The presence of artworks in offices has been shown to improve the mindset of employees and make leaders more creative, says Dimitrios Tsivrikos, from University College London and P.A.R.T. art and branding consultancy
“Some companies have introduced an artist in resident, while others have encouraged employees to participate in arts training, such as sculpture or theatre”
In recent years, creativity has become a serious business for many brands. One only need look at the “video games and on-site haircuts” ethos of Facebook and Google to see how the creative culture is being embraced.
The Noogle propeller hats are at best an excruciating example of forced fun and at worst a creepy glimpse into the Orwellian Google-owned dystopia that awaits us. But the success of these hoodie-heavy companies raises an important question – is there a place for art in proper business?
The research on the subject seems to say it does. Studies suggest that both art and nature can play a passive role in influencing employee behaviour. Some of the most significant psychological studies involved the exposure to nature, which was found to have significant psychological benefits. In one study a natural window view reduced tension greatly in a simulated office. The presence of indoor plants had a similarly beneficial influence. Offices with no windows at all, or with no plants, produced the highest stress levels.
Art is just as powerful as nature in influencing an employee’s mindset. For instance, in one classic psychological experiment, office workers had to carry out four irritating tasks. Their stress and anger levels were far lower in offices decorated with art posters. We can extrapolate from that study to conclude that aesthetic stimuli improve performance on frustrating tasks by reducing negative moods.
These effects may be explained by the ability of art and nature to provide a distraction from demanding tasks and to allow the conscious mind time to recuperate. Similarly, art provides a distraction from stress and negative emotions, whilst inducing positive emotions which enhance performance and motivation.
Whatever the reason, incorporating pleasing aesthetics can be financially valuable. In one study, a collection agency moved to a new office, which was much more colourfully painted. In the two months following the move, compared to the two months before, the average amount collected per staff member increased by 16%. In fact, colours alone have been found to have significant psychological effects. There is empirical evidence that brief exposure to the colour green enhances creative performance.
So, arts and aesthetics are useful in a passive sense in making employees healthier and more effective. But they also have a more involved, transformative utility. There is a trend for more and more organizations to offer unexpected approaches to solving old problems by connecting artistic skills and processes to workplace issues. Some companies have introduced an artist in resident, while others have encouraged employees to participate in arts training, such as sculpture or theatre.
Furthermore, exposure to the arts at work can improve soft skills. Studies have found that artistic interventions result in positive emotions and higher energy levels, seeing problems from wider perspectives and enhanced communication with co-workers. In summary, art engagement encourages new ways of thinking outside the box.
Finally, the arts also have a role in leadership. A number of business and consumer psychologists argue that creativity is important for generating new ideas. So-called ‘aesthetic’ leaders are better able to deploy a range of intellectual and emotional abilities, and these can complement the more rational decision-making styles which tend to dominate management.
Art and aesthetics have incredible value in business, despite being largely abstract and unquantifiable. Art in the workplace can help employees to be less stressed and more effective. Meanwhile, art-based interventions enhance both hard and soft skills and encourage new ways of solving problems.
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PHOTO CREDIT: Suzanne Chapman on flickr