The Impact of Art in the Workplace
Living and working today is not just about the bare necessities anymore. Since everything is at our fingertips, we seem to stretch for more and more.
These days all of us want to differ our lives from the mediocrity, to rise above the everyday routine, break the limits, achieve the new heights.
Instead of working to survive, most of us now work to live and admire nature, sunsets, traveling and of course, art.
Do we need to get on the move to feel completely satisfied?
Probably yes, but today, the corporate world is going through a fast-paced renaissance, doing it’s best to enable its employees to find inner satisfaction, even during 9-5 workdays and art adds enormous value to it.
Although we are moving far from the merciless manufacturing halls and non-pleasant work environment by virtue of exponential technology development, there is a lot of work to be done in order to back up the balance between the work environment and the quality of life.
Art is a subtle way of improving the current state of mind that many employees may have on their jobs and workplace environments, because, let’s face it, even if it’s the best job in the world, it may sometimes get on your nerves.
Could companies use art as a tool to incorporate culture, communicate brand values, increase productivity, enhance employees’ interaction, reduce stress and make the workplace more pleasant, just by this modest investment?
FORMS/TYPES OF ART IN THE WORKPLACE
Starting with the adoption and incorporation of art in your workplace, there are few things to keep track of.
Art is everywhere around us and comes in a variety of forms.
We observe different forms of art by employing senses and sometimes we employ more than one.
While considering the option of supplying your workplace with art pieces, you should focus on 3 things.
Which of the senses do you want to trigger?
Which forms of art are the best to align with the message you want to send?
What do you want to achieve and how?
Crucial types of art to include in the work environment are architecture, sculpture, painting, literature, music, performing arts and film.
One should never hesitate to be slightly edgy with the choice of the right art piece considering the fact that art is sometimes all about crossing the lines.
Rely on the power of art to challenge an individual, convey the message, stimulate a different way of thinking and intrigue, but at the same time to refresh the atmosphere, influence an individual and shape the environment. If it leaves an individual indifferent, it’s not art we’re talking about.
Whether the recipient is horrified or annoyed, satisfied or bedazzled, provoked into thinking or feeling, is not as relevant as the fact that he is touched when it comes to the freedom of an artist.
As far as employing art in business goes, one should use it wisely and be wary of the effects that are to be produced.
All of the art can be used for the same purpose, but there is almost always that one piece which represents the best solution for the results you want to achieve.
IMPACT OF ART ON EMPLOYEES
The workplace is where hard work, fatigue, stress, the mutual interaction of employees, creativity, and productivity come together to form a different atmosphere. Imagine making multiple influences just by refreshing your company’s culture with some artistic innovations.
An organization is as strong as its employees are. Nurturing them and doing what it takes to ensure they are having a great time working is the crucial aspect of every business.
Whether employees know what they need or you are the one taking care of that, consider the art an important asset in your toolbox.
Analyzing the average timespan of efficient work, VoucherCloud came to the peculiar conclusion by interviewing nearly 2,000 UK office workers.
They found out that 2 hours and 23 minutes of an 8-hour workday were efficiently spent on work and the rest were distributed to activities such as news and social media checking, food, and hot drink preparation, non-work-related topics with colleagues, etc.
There is an almost equal time that’s spent on work and non-work activities.
On that basis, there are two key ways that art can be used to influence people at the workplace: active and passive.
Active Influence of Art on Employees
This type of impact relates to the employees in their “hardly-working” working hours. Bearing in mind that this time is as important as their working hours, there is a huge potential of affecting the employees here.
The employer has full freedom and creativity as well as the attention of employees whose encumbered minds may be running vacant at the moment.
During this time, the purpose of art should be to stimulate employees, recharge and rejuvenate them.
Having their own stress relief break and getting back to the job with renewed vigor and focus can highly increase the productivity of the firm.
