Why every business should have more art in the workplace


Corporate art has been around for hundreds of years and it’s currently enjoying a second Renaissance.

But companies aren’t embracing this for the sake of it; they’re encouraged by a growing body of research supporting claims that visual stimulation in the workplace significantly increases employee productivity.

Research by Psychology professors Dr. Craig Knight and Dr. S Alexander Haslam proves a direct link between the working environment and levels of well-being, professional satisfaction and productivity. An experiment studying the effect of the office environment on staff productivity saw a group of employees perform an hour’s worth of administrative tasks in an office without visual stimulation and another do so in an ‘enriched’ office space decorated with art and plants.

In an office with art, employees worked approximately 15 per cent faster than those in the austere office.

An IAC survey confirms the results, finding that 94 per cent of the respondents believe that art makes their workplace more welcoming and that 61 per cent agree it also stimulates creativity.

These statistics demonstrate the potential return on investment concerning corporate art and visual design. However, not every business has a dedicated art budget to invest in museum-quality pieces. The good news is there are alternative ideas and new technologies supporting cost-effective contemporary art that smart businesses are using to enhance office spaces.

Traditional art alternatives

Companies at the forefront of the corporate art game are embracing video art or new media art works, including digital and internet art and computer animation installations. Alex Heath, Managing Director of IAC, sees this as a result of technological innovation: “Technology is not only changing the fabric of the modern workplace it is also enabling more innovative artwork.”

Heath predicts that the new office architecture with its open space formats, large windows and reduced wall space will increase demand for more mobile art such as video and new media. A projector, for example, offers flexible, cost-effective and customisable opportunities, including giving staff members the opportunity to exhibit their own photography or video projects. In doing this, businesses give their employees freedom in controlling the look and feel of the workplace.

Interior decoration solutions

Cost-effective and customised interior decoration solutions, made possible by advances in high-quality inkjet printing technology, are another possibility to enliven the office space.

Rolls-Royce’s Derby facility, for example, needed a new visitor reception area that reflected the prestige of the brand and its commitment to excellence. It employed manifestation print specialists Ltd Limited to create a customised silver, white and blue interior wall and glass graphic using Epson’s first 64-inch printer to print on clear vinyl and wallpaper.

The result is an area that immerses the visitor in the Rolls-Royce world. Such bespoke wallpapers are now readily available as a result of wide format print solutions becoming increasingly affordable.

When designing interior decoration solutions, businesses should keep in mind the psychological properties of colours that can affect behaviour. Specific colours can evoke similar emotional and behavioural responses in people4. Research from the University of Colombia, for example, shows that blue and green make employees feel calm and relaxed, which can positively impact productivity.

The retail sector, meanwhile, benefits from a more adventurous approach to colour. Most colours work well in retail spaces except for blue or grey; colours that stimulate a cautious attitude and might inhibit customers to spend their money. According to colour psychologist Angela Wright, the Hospitality industry should opt for interior design solutions with warm colours: “Orange is the best colour to promote the hospitality industry – it makes you hungry, it is sensual and it is the best fun colour.”

It’s clear that a visually stimulating workplace is about far more than just ‘beautifying’ the space. Businesses that provide this environment for their employees and customers can positively impact productivity, customer experience and ultimately, business success.

Lisa Gray, Founder of Flux art exhibition agrees with the IAC survey, however in addition to the bespoke option that Rolls Royce employed her company offers a cost effective solution for SMEs as her company offers art pieces out on loan to companies.

Speaking about the move she said: “Art within the workplace creates a talking point and enhances the visuality of the space. Artists benefit from increased visibility and sales opportunities that would not be obtained through the normal routes. The companies loaning art and the artists are exceptionally happy with the added value the arrangement brings. The offices we have worked with have had such a positive response from both clients and staff who thought the less sterile environment brought a more uplifting and creative mood to the areas.’

‘The artwork we currently loan is valued between £500 and £30000. We are constantly updating our selection to ensure we have a vast range of choice to suit the ambience of a particular space.’

Warren Scott, CEO of Quintessential Brands, who have taken up Gray’s company offering says: “We are delighted to have such an exciting collection of contemporary art from a new generation of artists in our new offices in Little Portland Street. The originality, vibrancy and colour of the pieces reflects the dynamic nature of our business and our exciting portfolio of spirit brands throughout the world. Our global portfolio includes Greenall’s Gin, first distilled in 1761, through to our new and exotic Opihr Oriental Spiced Gin which took its inspiration from the Ancient Spice Route.

“We are really enjoying working with Lisa Gray which has enabled us to create an inspirational office space and are delighted to showcase their artists’ new works.”

Quintessential Brands office project was managed by Ignitus Consultancy, with artwork selected by Grays Art Gallery.