Leadership & Productivity

How to stimulate creative and productive thinking in your office

6 min read

25 October 2018

Branding consultant Shelly Greenway says business owners must create an ambient work environment for their employees if they want to stimulate creativity and productivity.

Have you ever been asked to be creative?

–Being put on the spot like that can be highly stressful.

For many of us, on-the-spot creativity is a daunting prospect and may not come naturally.

Most office-based employees tend to behave much like a tortoise when it comes to showing others what they can do professionally.

Think about your workforce, and especially if you have a new employee starting at your company.

They often poke their head out nervously to ensure the environment is safe and comfortable before they fully emerge.

Your creativity won’t show up if you are nervous or stressed, busy or surrounded by hustle and bustle.

– Creativity is a very particular type of thinking.

Creative thinking can boost productivity for employees, here’s how to make sure your workforce is getting creative.

The Science Bit

We know that creativity is something that happens in the brain; many psychologists and neuroscientists have identified cognitive mechanisms and processes that are active during the creative process.

However, many people still believe that creativity is a “gift”.

There are many studies that suggest that subtle cues in our physical environment significantly influence creative output.

“Psychologist, Kurt Lewin in 1943 proposed that behaviour is ‘a function of both the person and the physical environment they are in.'”

Creating a physical environment that puts people at ease and makes them feel relaxed and safe, will get the creative juices properly flowing.

Here are some factors that can help you boost creativity in your workplace:

1. Familiar surroundings/territory

If you were to put a truck driver into a boardroom or viewing facility, for example, this won’t in any way mimic their real-life environment, so they may feel on edge and out of their comfort zone.

Meet with them at a roadside café, and the chances are they will feel right at home.

On a less obvious level, think about the kind of physical environment you want to create in your office, and in particular how you want your clients to feel when they enter.

“The same goes for new or potential employees, think about the common areas of your office, do you want candidates to feel intimidated or exposed waiting for an interview sitting next to current employees who are getting on with their work?”

Think about the kinds of people that will be entering your office, whether that’s full-time employees, freelancers, clients or candidates, you want to give them great first – and lasting impressions of your office environment.

Ensure it’s a place that looks and feels physically comfortable when people feel comfortable, and enjoy the aesthetics of a space, they will produce better work.

Creating a welcoming, nice looking, and non-intimidating office environment will make the space feel more comfortable, and therefore more familiar for those who enter it.

2. Light

According to the Journal of Environmental Psychology, natural light fosters superior creativity as it encourages a feeling of freedom.

“Natural light contains what is called ‘blue light’. It boosts the immune system, increases dopamine levels and lowers cortisol levels.”

This means that being in a naturally lit room with make you feel less anxious, happier and more productive.

3. Noise

A moderate noise level is the sweet spot for creativity.

“Ambient noise gets our creative juices flowing unlike silence, and doesn’t put us off like high levels of noise.”

The theory is that when we struggle just enough to process things as we normally would, we resort to more creative approaches.

4. Temperature

A study at Cornell University in 2004 found that a stable temperature level actively encouraged better levels of concentration.

The study concluded that a constant temperature of 20 degrees Celsius keeps people 44% more focussed on the task in hand than the usual optimal room temperature of 25 degrees Celsius.

5. Colour

Colourful spaces can make people feel more childlike, playful and adventurous.

These moods are conducive to new ways of thinking.

Colours create visual interest and can help fight fatigue.

Exposure to both blue and green has been shown to enhance performance on tasks that require generating new ideas.

Going forward 

We, humans, are sensitive creatures.

We are greatly influenced by what we see around us.

With all the sensory and psychological factors at play when people enter a physical space, especially an office, why not make yours as pleasant as possible to ensure you have happy, creative and productive employees?

Shelly Greenway is Partner and Strategist at The Strategy Distillery – a strategic brand innovation consultancy.