Companies that follow in the footsteps of their competitors are destined to fail. It’s the companies that take the initiative to try something new that experience the greatest success. Their innovative new products are the first to hit the market, so they can dominate their respective market with little or no competition. If you own or manage a company, consider the following tips to foster creativity in the office and achieve greater success.
The Importance of Creativity
According to a survey of corporate executives conducted by Forrester Research, 82% said creativity is beneficial to their company’s operations. A separate survey conducted by IBM found that corporate executives ranked creativity as the single most important factor to their business’s success.
How does creativity translate into increased success exactly? When workers are creative, they’ll experiment with new ideas that can give your company a competitive advantage. A creative worker may develop a new, more efficient way to perform a specific task, or he or she may improve one of your company’s existing products. Furthermore, creative workers are typically more productive than their counterparts. Creativity stimulates cognitive function and energy levels, so workers can produce more work in less time.
Focus on Individual Workstations
As previously discussed on our blog, there are pros and cons to using an open office design. For creativity, though, individual workstations usually work best. You don’t have to necessarily use cubicles, but you should design your office so that each worker has his or her own personal space. Individual workstations such as this offer a distraction-free, semi-private environment in which your company’s employees can work. Workers won’t encounter the distractions of an open-office layout, allowing them to express their creativity more freely.
Design a Collaboration Area
Even with individual workstations, you should still design a collaboration area or zone in your office where workers can share ideas and work together to achieve a common, shared goal. According to Fast Company, workers spend more than half of their workday, on average, collaborating with other workers. Without a dedicated area for collaboration in your office, workers won’t be able to effectively and efficiently work together. Consider using a large, spacious meeting room or lounge in your office as a collaboration area.
Here are some tips to create the perfect collaboration area in your office:
- Use a large circular or rectangular desk so that workers can see each other while brainstorming ideas.
- Place blinds or curtains over windows and glass walls to increase privacy.
- Invest in a digital whiteboard for the front of the collaboration area.
- Design it with creativity-boosting colors like blue and green.
- Install a video conferencing app to allow workers in the collaboration room to network with other workers in the office or elsewhere.
Include Workers in Decision-Making Processes
You should take a page from HubSpot’s playbook by including workers in your company’s decision-making process. The software development company allows its employees to participate in major decisions. HubSpot even offers its employees professional development opportunities so that they can climb the corporate ranks. It’s the little things like including workers in the decision-making process, however, that fosters creativity. When workers are allowed to share their opinions, they’ll feel more comfortable experimenting with creative new ideas.
Decorate With Plants
There are dozens of accessories with which you can decorate your office, including paintings, framed photos, artwork, clocks, posters and more. However, plants are particularly beneficial because of their positive impact on workers’ creativity levels. A report cited by The Guardian found that workers in offices decorated with plants were 15% more creative than their counterparts who worked in offices without plants. That alone should be reason enough to include plants in your office’s décor, but research also shows that adding plants to an office’s décor increases workers’ productivity levels and overall satisfaction.
Change Your Office Design
When was the last time that you changed your office’s design? Once you’ve found a design that works, you may keep it for several years or longer. But workers may express greater creativity if you change your office’s design more frequently. A study published in the Journal of Experimental Social Psychology found that participants who changed their morning routine were more creative than participants with the same morning routine. Although this study specifically focused on morning routines, researchers believe that any change in a person’s routine or environment – including a new office design – can spark creativity.
Don’t Overdo Cleaning and Organization
Cleaning and organizing your office is essential to creating a productive environment, but you shouldn’t overdo it. Employees are more creative when working in a messy environment. According to a study cited by the American Psychological Association (APA), working in a messy environment instills creativity. Researchers found that participants were more likely to try new things when exposed to a messy environment. You shouldn’t allow clutter and trash to accumulate in your office. Rather, ease up on the tidiness so that it doesn’t hinder workers’ creativity.
Hire Creative Workers
Creativity can quickly spread throughout your office. When one or more workers are creative, their coworkers will take notice by expressing their own creative thoughts and ideas. Therefore, you should hire creative workers. When recruiting new workers, go beyond the traditional interview questions to gauge the individual’s creativity levels.
You can gain insight into a prospective worker’s creativity by asking the following questions during an interview:
- When was the last time that you had to think outside of the box?
- What’s your idea of the perfect workday?
- What’s the single best idea that you’ve ever had?
- Who are your role models and why?
- If you encounter a challenge that prevents you from doing a specific task, how would you handle it?
- What makes you stand out from other job candidates?
- How do you respond to negative feedback?
- When you aren’t working, what do you for fun?
Encourage Workers to Relax
Stressed workers are less likely to be creative than their relaxed, non-stressed counterparts. In an interview with the APA, psychologist Robert Epstein, PhD explains that stress kills creativity. The mechanics behind this phenomenon are unknown, but many experts agree that stress makes people less creative.
