an inside space (besides areas that need privacy, like locker rooms or massage rooms) that wouldn’t be nicer with a few windows. But adding windows is obviously an expensive construction project, so you might have to make do with what windows you have. Can you reconfigure your layout to give clients more proximity to the natural light?
A Green Thumb Can’t Hurt
The health benefits from indoor plants come from their ability to remove toxins and pollutants from the air and increase air quality. In fact NASA actually studied which house plants removed certain toxins.
Cleaner air is wonderful, but plants do more than that. Potted plants and vases of flowers can improve moods too, simply because they enliven a room. Plants bring the outdoors in. If they’re healthy and cared for, and clustered in attractive groups, they can enhance the visual aesthetics of a room.
Should every fitness facility, wellness center and gym owner dash out to the nearest nursery for plants? Maybe not. An industrial, bare-bones gym might be better offer keeping with a sparse look and feel.
Think about your particular space and what makes sense for it.
Pick A Color, But Not Any Color
Wall color and accent colors play a surprisingly big role in how people feel in a room. Certain colors and shades of colors conjure up definite vibes and feelings. And unlike windows, changing your wall color is a high-impact, low-cost investment.
If you are choosing a paint color for a space where relaxation and calm are the goal, you’ll want to consider shades of blue or green. For a room where a high-energy vibe is desired, you might want pops of yellow or orange.
Here are two summaries on color and what feelings they generally evoke (here and here).
Even wall art impacts the sensibility of a space. Choose images that are congruent with your wellness or fitness services. That doesn’t mean they have to be pictures of folks exercising or inspirational quotes (although they could be).
Music selection for the sound system has long been recognized in the world of health and fitness to be vital and significant. Even though most people bring their own iPods and ear buds to the gym, health club owners have long understood that the background music is important.
Here’s a refresher on music, exercise, performance, and motivation.
Extreme Makeover? Nah
You don’t have to spend thousands of dollars remodeling to change the feel and ambience of your healthy lifestyle business. And you definitely don’t want to copycat what another fitness or wellness business does. Your business should reflect your personality, your services, and convey the mental energy to your clients that complements the reason they show up in the first place.
But do walk through your space and see it through fresh eyes.
Start at the macro level: look at the colors, shapes, lighting, and artwork in the various rooms. Look at the furniture and equipment and how it’s arranged. What are the adjectives that come to mind? For example: industrial, clinical, inviting, cluttered, spacious, serene, energizing, modern, outdated, stimulating, fresh, tired, etc.
Then walk through your facility again and focus on the micro level: consider the textures of the furniture and floors. Look at the accent colors. Are there small touches and details? What feeling does the overall space evoke?
Easy and inexpensive improvements might include rearranging the furniture, painting, adding or rearranging plants, removing blinds or window coverings, purchasing a small indoor fountain, re-merchandising your retail area, or adjusting the lighting with different bulbs or fixtures.