The most suitable arts employed here are the ones which don’t burden the attention span of the employees too much as it is already threatened by the tasks at hand and multitude of stimuli in contemporary work environments. Paintings, sculptures, short video materials or music pieces should work just fine in these purposes.
Passive Influence of Art on Employees
Work hours can be tough and relentless, monotony can also be a threat, not to mention working in unpleasant conditions.
This is a problem best addressed by a passive reception and consumption of art. Music, architecture, wall graphics, and similar subtle art expressions are uncompromising ways of refreshing the workplace environment and group atmosphere.
Talking about art, in this case, could be misunderstood and comprehended as a bit superficial.
As mentioned, the passive influence of art is all about the subtle incorporation of it the working environment, which gives the employer the whole new universe of creative opportunities.
Besides traditional art, there is a wider spectrum of artistic implementations one can make in the workplace.
Table tennis, for example, doesn’t really represent a work of art, but the innovative solutions for using it as a work desk instead of its original purpose raises the bar to a whole new level. It becomes an art.
Incremental renovation of the workplace through unconventional ideas can lead to the creation or expression of a strong company’s culture.
One can start with small, but well-planned and purposeful collective engagements and witness the increases in productivity and consolidation of the employees.
STRENGTHENING BRAND CULTURE THROUGH ART
There is a whole universe of people looking at the art in the workplace as something “merely aesthetic”, but aesthetics is so much more than people think.
It’s not just a superficial way of being pretty. The aesthetics address the wholesome, artistic beauty and for it to do that, it has to address the inner beauty as well.
The inner beauty in terms of a less artistic discourse could be viewed as content.
So, the art is not just a form, nor is it just a style. It’s always about delivering content.
Having that in mind, one can use art as a tool for provoking employees’ perception, interaction, engagement, and a certain state of mind.
Great corporations use art as a major part of their interior design strategies.
We’re not talking just wall graphics, photographs, sculptures, living walls to modern solutions such as graffiti.
Every serious company should consider art as a way of presenting itself both to its employees and associates.
Those who care for the workplace environment and style it to meet the expectations of staff are telling them that they are willing to do the best to satisfy their needs for the pleasant environment or how much care is put in how they feel while working.
If a picture is worth a thousand words, better take care of what the walls of your company tell employees.
Avoid plain walls, they are saying that there is no story to be told or a bright future for the ambitious ones.
Companies that pay attention to those details and create a warm environment are more likely to have satisfied employees who are proud of where they work and appreciate what they experience. Corporate values could also be incorporated through messages, colors and other works of art.
Tina Baker from Witherstech law firm considered that offices, homes and public spaces should be equally exposed to art in order to fulfill everyday interactions.
When she founded Witherstech, she was aware of the negative stereotype law firms suffer from, so she decided to play the cards different and add some “color splash” on the walls.
When it came to supplying offices with some artistic items, she decided to go a mile further and equipped Witherstech with electric pieces of art, which were pretty unusual for such a company.
Refreshing the workplace helped her differentiate the firm from many others in the niche, attract new employees and arouse the curiosity of clients.
In conclusion, art is a way of creating symbols that unify content and make it easy to recognize. When a symbol is universally and subconsciously understood, without even a strive to do so, in terms of market, it becomes a brand.
A great way of “branding” your products, as well as your firm, is finding the graphic expression of your work’s redo, values, products, motos, motivations and collective.
The graphic expression of all that should be easy to recognize and understand. Just think of heraldry.
So, the purpose of the symbol or a logo is to draw and focus the perception of your brand and then to proliferate it.
Uniforms at work with casual Fridays are a good way of making employees feel like a part of a team. Just don’t be too strict on the rules there.
The goal is not to submit them into wearing a prison-suit, but to invite them to wear something that will symbolize their belonging to a collective, to a movement, to an institution, to a group, to a cult if you will. Make it fashionable, ’cause fashion these days is partially art.
CAN ART INSPIRE CREATIVITY AND ENHANCE COMMUNICATION?
