Sometimes less is simply less – at least when it comes to work environments. While the ‘lean enterprise’ approach has optimized manufacturing processes in companies for decades, some firms have taken it a step too far by adopting the ‘lean’ philosophy in their office design. As it turns out, minimalistic furnishing might not be such a good idea, reportedly making workers miserable and unproductive. Our work environment may have a much bigger impact on our performance than we thought. Based on the latest research: Here’s how to boost your employees’ creativity and productivity by creating an inspirational work environment.
A More Human-Centered Place
Studies have shown that creativity-supporting work environments not only enhance innovative behavior at an individual level but can boost the entire firm’s product innovation performance. Designing space for creativity and innovation therefore must happen across the whole firm. But “design” in this case doesn’t stand for chic and style; what it really means is an effort to create a more human-centered place. For example, installing moveable furniture enables employees to experiment with seating orders and allows them to rotate tables together during brainstorming sessions. It takes away from the feeling of being stuck at a particular place.
A related trend is what is known as activity-based working. In this concept, spaces are not assigned to a particular worker but rather to an activity. Thus, workers choose where to work based on their current task. And while this model might not be suitable for every department and industry, it has been found to be extremely advantageous for people who work in agile environments and come equipped with a rather open personality.
If changing location inside your office is not an option, another way to boost creativity might be to start leaving the office for limited periods of time. Research has shown that a change in scenery positively impacts the generation of new ideas. Various services now make it easy to temporarily rent out office space from others, and brainstorming while simply going for a walk in the park can be a great way to foster a free flow of ideas.
Even Small Changes Can Have a Big Impact
Many companies already put a lot of effort into optimizing their meeting rooms and facilitating creative group brainstorming sessions. But fostering creativity is just as important when employees are working on their own, at their desks. There, even small improvements can have a big impact, for instance, when it comes to the items in our offices. Plants, for example, have been shown to improve the comfort of workers, as well as improve employee productivity by a whopping 15%. That is, in addition to providing valuable extra oxygen and an overall cleaner indoor air.
Things like silly putty, kinetic sand, puzzles and building blocks can be good to have on hand, too. They’re not only fun to play with but can help reduce anxiety as well as spark creativity. Overall, having a few items that are not work-related on tables and windowsills does not distract, it inspires.
Subconsciously, it seems, our creativity is also influenced by the colors around us. A study conducted by the University of British Columbia has found that “red is the most effective at enhancing our attention to detail, while blue is best at boosting our ability to think creatively.”
Lastly, lighting design is an often underestimated factor. In a study from 2014, participants that were exposed to natural light significantly outperformed those exposed to electric light. While we don’t always have the luxury of working in completely natural light, this does indicate that lamps aren’t the best place to save money when designing office spaces for creativity.
We’re at the beginning of big changes – and that’s a good thing.
While optimizing for productivity tends to put even more pressure on employees, optimizing for creativity is a process that removes structures and restrictions. Schedules and working hours are likely to become even more flexible, and practices such as out-of-office meetings promise a future in more exciting work environments. Overall, it seems this new trend is one that finally both employers and employees will be able to get behind. Will you?