Most employees are looking for ways to get the most from their staff but are unsure where to start. Fostering a spirit of creativity in your workforce is one of the best ways to get the most out of employees while simultaneously boosting company and staff morale.
A creative work environment is a great asset to any business. It makes hiring easier as your company is seen as a good company to work for, it increases productivity, and it improves mood. As people also start focusing more on work-life balance, a creative, collaborative work environment can be seen as ideal for many employees.
By following a few steps, you can set the tone for creativity in the workplace. The great news is, you don’t have to be particularly creative to do it either. Both creatives and non-creatives have a place in the creative work environment and you will need both to build up the culture that you want.
To help you in creating a creative work environment, we have broken down the best practices for you to follow. We will look at what a creative environment is, why you need one, and how to create one – both physically and culturally.
What is a creative environment?
According to Sternberg, Grigorenko, and Harrington, experts in creativity and business, a creative environment is any physical, social, or cultural atmosphere where creativity occurs. They further break down creativity into concentration and absorption.
Primarily, a creative work environment is about engagement. When your employees are able to engage with you, with one another, and with their environment, their minds are able to make different and new connections, resulting in increased creativity. Ensure this engagement is positive to encourage creative work and watch your employees’ work improve.
A creative environment includes both physical and cultural approaches within a business. A highly creative person left alone in a blank room will likely still come up with something amazing, but it will take much longer. Likewise, a highly creative person given all the tools they want and the best possible physical environment will still struggle to be creative if management is dismissive, if ideas are ignored, or if there is no external engagement in their creations.
If, on the other hand, the work culture is friendly, interactive, and supportive and the workplace itself is open, inviting, and inspiring, then you are far more likely to have a creative and innovative workforce.
Creative environments are vital to healthy workplaces because they ensure work doesn’t become monotonous or substandard. This is especially true of repetitive or tedious work. Creativity allows workers to:
- Solve problems in new ways
- Approach obstacles with an open mindset, making them easier to overcome
- Develop new and better ways of doing things
- Design innovative products
- Invest themselves in the company through personal engagement with work
Whatever your business, a creative work environment is vital to healthy maintenance and growth.
What are the benefits of a creative work environment?
There are multiple benefits to creating a creative work environment. The biggest advantage is that a creative workplace can often be created without costing the company any extra money, but it improves both the employee experience and the work that is produced. There are no downsides for the business itself.
By improving the employee experience, the business benefits from a positive approach to work, enthusiasm, fresh ideas, and increased productivity. The health benefits of happy employees also mean less staff sick leave and higher staff retention rates.
How do you create a creative environment?
Because tackling an entire work culture can be harder than changing how things appear physically, we’re going to start with steps to creating a creative physical environment. This involves opening up workspaces, creating channels for interaction and communication, creating flow within a space, and making offices or workplaces inspiring and inviting.
Think about the places where inspiration usually strikes. For most people, it’s in the shower, in bed, or in the car. All of these are places where people feel comfortable. The brain knows when it is safe to switch to creativity and this often comes with familiarity. By allowing your employees to decorate their own workspaces, you allow them to create an environment where they feel comfortable and have familiar objects.
Depending on your workspace, options could be limited, but use what you have. It could be as simple as photos and keepsakes on desks. Or, if people have their own offices, it could be allowing different scented objects, plants, different types of lighting, and even interesting décor items like cushions.
Decide what is appropriate for your workspace but give your employees the option of making the space their own. Encourage unique expression and show you value and respect what they can bring to the office that no one else can.
Play with colour psychology
Did you know the brain automatically conveys feelings about a place based on the colour of the walls without you even knowing it” White may be practical, but our minds also associate it with sterility and limitations.
Green has been known to reduce stress and improve productivity.
Pink is calming.
Red is energising.
What do you want your employees to accomplish” Think about what tone you want to set in the office and then decorate accordingly with colour. Painting the walls is an easy way to completely change the energy of a space.
If you absolutely cannot paint, consider how you can change the predominant colour of the room with wall hangings, plants, lighting, or other décor options.
Creative people are more likely to be messy, at least according to a recent New York Times study. But being messy can also hinder creativity and efficiency if the mess becomes clutter. By minimising the amount of clutter in the workplace, you minimise the amount of time spent looking for equipment, documents, and other important items.
