Movies and TV shows have given us all a visual image of what a soul-killing office looks like. An image may have popped into your head while reading that sentence. What does the cliché unpleasant office space look like?
It’s probably filled with cubicles and neutral colors like white, gray, or beige. It’s almost certainly crowded, with as many people crammed into a limited space as possible. Fluorescent lighting is likely, and there may be stacks of paper making the space appear ever-cluttered. Does that sound like your experience?
Most of this exists due to cost constraints. It may be easy for Google to build a pleasant office space, but limited funds require working with the amount of space you can afford. Yet marketing also requires creativity and a space that harms rather than helps could be hurting your bottom line. If you can manage to make a few tweaks to the space that help your team keep their creative juices flowing, it may well pay off.
5 Factors for a More Creative Physical Space
We’ve found five clear steps you can take to improve your office space to inspire more creativity in your team.
1. Improve the lighting.
Every moment that someone spends sitting in an office is affected by lighting. While most of us get used to it and don’t think about it too often, research has found that it makes a significant difference in how people work. Fluorescent lighting is standard in many office spaces and that’s not doing your team any favors.
The best possible thing you can do for your workers when it comes to lighting is find ways to let natural light in. Employees report being happier when they work somewhere with lots of windows, but more to the point, people who have access to daylight are more alert during the day and sleepier at night.
Typical work schedules should exist in tandem with the daily rhythm most people experience, but when people are cut off from natural light cycles it can throw that rhythm off.
Unfortunately, many office buildings simply don’t allow the option of every employee being close to a window. The next best option is individually controlled lighting. If workers are given the ability to control the amount of light in their own workspaces, then each can set it according to what works best for them. In businesses that have implemented this, people are more upbeat, more committed to their work, and feel better.
One thing you can do right now is ask your employees what they think of the lighting. If there’s a consensus that it’s too bright or too dim, then doing the work to change it based on what they prefer is a worthwhile project. If different people have different opinions, then it would be harder (although not impossible in most cases) to change up the lighting in your building so each individual has control over how their space is lit.
If this option is also sounding out of reach for your company, then the final tip from research may be the easiest for you to implement and, as an added bonus, will save the office money on energy costs. Keep the lights low. Recent research found that dim lighting improves creative thinking.
Inconveniently, the study also found that while darker lighting is better for creativity, bright lighting is better for more logical tasks. The people doing creative work in your office will therefore benefit from darker lighting, but it could be detrimental for people in more analytical positions. If you can provide different types of lighting for different rooms based on the work being performed in them you’ll get the best of both worlds.
2. Introduce colors.
In addition to not pleasant to look at, those boring neutral colors that dominate most offices also fail to do much for the creativity of your staff. White and gray are two of the colors that do worst in studies that look at how color influences work performance.
So what are your best options according to research? Blue and green seem to be the clear winners. Blue is regularly recommended for higher productivity, while green has a reputation for helping with creativity. Some sources say yellow is great for creativity as well, while others say it ups anxiety levels and is therefore best avoided in offices.
While color psychology is a known field with some real research behind it, some of the results can seem contradictory, likely due to the complicated reality that every color comes in a range of hues. If you’re confused about how best to proceed after looking through some articles on the subject, it may be worth bringing in a consultant to weigh in.
3. Add plants to the space.
Creativity requires energy and research has found that plants in the workplace can help people refuel. Having plants around decreases the number of sick days people take, reduces stress, and evokes positive emotions. Nature has a powerful effect on us psychologically and, even when we can only get it in little doses while indoors for the workday, it helps.
Unfortunately, this step will be a difficult one for any offices that aren’t designed to have a lot of natural light. If your office doesn’t have many windows, consider one of the plant varieties that can survive without much light.
4. Make sure your office is comfortable.
You’ve probably heard someone, at some point, complain about how damn cold your office is. Temperature is one of the main factors in determining whether or not people are comfortable in a workplace. When offices are too cold, not only do workers find it unpleasant, but more of their bodies’ energy goes to keeping them warm, leaving less left over for staying focused on work.
Another key factor in human comfort at work is how we sit and how much we sit. For the latter point, allowing fairly frequent breaks for people to get up and take walks or just head to the break room for a bit so they’re not sedentary all day long can make a big difference. Not only will it help with your team’s productivity, it can help cut down on the types of workplace ailments that a whopping 82% of workers say they face, like back and shoulder pain.
Since even with regular breaks most of your marketing staff will be spending much of the day sitting, make buying comfortable chairs a priority for the office. Your team needs seating that’s adjustable so they can be at just the right level with the computer screen to avoid back problems from hunching over. It should have a reclining option, which is alleviates some of the pressure put on the spine. Armrests are important for helping people get into the right position while typing or writing. And they need to provide the proper lumbar support in order to help your employees avoid back problems.
5. Provide social spaces.
Finally, your office needs to include spaces for your team to collaborate. While it’s important for each team member to have a space that’s theirs where they can focus when they need to get work done, you also want to have spaces where people can come into contact with each other – both for planned meetings, but also at other times – to bounce ideas around, chat, and just generally have a shared exchange of ideas.
Two of the businesses most likely to come up in conversations about creativity, Pixar and Google, have both made a point of designing their spaces to ensure that people regularly come into contact with one another – and not just marketers with other marketers, but people from different departments as well.
Who knows what great ideas can result from your product development staff members running into your content marketing team members on a daily basis. Maybe the research the latter have done into what kind of questions people are asking can help inspire the former to add a new feature to your product that’s just what your customers most want.
A lot of great ideas are shared and built upon when people have opportunities to share their research and thoughts in informal environments.
So often businesses approach their physical spaces with affordability and efficiency top of mind, but those shouldn’t be your only considerations. Creativity and the factors that help fuel creativity like energy, focus, and collaboration, are all heavily influenced by the physical space people work in. Look for any opportunities you can to improve how your office space feels to work in, so you can improve the kind of work your employees are willing and able to provide each day.
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