Is office environment key to workplace creativity?

Not everybody is what you could call a born creative, but it’s still considered one of the most valuable qualities in the workplace.

In fact, according to LinkedIn Learning, creativity is the most important skill in the world as it allows businesses to solve problems with “relevancy and novelty”. This means actually dealing with the issue at hand, but doing so in original and unexpected ways, which the team argues is crucial as process-driven jobs continue to diminish. While repetitive tasks are becoming increasingly automated, companies are always on the lookout for employees who can devise new and better solutions.

workplace creativity

As creativity is now a top priority, businesses are looking for ways to encourage this skill amongst their staff, across all departments. But aside from investing in useful technology and training programmes, there could be one crucial feature they’re overlooking—the office space itself.

It stands to reason that the quality of a working environment will influence the performance of those that have to be in it from 9-5, and according to staff at recruiters Robert Half, the perfect workspace allows staff “to stretch their skills, find inspiration, and do their best work”. With that in mind, here are three ways employers can rejuvenate their offices in the name of creativity.

Collaborative spaces breed innovative ideas

A 2018 survey showed that 81% of office workers believed collaboration aided productivity, while 48% said it was their favourite way to learn. Therefore, it’s no surprise that proactively sharing knowledge and ideas is great for fostering creativity in the workplace, and entrepreneurs can encourage this practice by nurturing a more collaborative environment.

Effective teamwork can be harder in a more solitary office layout. Even if desks are just feet apart, some employees may still prefer to send an email to a colleague instead of walking over to their desk, and possibly disturbing those working nearby. Eliminating isolating features like private offices and meeting rooms won’t necessarily solve this problem either. A recent study found that open-plan offices decrease face-to-face interactions by 73%, while email and messaging rose by over 67%.

A happy medium could, therefore, be the best solution. Instead of opting for a completely open layout, business owners could incorporate particular spaces for employees to have discussions without bothering the rest of the team. For example, many serviced office space providers now offer breakout areas designed for collaboration and spontaneous team meetings. This gives employees many places to bounce ideas off each other, whether that’s a dedicated collaborative zone or a social zone with couches and a coffee bar.

Bringing nature indoors can rejuvenate the mind

There are many benefits to working in an office full of greenery. A study by Wageningen Environmental Research has claimed that plants make a workspace more attractive to employees, boosts the overall mood of staff, and makes them feel more content about their performance. Those working in “green-certified office environments” also score 26% higher in tests of cognitive function, so perhaps it’s no surprise that environmental psychologist Sally Augustin has frequently emphasised the link between plants and “enhanced creative thinking”.

Bringing a touch of nature into the office could be particularly beneficial for those working in a city environment, as it may be rare that they’re exposed to greenery. This could mean adding simple potted shrubs to every desk, or perhaps even introducing living plant walls for a quirky twist to your office interiors. And for those lucky enough to work in a building with a view, employees could benefit from a glimpse of the great outdoors from their desks. Not only will this help perk them up, but it could also stimulate their creative processes too.

Personalised workspaces boost performance

Giving staff the opportunity to take control of their workspaces can make a huge difference in their performance. This could involve adding photographs of their loved ones to their desks, bringing in a personalised mug, or decorating their computer with unique trinkets. Things like these will help employees to feel grounded in their working environment, which in turn will make them happier and more creative.

Dr Craig Knight, who researched the psychology of working environments for many years, found that personalised workspaces could boost productivity by over 30% following a 2010 study at the University of Exeter. And in a more recent interview with the BBC, he claimed that though many modern managers believe that minimalist workspaces will increase capacity, he’s adamant that, “When we can enrich our spaces we’re happier. And we work better when we’re happier.” Therefore, it’s in a business’s best interest to overhaul the less-is-more approach, and allow its employees to decide how they want their desk to look, particularly if they want to increase the chances of groundbreaking, creative ideas.