Start by doing a big clean-out and get rid of anything that is unnecessary. Once you have a clean starting point, try these steps to maintain the decluttered environment.
- Have clearly designated places for everything – even miscellaneous items
- Invest in storage systems that are easy to use
- Have accessible and clearly marked waste systems
- Designate time at the end of the day for clearing up the office so every day starts with a clean desk and space.
Just because creative people tend to be messier doesn’t mean your office needs to be. Make sure the creativity isn’t hindered by clutter and mess.
Have a place where ideas can be collected and played with. Allow your employees to feel heard and important by giving them a say in how things are done. Facilitating communication is key in creating a creative workplace, and this can be initiated through the physical setup of the environment. Some of the easiest ways to encourage interaction and communication are:
- Getting rid of cubicles where possible to allow people to see and speak to one another in the office
- Use a whiteboard or pin board for thoughts, inspirations, ideas, or even doodles
- Allow and encourage movement in the office. People battle to think out of the box when they feel as though they are stuck in one.
We will look more at interaction later, but before the culture can be set, you often need to set up the environment.
We have already seen that feeling safe and comfortable can increase creativity. Cheap office chairs may save money in the short term, but they will hinder creativity and efficiency if your workers feel uncomfortable.
Invest in comfortable chairs and ergonomically designed desks and workspaces. Make sure that your heating or cooling system works and that the temperature is comfortable. Allow snacking and have convenient tea and coffee stations so your workers are able to sustain their bodies and their minds -no one works well on an empty stomach.
Dress code also has a lot to do with how people feel. Although there will be limitations on dress code depending on your business, you should do what you can to encourage people to wear clothes that are appropriate but comfortable. In most workplaces, it is appropriate that women shouldn’t feel that they have to wear high heels, and men shouldn’t feel that they have to wear suit jackets.
How do you create a creative workplace
Once you have created an environment that promotes creativity, you need to start working on a creative workplace.
Creating a creative workplace can often take time, so be prepared to see slow change, but know that it is worth it in the end. You will need to change the culture of the workplace, which is not as easy as changing the colour on the walls.
If creativity is about engagement, then communication needs to be a primary focus in creating a creative workplace.
Working with an open-door policy can be helpful, but if people have never been able to approach supervisors or colleagues freely in the past, they are unlikely to take advantage of an open-door policy now. Set a tone of communication by being clear about projects and goals, making small talk, getting to know everyone who works for you, and showing genuine interest in people’s lives as well as their work.
Encourage laughter and discussion and healthy debate. In an office where there is very little discussion at all, you could start by having a time in meetings for discussing a current event, reporting on something interesting from the commute or day before, or celebrating important milestones like birthdays.
By showing initial interest in others’ lives, you open up communication lines for everything else as well.
And when your employees do start to communicate more freely, be sure to encourage it. Try not to rush people, shoot down ideas, or hush conversations.
Culture is created from the top down. Start at management and encourage colleagues, employees, and anyone else who is contracted in.
Most people need to know that their work is valued and this needs to come from the people that matter – supervisors. Whenever possible, notice and publicly praise fresh thinking and work well done. Don’t hide behind long review processes to find the good, rather, look for the best in your employees and their work and find ways to affirm them as much as possible.
Encouragement creates a safe environment where people are able to bring new ideas to the table without fear of criticism or rejection. These ideas may be bad, but they could also be brilliant – you won’t know unless you’ve heard them, and you won’t hear them if people don’t feel like they are able to freely express them.
Encourage individuality and unique thinking. This could mean your employees challenge you on old methods or products so you need to be secure enough to be able to engage in these discussions. If all of your employees think and act exactly as you do, then nothing creative is happening – this is what you need to avoid.
Your workers will all have different interests, skills, strengths, and weaknesses. Get to know your workers and then embrace and utilise the diversity in your office. This will show your employees they are valued and allow them to truly invest in their work, which encourages creativity.
Some ideas to help you get started are:
- Pair up employees with similar interests to tackle a project or task
- Have weekly or monthly challenges that any employee can volunteer to work on – this could be a chance for people to stretch themselves or prove themselves, or simply get out of a rut if they are struggling with monotonous projects.
- Create learning and self-improvement opportunities for your team so they can stay interested in their work while up-skilling.
Remember that you hired the people you have in your business because you saw potential in them. By allowing people to show their individuality and improve their own skills, you give them broader scope to impress and create.