There are several ways to reduce stress levels among your company’s workers. First, create a positive and welcoming atmosphere by talking to workers one on one. During these one-on-one sessions, you can thank workers for their hard work and motivate them to continue. Positive reinforcement such as this is a natural stress reliever. Second, consider allowing workers to bring their pet to the office on one or more days. Studies have shown that working around pets promotes the release of stress-relieving chemicals in the body like oxytocin and endorphin.
A third way to help workers relax is to buy them a massage. You can have a massage therapist visit your workplace to provide workers with a stress-relieving massage without ever leaving the office. After getting a massage, workers will feel more relaxed and, therefore, more creative.
Allow Workers to Listen to Music
While blasting the radio in your office probably won’t yield positive results, allowing workers to listen to their own music through headphones can spark creativity According to a survey of workers conducted by Totaljobs, 59% said listening to music boosts their mood and sense of wellbeing. Even if it’s only for one day of the week, allowing workers in your office to listen to music can stimulate their creativity, so don’t discourage it.
Invest in High-Quality Office Furniture
The quality of your office furniture can affect workers’ creativity. If a typical workstation in your office consists of a stiff, non-adjustable chair with a computer desk that’s designed equal as poor, it will reflect upon their work. Low-quality office furniture such as this increases physical stress on workers’ bodies. After using them for several hours, workers may feel sore and fatigued, thus limiting their creativity.
To minimize stress and foster creativity, furnish your office with premium, high-quality furniture. Each workstation should feature an ergonomic office chair with an adjustable height, swivel base, armrests and low back (lumbar) support. Ergonomic chairs are designed specifically to provide the highest level of comfort and support possible, making them a smart investment for your company.
The workstations in your office should also feature an ergonomic desk where workers can comfortably type and use and the computer without stressing their body. In the past, office desks were designed with a single, flat surface. With the advent of computers, however, they are now mostly designed with a top surface for a computer monitor and a lower slide-out surface for a keyboard and mouse. This design is preferred for the modern office because it offers the highest level of comfort when using a computer.
Embrace Natural Light
If your office has windows, open the blinds and curtains so that natural light can enter and illuminate the workspace. Not only is natural light the most-wanted natural element in an office design, according to the World Green Building Council; it also invokes creativity and cognitive function.
One study found that office workers were 15% more creative when working in a naturally lit environment than their counterparts who worked in an artificially lit environment. Exposure to natural light regulates the body’s internal circadian rhythm while offering an excellent source of much-needed vitamin D in the process. The culmination of these effects results in increased creativity among office workers.
You probably won’t be able to fully illuminate your office using natural light all the time, but that’s okay. When the sun is shining, open the blinds and curtains to take advantage of the creativity-boosting benefits of the sun. And rather than hosting parties and ceremonies inside the office, take them outside. Sunlight offers a myriad of benefits for office workers, only one of which is increased creativity.
Don’t let workers’ creativity go unnoticed in your office. When a worker is creative, reward him or her. Otherwise, they’ll feel unrecognized and underappreciated. You don’t have to give workers a bonus check or other tangible gift. Just telling a worker, “Nice job on the project. Keep it up!” is enough to motivate them to continue expressing their creativity.
Be Tolerant of Mistakes
Creativity is all about experimenting with new ideas to see what works and what doesn’t. As a result, creative workers are bound to make mistakes. Rather than punishing workers for their mistakes, though, you should be tolerant and encourage them to continue trying new things.
Manage the Thermostat
Studies show that 68 degrees is the ideal office temperature for productivity. Workers in chilly 68-degree offices have been shown to produce more work than their counterparts in warmer offices. Conversely, a study conducted in 2010 found that workers are more creative in warmer environments. Therefore, you should try setting the thermostat in your office to 72 degrees or higher. You may discover that it helps workers express their creativity.
Create a Flexible Work Culture
What is a flexible work culture and how can it boost workers’ creativity? A flexible work culture means that workers are given more freedom over basic processes, such as the hours they work and the location from which they work. You can implement a bring-your-own-device (BYOD) policy, for instance, that gives workers the freedom to bring and use their own device, such as a tablet computer, from home. Workers are often more comfortable using their own device than a company-issued device, so it helps them be creative.
You can also allow workers to telecommute. When telecommuting, workers perform their work from home rather than the office. It’s not possible for all jobs, but it’s certainly becoming more common in the modern workplace. A report published by the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) found that almost one-quarter of all U.S. employees telecommuting in 2015.
Productivity is important in the office, but creativity is equally if not more important. Creative workers come up with new ideas that ultimately help their company succeed. You can foster creativity in your company’s office by following the tips outlined here.