Physical Environment in Counseling and Planning
I have recently read an interesting article about the impact of physical environment on the financial counseling and planning relationship and process. The publication raised my great interest because I have noticed before that our offices have several deficiencies that may have negative effects on the quality of our relationships with clients. The physical environment includes many aspects of our surrounding, including furniture and room design, color, accessories, lighting, sound, smell, thermal conditions and others. I have learned that all of these aspects can have bigger impact on relationships and the quality of our work that most people would expect. Therefore I took the initiative and researched the topic a little further to get a better understanding of the issue. Although there’s not a lot of a material available that refers strictly to financial planning, I was able to borrow ideas from other, more general studies. I believe that we can greatly improve our work place and clients’ satisfaction by implementing some changes in the physical environment in our office building. I came up with several recommendations regarding different elements of physical environment in our work place. The research conducted by Pressly and Heesacker (2001) indicates that all of the elements of physical environment can have a negative or positive impact on the workplace. One of the most interesting things I found in their article is that self-disclosure increases in warm, intimate settings (Pressly & Heesacker, 2001). Self-disclosure and feeling of privacy and intimacy are crucial elements of our business and it is really worthwhile to consider implementing some of their findings. Here are some factors that could positively impact these qualities: •
Colors – Research suggests that deep, cool colors contract space and therefore make the big rooms feel more intimate (Pressly & Heesacker, 2001). In addition, cool colors tend to have a positive impact on the body by lowering blood pressure, pulse and respiration. The clients would be more relaxed and prompt to give true responses about their personal lives. Furthermore, people in general feel more comfortable in rooms with pastel or earth tone colors (Pulvino, Lee & Pulvino, 2002). Since all of our office rooms are quite big, my recommendation is to paint the walls in the planners’ offices with colors that match the above description. The planners should individually choose the specific color that is most visually pleasing to them, because it’s important for them to feel comfortably in the work place. •
Furniture and Space – The article by Pressly and Heesacker (2001) says male and female counselors were perceived differently based on the style of their offices. Females are perceived more competent when they occupy a “traditional, professional” office, whereas men are considered more competent if they reside in “humanistic” offices. This is an important consideration to keep in mind when arranging offices for male and female counselors. Another consideration with furniture is providing some level of autonomy for the clients when it comes to seating positioning. Movable chairs and couches in our offices will provide clients with “greater degree of comfort, autonomy and equality” (Pressly & Heesacker, 2001). It will also allow the planner to “read” the interaction changes during the counseling/planning process. It is extremely important that we arrange enough space in our offices for the client to comfortably adjust his position with respect to the planner. Since we want to emphasize the feeling of equality between the planners and counselors, we need to consider the seating arrangement very carefully. I have noticed that in almost all of our meeting rooms, the chairs provided for clients are worse than the one of the planner. According to Pulvino et al. (2002), “types of chairs can generate power or influence.” In case of our...
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