We are witnessing a workplace revolution, a giant social experiment on a scale never previously attempted. Millions of us are working from home while Britain is on lockdown and we have no idea for how long it will last, or what ‘business as usual’ will look like, once social distancing restrictions are lifted
Some of us are familiar with working from home and the different rhythms associated with being away from the office, but few of us are used to doing it day in, day out – or having to adjust to a world where all our colleagues are also working from home and face-to-face collaboration has been replaced by virtual meetings on Zoom or Microsoft teams.
One of the biggest challenges that creates is how we maintain our creativity rather than being distracted by our home environment. How do you adjust to the new normal?
The first step is to create a designated home working area; ideally, that would be a dedicated home office, but not everyone will have a spare room they can use for this purpose. Think creatively: anything from a chimney alcove, a narrow corridor or the gap under the staircase could be transformed into a made-to-measure home office workstation.
Alternatively, an existing dresser or living room table could easily double up as a multi-purpose workspace. If possible, it should be in a place that offers as much natural light as possible, or with an outside view.
‘Tidy desk, tidy mind’ is a saying that not everyone agrees with – we all know colleagues who work between mounting piles of paperwork on their desks that appear about to topple at any moment – but at home it is a mantra that should be applied rigorously. Keeping clutter to a minimum helps you focus on work, rather than the mess around you. Creative storage solutions can help, such as ottomans or shelving; it avoids the untidiness of cables, charging points and printer cables.
But finding a suitable working area will not, by itself, encourage a creative mindset. The best office environments are designed to stimulate employees; for example, research by ARTIQ showed that staff were almost 15% more productive if their workplace featured art. Meanwhile, in a separate study by the British Council for Offices, six out of ten employees said artwork inspired them to think and work more creatively.
We should not be surprised by that finding because art enables positive, cognitive distraction. It engages staff, helping them to think beyond the four walls that surround them. Clients to whom we rent art collections say that it has makes employees feel more engaged. But how do you achieve a similar effect at home?
The important thing to remember is that creating a stimulating work environment does not need to be expensive. Hanging posters and postcards, or displaying personal photographs, can act as a source of inspiration and give personality to your workspace. Making a montage can be stimulating and create an arresting effect. Or you can create your own artworks, for example by framing wallpaper samples or painting onto simple abstract canvases.
Many academic studies have shown that what we see around us, and interact with, directly influences our wellbeing. So, as well as thinking about art in all its forms, it is important to think about colour. Different colours affect our moods in different ways. An all-white room can have a clinical feel; block colours and strong lines are preferable for jobs that require long periods of focus and concentration. Strong colours with refined compositions can inject the necessary inspiration to the working day.
The uncertainty of the current lockdown has made many of us anxious, worried about our families and fearful for our jobs. Artwork with abstract content and neural palettes can promote calm and tranquillity – vital tools to help us adjust in this time of turmoil.
Designing home workstations does not need to be expensive. Furniture can easily be used for other than its intended purpose, particularly if you are short of space or money. Old clothing armoires with shelves could be repurposed as filing space, for example.
Don’t neglect the obvious little touches that can transform a home working environment. Carefully chosen accessories can breathe life into any office space. Simple features such as placing a house plant on the desk will make the area more homely and inviting.
And, if you are looking for inspiration as you settle into your home working environment, ARTIQ is running a series of art classes and arts engagement programming at https://artiq.co/ over the next few weeks. We will be inviting some of our artists to share their work and offer creative insights.
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The positive impact of art on our physical and mental health is tangible – a fact recognised by Florence Nightingale 160 years ago – long before the term ‘wellbeing’ had been coined. She wrote ‘Little as we know about the way in which we are affected by form, by colour, and light, we do know this, that they have an actual physical effect.” Now is the perfect time to encourage your employees to discover that for themselves.