Your Workplace Strategy: Are You Thinking About Art?

By Katie Giganti (Sr. Associate/COO)

In the years since 2008’s slump, I have seen radical changes in corporate workplace design: open workstation areas, more windows and light, and centralized kitchen areas, to name a few. Building managers and owners are incorporating full-fledged gyms into their spaces, along with shared conference centers and other amenities. On one of my recent site visits, I asked a property manager, “So tell me about this new model of providing so many services for your tenants?” She responded, “It’s all about employee retention. Companies are looking for spaces that will make their employees happy – employees are one of their biggest assets.” I am no economist, but what I can say is that I have been witness to a revolution in the workplace that - I think - was spurred by job growth and a competitive job market after the economic decline. My Google sleuthing tells me this general concept of retention, effectiveness, and efficiency all falls under the heading of workplace strategy. And now let me tell you why artwork is an important part of the workplace strategy picture.

Artwork can help employees form an emotional connection to their workplace. It can make a space more comfortable and upbeat, thus boosting productivity.

I’m going to borrow this quote from a Kimball Office article I recently came across: “The office has become an important location for symbolic, learning, and creative interactions. A direct result of this trend is that the design and décor of offices has taken on a renewed importance for corporate managers. Beyond simple notions of size and comfort, office design has gained attention for its ability to meet the emerging needs of workers…” (1)

To further reinforce the notion of artwork benefits in the office, an article from Forbes Magazine says, “I do believe you can (very roughly) estimate what I call ROE, Return on Environment, as there are subtle but valuable benefits workplace art can bring to a corporate culture.” (2) The article goes on to point out that artwork can boost creativity, reduce stress, and – most importantly – make the employees feel proud about where they work. I can’t think about a better ROE than being able, as an employer, to contribute to the retention of my workforce through benefits such as having great artwork to look at.

Artwork can boost creativity, reduce stress, and – most importantly – make the employees feel proud about where they work.

I am admittedly obsessed with Entrepreneur Magazine and one recurring topic I see is that employers are urging their employees to take ownership of what they do. That definitely aligns with this aforementioned sense of pride business owners are hoping to instill in their workforces. Artwork can help employees form an emotional connection to their workplace. It can make a space more comfortable and upbeat, thus boosting productivity. Inc.com’s article ‘How to Create a Productive Office Environment’ states that “Style Supports Function”… “In the best of all worlds, an office space will reflect your business’s personality and culture. Wall colors, art, amenities and comfortable gathering spaces can all enhance your brand as well as productivity.” Hmmm… maybe I need to hang a new piece of art by my desk to help me finish the rest of this article (ha)!

Take, for example, a project we did with Mathematica Policy Research last year. The art selection team was very conscientious of the impact the artwork would have on their staff. Once the installation was complete, we decided to include the project in a short video. When Mathematica sent out a notification email that we would be filming on-site, they were inundated with responses from employees asking if they could be shown in the film interacting with the artwork. Nothing is more gratifying for us, as their art consultant, to witness than employees showing pride in their artwork.

So what’s the point? Don’t skimp on the artwork when you are moving your company to a new space (or renovating)! We understand it can be the last item on the checklist; it may not be as functionally important as furniture or lighting, but don’t disregard the merits of artwork when thinking about your overall workplace strategy.

(1) Elsbach, K. & Bechy, B. ― “It’s more than a desk: Working smarter through leveraged office design.”‖California Management Review. Winter 2007. Vol. 49, No. 2

(2) Lipman, Victor – “The Motivational Benefits of Art in the Workplace.” Forbes. July 2014.

Kaiser Permanente's Appreciation for Artwork

One of the most rewarding benefits of being an Art Consultant is seeing the impact artwork can have on the end "user": those who benefit from being around it, uplifted by it, inspired by it. Kaiser Permanente members are truly fortunate; the spaces designed by the KP team are wholly devoted to those who seek medical services, and to the doctors, nurses, and other staff who provide those services. Original works of art - several by local artists - were incorporated into our most recent KP project. Without a doubt, the bright colors and upbeat compositions of the art will make many smiles happen.

"What Is Art? Why we like what we like" - The Atlantic

This is a terrific article about the psychology behind our art "likes" and "dislikes". Want to know why you lean toward abstraction or tend to steer clear of anything non-representational? Read this!

Art isn’t science, but that doesn’t stop psychologists from trying to get inside viewers’ minds. What makes us like a few splotches of color?
— From 'What Is Art?' published in The Atlantic | July/August 2014

Splashes of Color

The latest pieces Artists Circle installed at Savills Studley's office: two photographic prints of "splashes" of color.

From Designboom:
"...the barren landscape of Northern Nevada as [the artists'] stage in which they have conducted floating sculptural events; capturing fleeting moments in which vibrantly pigmented liquid has been thrown into the air. Taking many attempts to perfect the technique of tossing the fluid substance in just the right way to obtain a range of free-flowing configurations, the resulting images express shapes that are non-discernible and ephemeral in their existence. The large splashes are shot with a high-speed shutter (typically set at 3200th of a second) that freezes the action... each image is presented as it is taken, without any Photoshop editing."