Richard Branson recently published an article detailing the importance of creating an inviting space in which to do business. He describes Virgin spaces as “interesting and comfortable places to work, with lots of space for people to mingle, comfortable chairs, quirky designs and entertainment to give people a real break.”

Branson’s endeavour to create unique, eccentric and comfortable space is a direct effort to make customers, clients and employees happy – all whilst reinforcing the playful Virgin brand and culture. Whilst we can’t all work from a hammock on Necker Island, we can take some pointers from Virgin’s design thinking strategy.

Studies repeatedly show that our environment has a profound effect on our mood. The most densely populated and high-cost places in London, for example, supposedly make the capital the destination of the six unhappiest places to live in the country.

This is not necessarily a new idea. Alain de Botton’s bestselling The Architecture of Happiness looks at how the quality of our environment can contribute to our mood. He argues that it’s architecture’s task to stand as a reminder of our full potential, as well as influence the way we see ourselves and our environment. Its design influences the way we interact with and within that environment.

Office design must take into account the holistic nature of business environments today. Take, for example, the rise of start-up culture across the globe. We’ve all heard of the wacky co-working spaces adopted by these hubs, from nap pods to coffee bars, to play rooms, hidden loft spaces and treadmill desks. These quirky add-ons are designed to maintain a sense of playfulness, fun and perspective. This combines with open place co-working space, helping facilitate collaboration – in turn contributing to idea generation and innovation within and across differing industries. It’s in line with the start-up culture categorised by experimentation, failing fast and learning faster. It’s safe, flexible and productive.

Engaged workers are most often those given an inspiring work environment that encourages interaction, movement and focus. Additionally, clients are likelier to return to spaces defined by entertainment and comfort. Looking to the future, the key to happiness in business spaces may be found in affording choice.

Photo by Heisenberg Media Flickr/CC BY 2.0