Votes here are not divided, yet people’s opinions on artistic works are. It is well known that art is a thought-provoking experience for many, but what does that mean in terms of business and entrepreneurship?
Employees who interact with art on a daily basis benefit from such reception in various ways. Art can inspire one to think of a problem differently after hours and hours of being stuck in the same tunnel of thoughts.
Cass Business School did a research on the art’s influence on employees during work hours. Results of it were quite appealing and showed that 80% of men considered art as a factor that has a minor effect on them, opposite to 100% of women who admitted that art has some effect on their work behaviour. 54% of women also considered that art has a moderate to big effect on their creativity, in relation to 47% of male employees.
As we said earlier, people’s opinions on the works of art are different and that showcased as the major factor in increased communication and interaction among employees.
Different opinions can often be a cause for new social interactions and casual bonding but also lead to meaningful collaborations and team strengthening.
DOES ART REDUCE STRESS?
With strict deadlines in dynamic work environments, stress is something that can’t be avoided, not to say that most people fight it in their everyday job activities.
The essence is in the way people are fighting, preventing or solving it.
Offices supplied with the works of art proved to be the ones which affected people in a positive way and played a decent role in their stress relief.
In research done by Forbes, where they interviewed 800 employees from 32 different companies, the results went hand in hand with a few similar types of research on this topic and showed decent statistics.
To be exact, 78% of respondents confirmed that they believe that art reduces their stress at the workplace.
As this is too good to be true, the already mentioned research of the Cass Business School also confirmed this assumption.
In their research, men and women were interviewed separately on two topics: stress reduction and general well being.
Men appeared to be less concerned about the art’s effect on their stress reduction with 66% positive answers, opposite to women’s 80%. On the topic of art’s impact on their general well being, women were more convinced with 92%, opposite to men with 71%.
Whether or not they are right estimating the impact that art has on their stress and general well-being, the fact that they are convinced of it remains crucial.
ART AND PRODUCTIVITY
Now we came to the main question. Can art affect people and their mood to an extent where it leads to an increase in their productivity?
It’s obvious that experiments for any conclusion in this matter can’t be completely reliable, but every tiny shift in productivity, conditioned by modest investment, brings a reasonable return on that investment, and it’s worth it.
What happens when we equip the workplace with art is the question that Dr. Craig Knight from Identity Realisation tried to answer. He experimented by creating four different environments: Lean, Enriched, Empowered and Disempowered.
- The Lean environment was plain, with no artistic objects, walls, photographs, etc.
- Enriched was equipped by researchers themselves who tried to please the unknown desires of employees.
- The Empowered environment was the one designed and supplied by employees personally and they had all the freedom to match it to their needs.
- Disempowered one was the environment previously designed by employees but afterwards redesigned by the team of researchers.
What happened next is the classical example of human nature in practice. When it comes to employees and workplace conditions affecting productivity, it is almost never about the visible factors.
You may have heard of the Hawthorne experiment, where work conditions were changed several times, in order to find the reason for the ups and downs of productivity.
The brightness of the lights decreased and increased, paying methods changed, but what was the conclusion at the end?
People worked more when they knew that someone is watching them and less when they didn’t know it.
What has happened in Dr. Knight’s experiment?
Working in a Lean environment didn’t cause any productivity shifts.
After supplying it by researchers in the Enriched environment, productivity increased by 15%.
When employees were encouraged to decorate the workplace themselves, it doubled and increased by 32% overall.
But, after rearranging it by researchers, productivity dropped to the level of a Lean environment.
What is the catch?
Researchers made a mistake redesigning an Empowered environment?
No, Dr. Knight came to an interesting conclusion about employees’ nature.
First, they were working harder with the artistic environment, than in the plain one. Then, they’ve got a chance to design it themselves and that was the end.
They loved the opportunity to take charge of their environment and have a role in the process. Employees enjoyed being accountable for their environment and feeling autonomy over it.
