Office Design and How Artwork In The Office Can Influence The Workplace

When it comes to office design we think of the layout, partitioning, suspended ceilings, offices, break out areas, kitchens, tea points, reception desks, utilities and IT services and even the colour of the walls or the materials that will be used but we rarely think about artwork as a way of enhancing the workplace. In this article we’ll look at how artwork in the office can influence how we feel about a space and how it can help staff wellbeing and inspire creativity.

The Impact of Artwork in the Office

Can artwork in the office make staff more productive, lower stress and increase wellbeing? That’s a big ask. It’s a given that many large companies invest in artwork to put on their office walls but smaller companies often see it as a luxury that they can’t afford so why should smaller companies invest in artwork? How will it benefit them?

There are a great number of well-known studies which have looked at the use of colour in the workspace but what about art? Over the last few years there have been a number of studies conducted to look at how artwork can make a difference in the office environment.

Studies Into Artwork in the Office

Royal Institution of Chartered Surveyors

In a survey for the Royal Institution of Chartered Surveyors Brian Thompson and Drivers Jonas, state artwork is an investment well worth making. They say “A modest improvement in productivity can deliver economic benefits that overshadow the savings that can be achieved through economies in areas such as rent, FM costs and utilities. A staggering 93.8% of respondents to our survey believe that art makes the workplace feel more welcoming and 60.8% of them feel that it also stimulates creativity in staff.” This work was also reported in the British Council of Offices and International Art Consultants report.

Business Committee for the Arts (BCA) and the International Association for Professional Art Advisors (IAPAA)

A study by BCA and the IAPAA looked at 800 employees working for 32 companies throughout the US that have workplace art and found that:

  • 78% of respondents agreed that artwork in the office can help to reduce stress.
  • 64% agreed believed that artwork increases creativity and productivity.
  • 67% thought that it enhanced morale.
  • 77% said that it helped broaden their appreciation of diversity and encouraged discussions, and expression of opinions.

The survey also showed that:

  • 94% of people found that artwork enhanced the work.
  • 84% believed that by having artwork in the workplace it was evidence that their company was interested in improving the quality of life in and out of the workplace.
  • 65% said it helped to build customer relations and 73% agreed that it also improved community relations.
  • 52% found that it led to networking opportunities.

Judith A. Jedlicka, the President of BCA has been quoted as saying “The workplace art collection is often an underutilized, sometimes overlooked, business asset. The results of this survey point to the fact that art in the work environment fosters creativity, boosts employee morale and sparks dialogues – all of which are essential to a company’s success.”

Sandra Lang the President of IAPAA said “IAPAA members have always found that employees have strong responses to the works of art in their environments. Art reflects the corporate culture in a way that can be both unique and stimulating.”

Although 81% of those surveyed indicated that they did not consider art among the deciding factors in working for the company, 82% said art was important in the work environment, and 73% reported that their view of the company would change if the art were removed.

The Identity Realisation group (IDR)

Research carried out by Dr Craig Knight who leads the IDR at the University of Exeter shows artwork can increase the productivity of workers rather than be a distraction. He says: “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,” he explains. But there isn’t a branch of science in the world which believes this approach boosts productivity or makes for happier workers, according to Knight. “If you enrich a space people feel much happier and work better; a very good way of doing this is by using art”.

The IDR studies looked at the most effective work environments by asking participants to take on a series of tasks in an hour in four different types of office space:

  • Lean: bare and functional containing only those things required to do the task
  • Enriched: decorated with plants and pictures which were prearranged
  • Empowered: the same art and plants but participants were allowed to place them where they liked.
  • Disempowered: participants could arrange the art and plants themselves – but the arrangement was then “undone” by someone else thereby reverting the layout to an “enriched” one.

They found that people who worked in the enriched office worked were 15% more productive than those in the lean office and had fewer health complaints – this doubled to 30% for people who worked in the empowered space. Productivity levels were the same as those in the lean space for those who’d seen their personal touches undermined.

Dr Knight is further quoted as saying “We are uncovering genuine links between the psychological use of space and levels of wellbeing, satisfaction and crucially, productivity at work. Not only does office design determine whether or not people’s backs ache, it influences how much they accomplish, how much initiative they take and their overall professional satisfaction. Employers rarely consider these psychological ramifications – but they should, because paying more attention to workspace design can boost employees’ well-being and productivity at minimal cost.”

Clearly based on the evidence above artwork shouldn’t be forgotten when it comes to planning and designing your next office refurbishment.

JBH Refurbishments offer an office design and layout service to out clients across Kent, Sussex, Surrey and London. Call us on 0333 207 0339 or contact us via our contact form to find out how we can help you make the most of your office space (including your office walls).

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