What should a workspace look like? If your business opts for a lean, stripped-back workspace will this encourage the people who work in it to stay focused and avoid distractions? The research suggests otherwise.
Dr Craig Knight, at the University of Exeter, has studied the psychology of work environments and heads a research group there. He thinks people are happier, and work better, if they are in a workspace that feels like it is enriching them somehow.
“Art is an excellent way of improving a working environment for employees. How people respond to fine art is both personal and emotive, but this shouldn’t define where they access it. In fact, in a work setting, art can inspire creativity and innovation.”
The Role of Art
“Art has a proven rehabilitative effect in hospitals, as a form of positive distraction. This is the belief that environmental features can work to generate positive feelings, hold people’s attention and therefore reduce stressful thoughts.”
Similarly, offices and other workplaces can easily become places where people feel stressed, and prolonged periods of focusing on work can leave workers mentally depleted.
“Fine art has a restorative effect. Looking at it reduces tension, and, therefore, can also help boost brain performance”
Does it matter what kind of art this is?
“There has been research in America linking realistic landscape scenes with lowering anger levels. The key is that it should be aesthetically engaging.”
A collaborative workplace thrives on people having positive, non-aggressive approaches and responses to their work, and other colleagues.
“If you feel constantly angry and frustrated, your relationships will suffer, and so will the quality of your work. And there’s likely to be increased staff turnover, and instability, as a result.”
Another benefit of fine art in the working environment is how it can stimulate discussion, contributing to a more open, innovative workplace culture.
“Exposing people to images they find pleasing can make them more receptive to discussing different viewpoints and ideas.”
Choosing Art for the Workplace
Visual art exists in many different forms, so clearly, it is important to choose the right kind of art for the workplace.
“Firstly, don’t treat it as merely decorative,” warns Sarah.
“If you want art to have a positive effect on your employees they must find it engaging and meaningful. This doesn’t mean it must be overly challenging, but it must have a quality that will draw the viewer’s attention”
A moderate degree of visual complexity is good.
“Resist the temptation to go for edgy abstraction. You want to encourage both curiosity and tranquillity.”
The Sarah Samuels Fine Paintings Spring Exhibition showcased landscapes, seascapes and interiors by John Martin RBA, Graham Painter and other well-known artists.
“Graham’s large images looking into water have been highly successful in corporate spaces, for these reasons.”
“Don’t be frightened of choosing representative or figurative art,” Sarah concludes. “Also, don’t mistake this for being too stuffy or old-fashioned as younger employees can benefit from fine art’s restorative qualities as much as older people.”
For an accompanying read, please visit Sarah Samuels’ interview, in Business Aspects Magazine, What is the Human Value of Corporate Art?