The Power of Art in the Workplace

by Jamie Livingstone, A&D Manager

Organisations should move away from seeing corporate art as purely an aesthetic choice, a trivial matter or an insignificant add-on. Those companies that fully appreciate the benefits of displaying paintings, prints, photographs or sculpture in their offices – including the potential positive impact art can have on their workforce – are giving themselves a significant advantage over their competitors.

Current trends suggest that art in the workplace is under-provided. According to separate research by Leesman (2014), Thomas (2010) and the British Council for Offices (2012), exploring the performance of employees at work, up to 95% of staff cannot not see any art from their desk, 70% have no art in their office at all, and in offices where art is present, 55% are dissatisfied by the selection on display.

This article details four reasons why organisations should look to resolve this and why designers should specify more art in workplaces.

Art makes a statement about a company’s values

An intelligently-curated art collection can reflect a company’s history and demonstrate its character, style and spirit to employees, clients, partners and prospects. In receptions, boardrooms and every other area of the workplace, a carefully selected piece of art can send a clear, yet subtle, message to those who see it, expressing and reinforcing brand values if appropriate.

Paintings or photographs from different parts of the world can serve to demonstrate a company’s global reach, whilst displaying the work of local artists can show that a company supports and embraces the community in which it operates.

Renting or buying art through responsible consultancies ensures that emerging artists are paid fairly for their work, making companies into Patrons of the Arts.

Art engages staff

Employee engagement is receiving more and more attention as companies seek to get the most out of their workforce. However, there is still a considerable amount of work to be done in this area; a survey by Gallup in 2014 found 51% of workers stating they weren’t engaged in their jobs, and 17.5% saying they were actively disengaged.

Art can offer a highly effective remedy to this. Offering employees a choice in the art they would like to see in their space is one of the only realistic ways to give them a say in the aesthetics of their workplace environment and show that the management of an organisation cares about and trusts its employees.

ARTIQ even offers a voting tool, which allows people democratically to select which pieces from a shortlist they would like to see in their office area. Companies can also lease art periodically to refresh and reinvigorate the space, meaning renewed opportunities for staff engagement down the line.

Art often divides opinion, and in communal spaces such as flexible working areas, lounges or break-out zones, art can serve as a focal point, get people talking and open up a dialogue that may have otherwise been lacking. The potential effects on staff morale are undeniably significant.

Art impacts the all-important bottom line

Even a small increase in the productivity of workers can bring huge financial benefits to an organisation as a whole. Employees thrive in a positive and optimistic environment, and research suggests that having art in the workplace increases creativity, efficiency and even productivity.

In the US, a survey by the Business Committee for the Arts and the International Association of Professional Art Advisors took a survey which found 94% believed art enhanced the work environment, and 64% saw increased creativity and productivity.

In the UK, research by the British Council for Offices in 2013 suggested that 61% of workers believe artwork inspires them to think and work more creatively, whilst research carried out independently by ARTIQ in conjunction with Zurich Insurance Group suggested that having art in the workplace increased perceived productivity by 14.3% in comparison to that of a control group who had no art visible from their workstation.

Due to the difficulty in measuring productivity and its sensitivity to external factors it would be impossible to estimate the exact ROI (return on investment) of having art in the workplace, but the bottom line is that if a modest investment brings even a fraction of a percentage increase in the productivity of an organisation as a whole, it will have been justified.

Furthermore, the CSR benefits of a company being a Patron of the Arts can be a useful string to the bow of any marketing department and make that company more appealing to future prospects.

Displaying a spectacular art collection does not have to be expensive

Many companies baulk at the idea of art in the workplace since the word itself conjures up images of a hammer coming down and an auctioneer announcing “Sold! For ten million pounds to the man in the top hat!”.

But the fact is, there are thousands of talented artists out there producing remarkable work yet to adorn the walls of the Tate Modern, whose work is both available and reasonably priced.

Rental is more affordable than purchasing outright, and carries a host of other benefits – when art is rented through a consultancy such as ARTIQ, companies receive help with their curation, have installation, maintenance and insurance taken care of, and can freshen up the space every six months with new pieces or, if they decide to keep the art, buy it outright at the end of the rental period and offset the cost against what has already been paid – essentially ‘try before you buy’.

References

BCO (2012) Making Art Work in the Workplace. London, BCO.

Gallup (2014) State of the Global Workplace Report.

Leesman, www.leesmanindex.com , accessed 18/01/2016.

New Hampshire Business Committee for the Arts and the International Association for Professional Art Advisors. (IAPAA) (2003), The Value of Art in the Workplace

Thomas (2010) An Holistic Evaluation of the Workplace. Understanding the Impact of the Workplace Environment on Satisfaction, Perceived Productivity and Stimulation. Ph.D. Thesis. University of Northumbria, UK.

Thomas, J & McCrae, P (2012), Art Works! The Research Paper