Make your workspace work for you — create a space that encourages innovation
We spend ~160 hours working in a given month. For the majority of us, this time is spent in an office meant to foster creativity, communication, and ultimately a better business. Technology has revolutionized many pieces of our daily lives and has too impacted the concept of an office. As needs of employees change, employers must shift the manner in which they best support their employees to produce their best results.
Personally, I find that my best work is accomplished when it also aligns with my passions; work that fulfills a personal purpose cultivates personal happiness and joy. In a Ted talk I recently watched, I was drawn in by the idea that the physical space in which we work plays a significant role in the joy we have. Joy, among other things, impacts the work produced and the level of innovative thinking possible.
Inspiration and motivation come from within, but also come from our surroundings.
– Ingrid Fetell Lee states in her Ted talk, “Where joy hides.”
So how exactly can companies encourage innovation while being flexible with their employees needs?
Create a spin-off of a co-working space
Co-working spaces are no longer a space for start-ups and entrepreneurs. As work continues to be digital-focused, employers are shifting the concept of what it means to ‘come to work.’ For many people, it’s important to leave the house to get into the right mindset of working effectively (away from noise or other distractions). For others, going into work is effective in accomplishing this need, however their environment may not be as conducive to inspire innovative thinking as it could be.
Regardless of the space where work is being accomplished, ways to stimulate productivity and creativity remains consistent.
1. Height creates a sense of ‘no limits,’ and creative problem solving
Like your business potential, you want your employees to feel there are no limitations in what they can accomplish. The concept of limitations is perceived by our physical space.
“People perform better at tasks requiring creative problem-solving skills under ceilings 10 feet or higher compared to eight-foot ceilings” (details). Glass ceilings and other boundaries that project a feeling of being boxed in, should not be existent. Things should feel taller than they are. For example, when decorating, choose a tall bookshelf versus a short bookshelf. Alternatively, select decor with vertical stripes.
Our mental space stands in direct proportion to our perception of physical space.
2. (Visual) Distance supports creative thinking
Construal level theory (CLT) is a mental model in which the interpretation of distance is affected by interpretation and contextual understanding. According to CLT, the observation or perception of things being far away stimulates abstract thinking.
The greater our perception of something being in the distance, the more inclined we will be to idea formation; early stage ideation (brainstorming, sketching, drafts) relies on abstract, big-picture thinking.
For example, if you are planning where your business will be in one year, versus 5 years, you are more likely to think of more impactful, creative, opportunities and goals when discussing a 5-year plan versus a 1-year plan; 5 years is farther in the distance so thoughts will be more focused on ‘what could we do,’ versus ‘how do we do it.’
Closeness in proximity prompts detail-oriented thinking, whereas distance prompts open-minded, unbiased, free thinking.
3. Neutral colors create a sense of relaxation
Color choice plays a vital role in giving a feeling of comfort and relaxation. Cooler colors (blue, green) are more soother than warm colors (red, orange).
By decorating or painting walls with warm colors, your initial level of energy will spike, however it will also quickly fade due to being over stimulated. Soothing, earth colors, encourage relaxation and make people feel as though there is more space, opposite of warm colors which make people feel closed in. Exploratory thinking will increase in spaces with more neutral tones, so choose your colors wisely.
4. Let there be l i g h t
“People who work in windowless spaces get ~46 minutes less sleep on work nights, experience lower-quality rest, and are less physically active during the workday than colleagues who are afforded adequate exposure. Additionally, medical scientists report higher levels of depression, anxiety, delirium, and even psychosis among patients lacking access to outside views in healthcare facilities” (details).
Dim-lit, natural space encourages exploratory thinking, whereas bright spaces encourage rational, logical thinking.
Finding a balance between the two is challenging, but with natural lighting from windows and dim to medium-lit lights will provide balanced thinking required for creative, efficient work.
5. Smell the plants
Awaken your brain through smell. Scents like eucalyptus and citrus help people feel alert, and lavender helps people remain calm. My personal favorite place to work is somewhere where I feel as if I am outside surrounded by nature. A balance of earthy colors and greenery from plants, combined with fresh scents from things found outside like flowers makes me feel at-ease.
6. Make the coffee and food spots your hang-out spot
Whether coffee, tea, or water, make the space people frequent a place inspiring to communication and collaboration. Food and drink are a social activity, so why not encourage communication in the office by making the space where food and drink are consumed are also a place people enjoy – feel relaxed, creative, and open-minded.
Food and drink feed your body, so why not feed your brain at the same time?
7. Inspire through storytelling
Remind people why they do what they do. Whether through written phrases, photos, or paintings, reminding employees of the goal they are working toward inspires their work. Whether a start-up focusing on growth, an advanced company encouraging innovation, or a co-working space explaining the value they provide to members, storytelling is an extremely effective tool for encouraging big-picture thinking.
Being creative and innovative is a lot about surroundings — feelings of freedom, relaxation, and time foster limitless, innovative, thinking. As you build or design an office for your team — remember that what works best for them, will work best for your company’s success.