Christine Xuereb Seidu talks to us about the importance of Art in the Workplace.
Art in the workplace, and its impact on employees and clients, has been hugely underestimated. Various research projects have proven that art can have positive and negative effects on its employees and clientele. That’s not saying that the absence of artworks would reflect better performances because of lack of distraction, as many employers seem to believe. Works of art are known to increase one’s general wellbeing, including boosting productivity and lowering of stress levels.
When comparing performances of workers in environments with artworks to those without such ‘distractions’, an increase in productivity is shown. Momentary distractions that artworks may provide, are a good thing as they serve as an escape from the mundane routine within the workplace. This is even more so when employees are given ownership in the selection and display process of acquiring artworks. Once artworks are up following careful consideration, it’s unadvisable to move artworks from where the employee positions them and this is because it demotivates them and their performance levels. In fact, studies have shown that this has the same outcome as a space without any works of art.
Besides taking ownership in the selection and display process, other factors need to be considered when considering artworks that will have a positive impact. It’s predominantly the visual aspect of the artwork that plays a part in how those surrounding them react so it’s important to select the right artworks to fit the right purpose. Some companies refer to motivational posters to retain staff and motivate them to work but these have shown to be of no use. Art, on the contrary, does and few are the companies that use it as part of their retention strategy. Inserting thoughtfully chosen art in a work environment can improve the experience and achievements of employees so it’s crucial that one asks what the desired reactions needed are, before choosing the right artworks.
If your company is simply after the most positively received art to appeal to the masses, then it’s best to seek artworks that give out a moderate amount of visual complexity, like impressionistic paintings. Generally, viewers prefer to understand art so it’s best to go after art which can be processed more easily, like choosing representation of figurative art over abstract art. Symmetrical artworks, artworks with horizontal and vertical lines and curved lines are also processed more easily over artworks that have diagonal, straight and asymmetrical lines. When there’s marble flooring or in environments with a lot of sound, huge textile works with acoustic properties, and sculptures, are recommended.
Businesses can use art to communicate key brand messages in a nonverbal way. When businesses use unusual statement art pieces, this could be an indirect way of showing that they conduct their business in non-traditional ways or that their products are less conventional; multiethnic art pieces reflect on multicultural ways practiced by the management; artworks featuring high end locations and buildings give the impression that the company has a history of working with powerful allies and if issues of concern are illustrated, this may reflect that the company supports unity amongst employees or that they’d like to highlight the local community.
Artworks have also shown to alter the mood, enhance better performances. Bright, bold art pieces and interactive art, for example, serve as good talking points and engagement; art objects with high emotional value for viewers encourage reflection and communal discussion; kinetic artworks and light installations inject dynamism; pleasing images, with some connection to a place, enhance cooperation and different points of view; visuals of older generations tend to improve performance in IQ; and depictions of nature with foreground area and views from slightly elevated positions give a more positive mood.
Did not know that art heals, too? Quite a bit of research has shown that scenes in artworks which depict nature, especially when they’re engaging, reduce stress, lower anger and pain, and restore mental energy. Depictions of people being cared for or loved has also been seen to reduce strong responses to stress. Artworks that give a sense of awe have shown to lower levels of inflammation that lead to various chronic illnesses as well as stimulate processing of information.
Are you convinced that artwork needs to be injected into the workplace or in need of a re-work-on? Remember that it’s probably best to let those working in the work environments allocated to take ownership on what artworks get chosen and where they get hung, especially if you want to see a boost in their performance levels.