Can Art in Your Office Make You Work Better?

A work space is so much more than a desk and a computer. Maybe that’s how some of us are getting by, but if we’re going to do our best work each day, we need to surround ourselves with things that add value to that space.

Your office, cubicle, corner of the guest room or whatever area you work in should inspire you. It should also calm you when you’re stressed and energize you when you’re bored. How can a work space do all that? The answer is to include art in your office.

Can art really make you work better? Yes, and here’s one example: you might set a cup full of sharp pencils on your desk. That adds value to your work space. If it’s a beautiful cup of pencils, you will enjoy looking at it — and it might even make you smile or distract you from an aggravation. Just like that, art in your office helped you work a little better.

Let’s break down some of the positive effects art has in the workplace.

Art Inspires Creativity

A dull, blank wall won’t go very far to influence anyone, especially if that wall is facing you for several hours a day. Adding a piece or two of artwork can engage your senses, spark your curiosity, cause you to look at it more deeply and provide inspiration.

At its best, art causes the viewer to see things from a perspective not considered before — and, perhaps, find a small piece of that new thing inside of them. The viewer, changed in some way, feels stimulated to express a unique idea or feeling. This process is the definition of inspiration.

Research has shown that when we view certain types of artwork, particularly abstract or impressionist art, parts of our brain are engaged that cause us to try to work out what we are seeing. The process stimulates our imagination and pleases our emotions. All this brain work heightens our creativity and helps us work better.

How does creativity and inspiration relate to your work? If you have a job that requires creativity, the answer is obvious; art in your work space can inspire new ideas. Even if your job doesn’t require frequent original ideas, art can help you refocus, take a mental break, or look at old methods in a new way.

Art Improves Engagement

If you share a work space, art can help you engage with one another. Each person viewing the artwork will see it in different ways. Art can spark discussion, create talking points and give viewers ideas to compare and contrast. In this way, art can create rapport between coworkers. It might even inspire project ideas among team members.

Artwork can reflect the culture of a workplace. For example, a business that is seen as imaginative might have abstract or unusual artwork, whereas a business that wants to reflect traditional values may choose classic pieces. Whether the art is viewed only by employees or is on display in a public area for clients to see, the pieces you choose can communicate nonverbally with those who observe it.

Art can also represent the locality of your workplace. Pieces made by local artists can echo the culture in the corner of the world where you work. If the artist has taken photos in your city or used locally sourced materials, it brings the community vibe to your work space. As an added benefit, if you purchase pieces from artists in your area, you support local talent and invest in your neighborhood.

Art Distracts from Workplace Stress

Stress in the modern workplace is on the rise, and chronic stress can lead to health issues. These may include:

  • Anxiety
  • Poor sleep quality or insomnia
  • High blood pressure
  • Back or neck pain
  • Heart disease
  • Obesity
  • Diabetes
  • Headaches
  • Gastrointestinal issues

Obviously, it is increasingly important to find ways to deal effectively with daily tension.

Can a great work of art take away our stress? Maybe not completely, but it can certainly help. Think of the kind of artwork you might find displayed in your dentist’s waiting room or in a hospital lobby. Chances are that the art you see in these spaces is tranquil and soothing. It is designed to ease the nervous tension that arises before a medical appointment or hospital procedure.

In the same way, the art you choose for your work space can have a calming or energizing effect. If you are anxious about a project or meeting, gazing into a tranquil watercolor scene can give you a minute to slow your breathing and refocus. Conversely, if you find yourself frustrated by a dull assignment, a bold, bright, abstract piece can awaken your senses and revive you.

These ideas are backed by science. Studies have shown that looking at artwork the viewer perceives to be beautiful stimulates the area of the brain responsible for pleasure, causing feelings of happiness and relaxation. One study at the University of Westminster measured stress levels of city workers before and after visiting an art gallery during their lunch break. After just 35 minutes in the gallery, their cortisol (stress hormone) levels dropped rapidly and substantially, to levels that under normal circumstances would have taken five hours to reach.

An article written for The Guardian by Kirstie Brewer begins, “Contrary to what your boss might say, being distracted at work is not always a bad thing. If the object of your distraction is a work of art, it can actually boost productivity, lower stress and increase well being.”

Art Makes Employees Feel Valued

If you have employees, the simple act of adding art to the workplace can boost morale and make them feel cared for. Knowing an employer took the time to make the space more pleasant and interesting by adding artwork makes employees feel valued. If they are comfortable in their workspace and feel their employer cares about their well being, they are more likely to be happy in their jobs and also more likely to stay.

In the same vein, employees will be more apt to have a sense of pride in their workplace if they see their employer cares enough to make it a pleasant place to be.

Another way employers can make their employees feel valued through artwork is to let them choose it. Everyone has different tastes, and what pleases one person may not look so great to another.

Would a workplace decorated with the tastes of many employees create a cacophony of style? Maybe — but it could be worth it, if employees feel empowered by their ability to choose something they like. It could also spark conversation and camaraderie between colleagues if they ask questions about each others’ choices of art and why they chose it for the workplace. Maybe you could think of it as your own office art gallery.

Art is not usually thought of as a necessity. Certainly, as we design our work spaces, it doesn’t earn top billing the way a sturdy chair or good lighting might. It has been proven, though, that art deserves a place in our offices, cubicles or even warehouses. It inspires us, sparks creativity, gives us health benefits and strengthens our relationships. Art in the office goes beyond pretty pictures — it adds value to our work. Make artwork a vital part of your office space.