Art can play a powerful role in transforming an office environment, as well as the mind-set of those who work there. With wellbeing and employee-retention a priority for every H.R. department across the country at the moment, could art be an untapped resource in the fight against the stress and even apathy that can often accompany sedentary work?
In a thought-provoking interview, James Burke, Creative Director of Shoreditch-based design studio Acrylicize states that he thinks art can provide a level of engagement, something interesting to look at that can tell a story, inform, delight. It can bring art outside of the gallery too, giving more people a more passive way of engaging with art. There’s no need to specifically travel to a gallery to admire art, if your office displays inspiring paintings, furniture or architecture.
Incorporating Art in the Workplace
Art of all types and genres can add to the mood of an office space and of the employees who work there. However, art that with specific details or art which changes depending on how you look at it, can be especially interesting for office spaces. Chances are, that unless the artwork is rotated or replaced every month or so, each piece of art will be gazed upon dozens of times by the same employee – so if it has hidden dimensions, extra details that are not at first obvious; then it can remain interesting & engaging for longer. The use of light, reflections and some level of interactivity can also be used to create engaging art.
Digital content and moving art add a modern twist to the more traditional ‘static’ art that people traditionally think of.
Art has benefits for employers too. More engaging environments can mean more inspiring – leading to more creative ideas and a higher level of staff retention. Knowing that their employers care enough to invest in art can also improve staff morale.
Being distracted may not always be a bad thing, regardless of what your boss might tell you!
Dr Craig Knight of the University of Exeter has studied the relationship between environments and psychology for over a decade and recently stated that:
“There is a real tendency to opt for sanitised, lean workspaces, designed to encourage staff to just get on with their work and avoid distraction…If you enrich a space people feel much happier and work better; a very good way of doing this is by using art”.
Corporate Giants are on-board
Leading the way with investment in art, the German investment bank - Deutsche Bank with the biggest stock of art owned by any organisation in the ‘corporate world’; reportedly to be 60,000 pieces strong.
If you broaden the concept or idea of art to the genre of interesting & creative interior design that is now commonplace in any new office buildings, then it would appear that the minimalistic, streamlined office designs made popular by corporate & financial institutions are being replaced by the more vibrant and employee-friendly designs pioneered by the likes of Google and other tech companies who broke the mould when it comes to the traditional office setup.
Pioneering British company Moneypenny
has coupled modern interior design with the exploitation of its office’s beautiful natural surroundings to create a headline-grabbing and employee-inspiring building that is regarded as one of the most aspirational in the country. With a treehouse meeting room, its own pub/bar and a beautiful canteen area; the employees enjoy the natural light on offer with the huge, cathedral-style windows and can enjoy the orchard, pond and family of ducks via the relaxing nature trail or first-floor balcony.
Nature & Office Interiors
Plants have an art history that you may not be aware of. There is a blog – Miseen green
which is dedicated to chronicling the history of plants in art gallery settings. The 60s and 70s artistic scene included many plant-related exhibitions, including the 1966 Henry Moore exhibition and the Jasper John Show.
Bringing the outdoors, indoors – or interior design using nature is known as – “Biophilia”. Desk plants and office plants are increasingly popular and for good reason; research has shown that plants can improve air quality and wellbeing.
Before bringing any plants into the office, first, you need to assess the light conditions. One of the best ways to measure light is with a unit called “footcandles”, low light plants need about 30, medium-light plants need 50-100 and high-light plants need 150 or more. There are apps available for iPhone and Android phones to tell you the level of light in your office. You can find more information on plants and their favoured light-levels in this guide on plantophiles.com
From a practical standpoint, some of the best plants for air quality include Motherinlaws tongue, Areca Palm and English Ivy.
However you choose to include art in your office space, getting ideas and feedback from employees can be a great starting point…