Nine office design tips to help boost creativity

But before you crack out the beanbags and indoor grass, make sure you find out what your staff actually want.

by Jonathan Dawes
Last Updated: 01 Jul 2015

Design isn’t just about aesthetics, it’s about creating a space that functions beautifully and inspires those in it. Pioneering modernist architect Le Corbusier said a house should be "a machine for living". Similarly, an office should be a machine for productivity. Key to that is nurturing creativity.
And it doesn’t matter what industry you work in - designing your office space so that ideas can flow freely can have a huge positive impact on overall output. So here are nine ways to use design to boost creativity in your work environment.

1. Communal areas

Collaborating is a great way of generating ideas. To let that happen, you have to provide a space where groups are able to think more openly. Comfortable couches allow for relaxed, non-judgmental teamwork, which is where the best ideas can be generated and shaped.

A great example is Pixar Studios, designed by the late Apple chief Steve Jobs, which has a traffic flow that encourages impromptu meetings and (one would hope) the natural birth of ideas.

2. Be organised

Giving employees the space and order that they need to function is essential for nurturing creativity. Studies have shown clutter can increase stress and impact on performance. Provide modular storage space to reduce clutter and make it easier for staff to stay focused.

3. Shhh

Create a space where people can spend time doing concentrated work. With the buzz and chatter of an office, a desk is sometimes not the best place for getting through heavy workloads. By creating quiet spaces you give people a chance to get on with the graft.

And when people just want to get away from it all – even work – it helps to have dedicated relaxation areas too. London based agency Essence Digital fully embraced the importance of dedicated calm areas, including a relaxing open space for employees to focus or just chill out.

4. Feels like home

Creating an office where your employees feel comfortable will allow them to come up with their best ideas. Encourage personalised mugs, photos of family or treasured momentos – those small things can make a huge difference (as long as it doesn't spill over into clutter – see point 2). Providing a shower so staff can cycle to work or exercise during their lunch break can give people their own space, be it physical or mental, to come up with ideas and think outside the office walls.

5. Make a stand

Movement encourages physical and mental wellbeing. As well as traditional office areas, introduce ways for people to work in different ways, including standing up. Café-height tables for individual work and meetings can make people more energetic, allowing them to generate ideas.

Denmark is taking a lead in this area and has just made it mandatory for employers to offer their staff sit-stand desks, and numerous UK companies are also now following suit. We recently designed a dedicated stand up meeting space for the team at M&C Saatchi Sport & Entertainment, with the aim of making meetings more energetic and day-to-day tasks more efficient.

6. Colour me happy

Offices don’t have to be plain and grey, especially since different colours have been shown to stimulate different parts of the mind. According to colour psychologists, blue helps productivity while yellow can help increase creativity. Consider adding splashes of colour in areas relevant to specific work - for example, if you have an existing break-out space, add a splash of bold buttercup to get those creative juices flowing. This fun area at B2B software company Bazaarvoice is a great example.

7. Let the light in

Natural light has also been proven to have fantastic benefits, helping to boost creativity and energy levels. According to a paper by Franta and Anstead in 1994, natural lighting mitigates ailments such as eye-strain, Seasonal Affective Disorder and headaches, while enhancing productivity.

8. Clear branding

By aligning creativity with a clear goal you encourage it to be focused in the right direction. Clear, consistent and simple branding will bring purpose to ideas. Gently reinforce your logo and company colours throughout your building to make sure your people consistently come up with things that work. Coca-Cola's London headquarters is a great example of this: the impressive office includes a wall of 5,000 recycled drink bottles and vintage Coke memorabilia.

9. Engage your team

Comfort is a matter of preference, especially when it comes to small details. So probably the most important thing when designing office is to talk to the people who are going to be working in it to figure out what will be best for them. If you’re redesigning an offices, speak with your employees about any proposed changes – it’s crucial they feel involved so they stay engaged with your company. That way they’re more likely to align their creativity with your long-term vision.

Jonathan Dawes is a project director at London-based office design company Peldon Rose.

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