For many, roughly a third of your time involves work. With that much time spent in one place, how and where you work has a large impact on all workers. In the previous blogs, it has been discussed how investing in employees and their work environment promotes employee retention and why that is so critical. There is an interesting quote by Winston Churchill, he said that "we shape our buildings and afterwards our buildings shape us." In this article we are discussing how a work environment can encourage creativity, collaboration and promote mental health.
There's a two edged sword. In some repeated processes where you don't have to think much, your mind is able to focus on other ideas and creativity flows. A perfect example of this is taking a shower: you know the process well enough that you don't have to focus much brain power to wash your hair and body so your mind can wander if you let it.
However, in other repeated environments, creativity is squashed. The most important thing to focus on when creating the environment is to have an intentionally designed space for the type of work you are expecting, and to encourage workers to move and work in multiple spaces if possible.
"If the facade is complex and interesting, it affects people in a positive way; negatively if it is simple and monotonous", Colin Ellard University of Waterloo.
The type of work space determines the amount of collaboration. Cubicles and set aside offices create barriers to divide employees and divide work, and open spaces encourage collision and group work. There is a large focus and push on encouraging and creating opportunities for both individual and collaborative work. The American Press Institute describes three types of environments that provide a balance between "me and we" work.
- Collision - these spaces are engineered so employees casually bump into each other and hopefully can spark conversation. Ex: break room, food/coffee break
- Mixed Use - rooms that serve multiple purposes and have diverse personalities. Ex: flexible open space.
- Huddle - these are separate, distraction free spaces in which you can work with a group. Ex: conference rooms, meeting rooms.
These three options, along with locations for individual work encourage and facilitate collaboration, which promotes creativity.
“The principle... is about increasing communication – about creating a team that talks to each other.” - American Press Institute
Keep in mind to design spaces that suit groups of two-five people. Many studies and articles suggest that in groups greater than five, individuals get lost and participation is hindered.
Affecting Mental Health
This is an aspect that might not be as obvious, but mental health is an important contributor to the effectiveness of an individual.
"This may be an easy fix if your office has access to many windows—focus on arranging furniture for increased light exposure and use blinds that eliminate glare without blocking out too much light. If you're in an office that lacks access to natural light, consider implementing softer lighting that doesn't strain your eyesight. LED lighting creates a more natural feel than fluorescent lighting, and is safer and more energy-efficient." - Office Space Software
In a work environment that is too loud and there's no noise control, some may experience more stress.
Several studies have shown that excessive noise contributes to stress, fatigue and poor cognitive performance.
Make sure that you're using your space strategically, and that employees have access to both quiet areas where they can work privately, and designated breakout areas for creative collaboration.
"Using space management tools is the most efficient way to manage your office layout for optimal productivity and well-being." - Office Space Software
Though some of us are better than others, "noise distracts everyone". - PsychCentral
Being in an orderly, clean space allows for focus and decreases distractions. In a study co-authored by University of Arizona marketing professor Catherine Roster found that physical clutter "has a direct negative relationship to one's sense of well-being, safety, and self-identity in one's own space."
Interview with Employee at Creative Company
There is a well known company that is notorious for their creative and non-traditional work space. For protection purposes I'm leaving it unnamed. In an interview with Xavier Lam, Sales Manager for this company, we can get an inside perspective of an employee's take on the creative work environment.
Xavier has been working in this position for a little over a year. When asked how the company presents their work space to new employees, Lam described that the biggest emphasis when he was being interviewed and showed around was that they didn't want him to be working like a robot.
"Repeatedly it's emphasized to change up work routines, and meet in different spaces with varied coworkers. They don't want us to feel like we have repetitive work tasks. Yes, we come to work to work, but most importantly we come to work to create."
As a sales representative and manager, Xavier does experience a balance of individual work as well as collaborative work. With the sales side, he is working individually to build his client list but is working collaboratively with other managers to coordinate ideas.
"It's a really fun and upbeat work space. There are lots of contests and giveaways and ways that they encourage unity", says Lam. The company is very thorough in their hiring process, and then Lam says that they do a create job of keeping employees, not only with benefits but creating a space where employees feel valued, can be creative, and enjoy coming to work.
You might not be trying to create a space like some of the big tech companies or Pixar, but we can help your company design a work space that is functional for your needs and reflects your brand, and create a space that is conducive to motivating employees to want to come to work everyday.