Thanks to the COVID-19 pandemic, much of the industrialised world has been plunged into a forced experiment to see if remote-working is feasible. The answer to this appears to be a resounding “yes”. With the likes of Twitter officially stating that their most of their 5,000 strong workforce can continue to work remotely as long as they like after the pandemic has passed and Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg also declaring that within 5-10 years he expects around half of the company’s employees to be working from home – declaring a space for your home office might seem like a wise investment.
The ideal office will depend largely on the type of work that you do. Whilst all offices need a computer, ventilation and proper lighting, the colour and dimensions of the optimal room differ depending on whether or not you are working creativity or trying to focus on more quantitative (usually mathematical) projects.
Space is very important for creativity. Space can make us feel happy, or in the case of cramped, cubicles, can make you feel more anxious. Offices that are complete open-plan, however, have been shown to aid creativity, but kill productivity. Large open spaces are better for creative work, whilst smaller spaces tend to be better for focus.
The color of your office walls & ceiling can make a big difference in your mood and mindset. Orange, for example, increases creativity but also boosts mental endurance. When paired with lots of natural light, white is also said to create creativity (source). However, green may have the most research to back its use in creative office-spaces. Research carried out in Germany by Lichtenfeld & associates found that staring at the color green for 2 seconds before partaking in a creative task – boosted creativity significantly more than white, grey, red and blue:
“This green effect was observed using both achromatic (white, grey) and chromatic (red, blue) contrast colors that were carefully matched on non-hue properties, and using both picture-based and word-based assessments of creativity. Participants were not aware of the purpose of the experiment…”
The fact that the color green inspires creativity, may be related to the significant impact that nature and office plants have on happiness and creativity. Bringing nature indoors is a big mood lifter and creativity booster. It is for this reason that Amazon’s office in Seattle now comprises a trio of glass ‘biodomes’ which contains thousands of plants. John Savo, Principal and Architect at NBBJ stated that spheres are found in nature, in bubbles and even in the human eye. The idea behind the spheres was to allow each Amazon employee to move from the office and go to work amongst nature within the spheres – in order to adopt a mindset that would be completely different to that most commonly experienced in a typical office.
Whilst you may not be able to create 3 huge biodomes adjacent to your office, you may be able to add some plants. Low maintenance plants such as cacti are a common choice, with the likes of San Pedro cacti said to possess mystical properties by many – they can be a fun addition to a creative working environment. If you suffer from allergies and/or dry eyes, air quality might be your main concern. If this is the case then Aereca Palm, Motherinlaw’s tongue and Money plants may be the best variety to place in your office, according to this Ted Talk by Kamal Meattle.
Interruptions can also hurt creativity, focus and productivity. According to Cal Newport’s bestselling book – Deep Work –
“If you spend large portions of your day in a state of fragmented attention—where your regular workflow is constantly broken up …this can permanently reduce your capacity for concentration.”
Apps can help to a certain extent with reducing interruptions. A Pomodoro timer app can help you to focus in 25-minute intervals. These 25-minute sprints are broken up with 5 minute rest periods – giving you plenty of time to have a quick stretch, check your emails or go to the bathroom. Also, an app that blocks Facebook, Twitter and Instagram can be installed onto your web browser or phone. Finally, if you are self-employed, consider a telephone answering service such as Moneypenny’s. Using the 24/7 service can give you plenty of time to switch off from work in the evening and weekends and reduce annoying sales calls and other unwanted interruptions during your working day. Interruptions are a creativity killer – imagine if Telsa got a sales phone call just before inventing the AC motor? The world we know might be very different!
Tips for designing an office for optimal creativity
- Add plants to your office
- Get plenty of natural light
- Lots of open space
- Use the color green to decorate the office
- Consider working outdoors for periods
- Keep the area well ventilated
- Use apps to block social media
- Use a Pomodoro timer when you need to focus
- Reduce interruptions with an answering service