Apart from its decorative function, research has found that art can boost productivity, spark ideas, reduce stress, and improve well-being, making it more relevant than ever in today’s offices – where employees typically spend a big part of their waking hours.

Workplaces have evolved rapidly in the last few years, moving away from staid and cluttered cubicles to creative spaces designed for activity-based work. This trend will likely continue as occupiers seek new ways of work to further encourage collaboration, raise efficiency, and enhance employee engagement.

Mr. Samarth Kasturia, Associate Director for Regional Workplace Strategy at Colliers International said, “Generally, art does not feature highly in a firm’s workplace design strategy, largely due to a lack of awareness about its impact. It is seen as a frill. Quite the contrary, well-chosen paintings or other curated art pieces installed in the office – be it in the meeting rooms, the foyer or work areas – can elevate the employee experience and even promote key brand messages to guests and clients.”

Painting a positive picture
For decades, the visual and expressive components as well as the rehabilitative influence of art have played an important role in supporting health and mental well-being in the healthcare sector. It can also be a central factor in driving a myriad of benefits for occupiers and their employees. 
- Health and happiness
Prolonged periods of highly-focused work can induce stress and tension at the workplace. Having art in the office provides a good source of distraction, allowing staff to momentarily look away from their laptops. Viewing art is said to improve empathy, lower anxiety, restore cognitive energy, and help develop critical thinking skills.

Healthier and happier employees translate to a more positive work environment which will go a long way in driving business success.

According to a study by Exeter University, employees who have a say over the layout of their workspace are happier and healthier — they are also up to 32% more productive. The research – which involved over 2,000 office workers - also found that those working in enriched spaces (decorated with plants or pictures) were 17% more productive than those in lean spaces which are bare and functional.

Separately, another survey of more than 800 staff from 32 companies in the US that have workplace art collections also generated a positive impact. A Forbes report in 2016 revealed that 78% of the respondents agreed that art helped to reduce stress, increase creativity (64% agreed), and encourage expression of opinions (77% agreed). The poll was jointly conducted by the Business Committee for the Arts and the International Association for Professional Art Advisors.  

- Motivate and inspire
Art inspires and in turn drives creativity. In a Journal of Business Research paper, Seoul-based scholars Donghwy An and Nara Youn - of South Korea’s Hongik University – said that displaying art in the workplace could boost employee’s creative capabilities, thereby spurring innovation. 

In a series of studies, the two scholars found that participants with open attitudes toward aesthetic experiences were more likely to be inspired and therefore better able to generate creative solutions, and that the power of art appreciation when extended to a business environment, can help to enhanced performance in product design, brand-naming, and problem-solving skills.

Interesting artworks can stimulate conversation. The ambiguity of visual artworks displayed in the office could motivate the viewer to apply creative thinking, encourage reflection and even spark discussion among employees. This is plus for staff engagement, helping to forge a more open and cooperative business environment. 

- Communicate company culture
If innovation, creativity and team spirit are key pillars of a company’s values; then the installation of appropriate artworks in the business premises could help to convey the firm’s character and culture to not just employees, but clients and partners as well. Here, art becomes a non-verbal tool to communicate the company’s key brand messages.

For example, displaying works by local artists could demonstrate the firm’s appreciation of the country’s culture and its support for the local community; while murals co-created by the employees may suggest a culture of inclusivity and togetherness.

Mr. Kasturia added, “Art goes beyond brightening up interior spaces, it is a component of corporate wellness strategy as it impacts the employees’ mood and morale. In fact, meaningful integration of art is an element that is recognised in the WELL Building Standard, owing to art’s ability to create a calming environment and its role in improving building occupants’ well-being.”  

Installing art at the office is not just for big corporates with deep pockets. Instead of acquiring art pieces, smaller firms could choose to lease or display for sale. There is no one-size-fits-all approach to incorporating art into the office environment. Companies that are keen to do so should seek advice from experienced workplace strategy consultants on what would best serve their needs.