So what should we learn from this?
It’s not art, it is the use of art that matters.
HOW TO USE AND HOW TO CHOOSE
Considering the way we use art as something of huge importance, supplying the workplace with randomly chosen works of art is not a wise option.
Being smart, yet open to employees’ opinions definitely is though.
Answering three questions we mentioned at the beginning and funneling the decision to employees afterwards is surely welcomed.
After you came to terms with what exactly you want to achieve, it is easy to accomplish that through different forms of art if your employees go with the flow.
There are a few websites made in order to help you make this step. Those tools can be used to organize voting for shortlisted works of art your employees previously chose and let them decide which one to purchase.
In the research done by Leesman, Thomas and the British Council for offices on exploring performance, they came to the conclusion that the art in the workplace is underprovided.
Not only that, but also that 95% of the interview employees can’t see art from their work desk, 70% of them don’t have art in the office at all, and 55% are generally dissatisfied with the selection of the art.
This leads us to the point where, besides including employees in the selection process, we must pay attention to the positioning of the art pieces.
There shouldn’t be discrimination in the employee’s exposure to art in his workplace.
Supplying your workplace with art is, as we considered, a great option.
But, having the same works of art for years, showcased as not that effective.
Time passes by and suddenly, nobody sees it. It becomes your everyday, monotonous, ordinary and boring prop.
So, should you buy literally every piece of art you encounter and find interesting? No need for that. For that reason, there are plenty of websites or local galleries and shops where you can rent them. It seems like renting is the new way of buying art today.
Dr. Greg Metz and Katrina Saunders suggest six months period as an ideal time span for the art refreshment in your workplaces.
That way, you keep employees curious and occupied over and over again. Anyhow, the non-negligible benefit of renting is the fact you are saving money.
FROM THE WORKPLACE TO THE COMPANY LEVEL
Given the strength of the impact that art has on the individual employees, the effect it has on the company, in general, is unquestionable.
Summing up all the benefits mentioned before, there is a question popping up.
Are those individual improvements and the following compound effects the only values the company needs and can get from art incorporation.
No. 1 Global business leaders are nowadays worried about a few more things for which art can be a solution.
Many of them admitted attracting and finding the workers in an age in which both technical and soft skills are required to succeed is harder to handle nowadays. The mission of being a desirable employer has become harder to achieve.
Attracting those proactive individuals is achievable only through good branding. But the consciousness about the need for fancy branding has raised over a past decade, resulting in huge competition on the job market.
Only the ones ready to take unconventional steps and create uniqueness are those who prosper in the game of cats and mice. Implementing art in all the brand aspects is crucial for differentiating your business. But, it all starts at the workplace.
Being able to provide the workplace we talked about, returns as a word of mouth marketing that lures more people willing to work for or with your company.
Amidst the clutter on social media, it’s getting even harder to control the brand image. Therefore, to prevent being cluttered by trying to cope with the public image you are sending. Take care of your workplace first.
Considering the accelerated and stressful pace of the lives we all live, there are numerous steps we can take to make it better, more pleasurable and more fulfilled. Taking care of your workplace is unquestionably one of them.
Whether you use art to animate or intrigue your employees in spare time or to influence their mood while working, arranging your workplace with art is a good option.
Take advantage of best case practices available to create your fully personalized environment or the one for your employees.
It will benefit widely, starting from helping you incorporate brand values and culture into your workplace, boosting people’s creativity, enhancing communication, creating a stress relief environment, to increasing productivity.
Being smart with the use of art as a tool can give us much more in the aspect of culture, productivity and brand image.
Maybe we should take the point from Eric Ries at this point and his book “The Startup way” and encourage every individual to make the change by giving him the opportunity and available resources to do it.
Also, buying arts is not always the best option, considering the industry’s transition to rental activities.
Invest in art to make a refreshment to the workplace.
That can stimulate individuals, create a compound effect on the whole company and represent you as a desirable employer.
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