Art in the officeContrary to what your boss might say, being distracted at work is not always a bad thing. If the object of your distraction is a work of art, it can boost productivity, lower stress and increase wellbeing.
According to Dr. Craig Knight, who studied the psychology of working environments for 12 years at the University of Exeter. Where he heads a research group called Identity Realization.
“There is a real tendency to opt for sanitized, 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 perfect way of doing this is by using art.”
Deutsche Bank using art to increase employee moral
It is a philosophy that Deutsche Bank is on board with. The German investment bank has the biggest collection of corporate art in the world. With some 60,000 artworks across 900 offices in 40 countries. There is an interactive app which tells employees more about the works they are looking at. And an “Arthothek,” a place people can stop by and ask an expert for advice when it comes to choosing artwork for the office. The bank also hosts talks by artists.
“It isn’t often bankers get to talk to artists,” says Friedhelm Hütte, global head of art at Deutsche Bank. “Art offers a window into the social, political and economic aesthetics around the world and this makes it a good fit for our business. We live on developing new ideas for clients and reacting to what is happening in the world.”
The bank likes to buy work from contemporary artists, with a focus on original drawings and photographs. “We like things which are innovative and spontaneous, which capture that moment when an idea first becomes visible,” explains Hütte.
“I don’t believe the art makes every person who looks at it inherently more creative, but it gets them involved on a more intellectual level about innovation around the world."
Work enviroments with art are more productive.Knight and his team have conducted studies into the most effective work environments by asking participants to do an hour’s work in four different types of office space:
They found that people who worked in the enriched office worked about 15% quicker than those in the lean office and had fewer health complaints. This figure then doubled for people who worked in the empowered space. Those who’d seen their personal touches undermined had productivity levels were the same as those in the thin area.
“In 12 years we have never found that lean offices create better results, and the more involved people are in the enrichment process, the more they can realize a part of themselves in the space,” explains Knight.
Art is a way of retaining staff and encouraging them to be in the office, at a time when people increasingly want to work remotely, says Alex Heath, managing director at International Art Consultants, which advises workplaces on art.
“Some companies consciously use art as part of their retention strategy,” he says. “Aesthetic in the truest sense means energy-giving which is what a workplace needs. Rather than a bland, industrial environment which can be more like giving workers a dose of anesthetic.”