5. The effect of workplace design on a company’s creativity

There’s a lot of talk about the need for creativity in the workplace. And none of it has anything to do with the type of artwork you choose to hang on your walls. Instead these conversations center on the fact that organizations that encourage their employees to think creatively at work enjoy a distinct advantage over their competitors. In fact, creativity in the workplace isn’t just a “nice to have” it’s a “must have” if a company wants to be competitive.

According to a 2015 Gallup poll, only 32% of America’s workforce feels engaged at the office. If that’s true, that’s an estimated $500 billion every year in lost productivity.

But it isn’t the work they have to do that’s making them so unenthusiastic about their job; it’s where they have to do it. Some are expected to spend their days working in an unimaginative little box. Right next to other employees in their identical unimaginative little boxes. Others are expected to be able to think while sitting out in the open amid noisy neighbors, ringing phones, and other distractions. In either situation, creativity and productivity suffer right along with the employee.

Ohio State University did a study to track stress levels of white-collar workers. They randomly split the participants into two groups. The first group had to work in an old office building with low ceilings, poor lighting, and noisy air conditioners. The second group was sent to a newly renovated office with skylights and an open office layout.

Within 17 months, the people working in the older building showed more stress, even when they weren’t at work.

Young Lee, author of Creative Workplace Characteristics and Innovative Start-Up Companies wrote that the most important physical work environmental characteristics to produce creative, innovative ideas and products/services for growth and market competitiveness was a balanced layout that offered space for individual work and collaboration, technology interface for collaboration, and spaces for idea generation.

In other words, for a workplace to support every employee’s well-being, it needs to offer a choice of spaces that reflect the type of work they need to do.

Quiet, secluded space for when they need to work alone or as a team of two. Open spaces for group meetings and brainstorming. And lounge areas to relax and recharge.

Recently, The Mayo Clinic wanted to see if different work environments really would affect the productivity of employees. So they built a “Well Living Lab” where
they could control lighting, temperatures, background noise, etc. and compare the productivity of employees in different environments.

They found that the ideal office space for productivity
consists of eight zones:

1. Home Base – Quiet area for concentrated, focused working
2. Open Plan – Supporting communication, meetings, brainstorming
3. Meeting Room – For conferencing, workshops, and training sessions
4. Breakout Area – For informal chatter or to recharge
5. Touchdown – For spontaneous, flexible working
6. Refuge Area – For confidential conversations
7. Resource Room– For equipment like printers, copy machines, etc.
8. Inter-zone Corridors – Not just a necessity, but also a chance to refresh, pump blood to your brain and legs, and spark creativity.

Giving employees control over where and how they work within your space can do wonders for employee well-being. Which in turn will help improve their productivity and creativity.

Another important step companies can take to help employee well-being and creative thinking is to provide an outdoor area where they can go for a walk.

Researchers have found that in addition to the obvious health benefits, “walking opens up the free flow of ideas.”


The Connection Between Well-Being and Creativity

Expert from Kimball White Paper “The Connection Between Well-Being and Creativity” published on 11/8/2018