Want to fuel creativity in the workplace and keep your employees happy and engaged? It may be time to rethink your creative workspace.
Hopefully, when the creative firm or department you oversee took occupancy of your current space, someone put a lot of effort into deciding how it should look and feel. But whether that was five, 10 or 20 years ago, it’s possible that nobody has thought much about the layout since. If you’re an agency owner or in-house manager, maybe it’s time to give office design some attention.
Even if you’ve been mindful of the work environment, you might be surprised to learn that your ideas about an ideal workspace may differ from those of your employees. A survey by The Creative Group (see infographic below) found that managers and workers disagree on the best office setting for sparking creativity.
Turns out, there is no one right answer.
“Different tasks call for different work environments,” says Diane Domeyer, executive director of The Creative Group. “Office design should be closely tailored to an organization’s needs and a team’s primary duties. The main goal for employers should be to create a space where staff members feel comfortable and engaged, and can perform at their best.”
This is exactly why there’s no one-size-fits-all creative workspace solution. As such, firm owners and managers should consider offering a variety of creative workspace options. Here are some ideas:
Offer distraction-free zones
It’s true that open floor plans can increase collaboration among employees, but sometimes creatives need to put their heads down and get work done. If you have an open-concept office, try to build in private stations where individuals can concentrate without distraction.
BICOM Communications, based in Toronto, provides employees with the best of both worlds. While their main work area is open, the space also features house-like pods, each with their own distinct decor such as wood paneling and fake grass, where employees can work solo or in small groups.
“We wanted to create an open space where our team can work as a family and really collaborate with one another,” says Marie-Noelle Hamelin, BICOM president and founding partner. “At the same time, it is important that teams are offered their own space to be creative and brainstorm without so much going on around them. That’s why we created the houses, to separate the space while keeping everything open and free-flowing.”
Ologie, based in Columbus, OH, has addressed the need for employees to retreat by constructing a space they call the “North Loft.” It’s meant to be a place to work quietly and provide the tranquility and personal space required to think deeply. “Working in a highly creative environment, it’s important to make time to think and have a physical space that supports that,” says Ologie’s marketing director Dawn Marinacci.
“Whether it’s strategists digging into research or designers looking for inspiration to create great work, we wanted to create an additional place inside our office that isn’t a cube, conference room or traditional workspace, but a third space,” she adds. “No formal meetings are permitted there. It’s just all white walls, plenty of natural light and midcentury modern furniture. Some clients refer to it as our in-house coffee shop.”
Encourage natural connections
In a similar vein, building small nooks near common or high-traffic areas where employees can bump into one another fosters organic networking and collaboration. That’s especially important because in-house designers surveyed as part of the Creative Team of the Future project anticipate collaborating more frequently with their public relations/corporate communications and IT colleagues.
You might designate a few “creativity zones” in the office for brainstorming and impromptu meetings. Make them even more appealing and boost productivity by stocking each space with industry publications and an easel pad to jot down ideas.
Put a mood board in your creative workspace
Giving creatives a place to post content they find intriguing can inspire them — and their coworkers. All you need to do is provide a common wall and invite your team members to add to it.
Ologie has taken this idea and amplified it. “We have 15,000 square feet of corkboard in our office that supports displayed thinking, an integral part of how we work,” Marinacci says. “It creates a major shift in perspective. Standing in front of a body of work tells you the entire story. Once everything is up on the wall, you can step back and absorb what’s really going on. Then it’s easier to spot the gaps and find some fresh perspective.
“Displayed thinking also inspires collaboration,” she adds. “With work up on the wall, people can’t help but think about it and talk about it. And that’s when new ideas emerge — often the valuable insights that take work from good to great. Better yet, as people discuss what they see, they start making connections they otherwise wouldn’t.”
Give creative license
Expanding on that, allow employees to make their personal spaces their own (within reason of course) so they feel comfortable and inspired. A creative office space impacts creative work, and what stimulates one team member may overwhelm another. While one person might consider sparse to be serene, another might thrive when surrounded by posters and figurines.
Think beyond the office building
Sometimes the most creative workspace isn’t inside an office at all. When feasible, think about holding team meetings in a nearby park, courtyard or cafe. Encourage employees to take a stroll outside or through a museum when they’re working out a creative problem. And if you aren’t able to provide private offices for solitary work, give your employees permission to work offsite at times. After all, a change of scenery and some focused alone time is often all it takes to spark the imagination.
While not all of these ideas are realistic for every creative firm or department, you can likely adopt a few of them. If nothing else, simply showing your staff that you are flexible and care about their creative needs can go a long way toward boosting morale and aiding your retention efforts.
For more information on creative workspaces, check out our 7 Elements of a Highly Creative Work Environment post.