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Ten ways to optimise corporate workspaces for creative thinking

Workspace Design

There is a large research literature on the impact of our surroundings on our ability to work creatively. In writing our latest ebook, Creativity at Work: Dissecting the research to build a modern creative workplace, we dissected over 20 studies to reveal the most reliable and useful findings to recommend to our clients.

A clear theme to emerge from the research literature is that the mere act of taking control of your workspace is psychologically beneficial. Not everyone has this freedom, but even in shared spaces, there are ways to personalise your own little area. It’s a similar story when it comes to what to wear to work, and when to work. Taking control allows you to feel more comfortable and play to your own strengths.

Here are our top ten recommendations to optimise corporate workspaces for creative thinking:

1. Give staff control over their own work area.
This might include allowing them to have a messy desk if that’s how they prefer to operate.

2. Try using blue or green to help foster an open mindset.
There are some suggestions that this might help with creativity. However, as you’ll see in the ebook, there’s no concrete evidence or specific guidelines for this.

3. Have a way to vary lighting conditions.
Make sure the workspace has plenty of natural light for task productivity, but also have a way to dim the lights for idea generation tasks.

4. Go easy on the uniforms.
Encourage creative staff to wear the kind of clothes they feel comfortable in. One piece of research found that people felt friendlier when they dressed casually, but more authoritative, trustworthy, and competent when dressed smart.

5. Use rounded furniture
Not just to avoid nasty accidents, apparently it also puts people at ease.

6. Avoid large open plan offices.
Open plan offices may be great for efficiency, but lack of privacy and excessive background noise can outweigh this.

7. Have varying office areas for different purposes.
Have a quiet zone for when people need to focus, and a less formal area with background hubbub for when workers need to think more creatively.

8. Position yourself for serendipity.
Try to locate your office in a city where it’s easy to bump into other creative professionals.

9. Encourage staff to take breaks from technology.
Also allow them time and opportunity to recharge their minds in local parks and other green spaces

10. Give staff freedom over their start and finish times.
They may come up with their best ideas when they’re most sleepy.

If you found that list interesting, you should download the ebook. In writing it, we focused on 20+ studies authored by psychological scientists in scholarly journals. We also examined research claims derived from corporate studies, expert conjecture or student dissertations.

We have produced this book in association with Dr Christian Jarrett, an Associate Fellow of The British Psychological Society and author of The Rough Guide to Psychology. Christian writes a regular column for 99U.com on ways that psychological science can help boost people’s creativity and productivity. He also blogs for WIRED on neuroscience. Follow his work on Twitter @Psych_Writer.

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