Remote work has undoubtedly been the business trend of 2020, and it looks set to continue into 2021 and beyond. Remote work or at least hybrid home and office working arrangements appear to be a permanent move for much of the knowledge workforce. As a result, many people are looking to invest in a comfortable home office rather than a temporary spot in a dusty basement.
If creativity or idea generation is a crucial element of your occupation, it can help to keep this in mind when designing a home office. The key to creativity appears to be the ability to adopt a calm and relaxed mindset or mood. The more comfortable we are, the more willing we are to take risks and the more risks we take, the more innovative we become. This article will look at how the design of an office can impact our mood and, in turn, our ability to be creative.
Have a Designated Space
In order to work efficiently and be creative, it can help to have a specific area, just for creative work.
Charles Dickens, the famous writer, was said to very fastidious about his creative space in his personal study. When he was on a book tour in America in the 1800s, it is reported that he rearranged the furniture in his hotel rooms to resemble the layout of his home office closely, and he would bring ornaments and other items that reminded him of his study back home.
According to author and designer Donald Rattner, humans are similar to Pavlov dogs in the famous classical conditions experiments. We can associate a stimulus, such as sitting down in a specific area, with creative work. Our minds will automatically adopt an innovative mindset if we always work on creative projects in a particular area. If a specific “creative room” or office is not possible, consider using a corner of the room or even just a different desk and chair. If this is not possible, then a specific mousemat and ornament can be used to prompt that mind to enter a creative state. The space or items will eventually act as a cue for us to start working creatively.
Nature can have a significant impact on creativity, as well as our mental and physical wellbeing. Historians think that Homo-sapiens first appeared on the African savanna around 200,000 years ago. Since then, 99% of our time has been spent living in natural environments, surrounded by nature, including wide-open spaces, landscapes, trees and animals. Jump forwards in time to 2021, and in industrialized countries, we spend around 90% of our time indoors.
Being in nature is one of the best ways to improve your mood and wellbeing. Exercise outdoors has also been shown to be significantly more beneficial for wellbeing than the same exercises done indoors. This outdoor effect is even more pronounced when the activity is done near water – such as a lake, river or the sea.
Creativity, happiness and health, all tend to develop together. We are not very creative when we are closed off and ruminating – which tends to happen when we feel down or depressed. In theory, therefore, if nature promotes happiness, it should also enhance creativity. Creating an office with plenty of natural light and, ideally, views of nature such as plants, trees and even a garden can help with creativity.
If you live in a city, you can still benefit from the effects of nature by having plants in your office. Studies have shown that adding plants to “lean” offices increases productivity, enhances mood and boosts innovation. Pioneering company Moneypenny kept this in mind when they built their headquarters in 2016, with large cathedral-style windows taking in the countryside and woodland surroundings and plenty of plants within the office itself. While a custom-made office may be beyond your budget, including several houseplants can help boost your creativity, enhance wellbeing, and improve air quality.
Nature has such an impact that a whole field of design called “biophilic design” focuses on capitalizing on the benefits of nature and enhancing mood and productivity with nature-incorporated design.
A Room with a View
Creating a sense of space and distance can also help with creativity. If you have a window with a view, then facing the window can be a great idea, especially if the view is of a natural landscape. With this in mind, consider positioning desks and chairs so that you will face away, not towards a wall, when you are working.
Open spaces tend to have a calming effect – as hunter-gathers, we benefitted from open spaces and being able to see what was coming over the horizon. As early humans, we very carefully chose where we would live, with the idea of “prospect and refuge.” In terms of “prospect,” early humans wanted to see what was out there in terms of food, and they also wanted to see what was coming, for example, dangerous predators.
According to architect Scott Wyatt, office cubicles have a terrible impact on mental wellbeing, creating stress and low performance. Having a desk that faces an open space, and has a wall behind you – to produce a sense of security or protection, can make us feel calmer, and in turn, this can help enhance creativity. Ideally, having a window either in direct view or in your periphery, in addition to a view of the door – so you can see people coming in – will increase the beneficial effects of having an open space.
Sound has a profound impact on our mood. When it comes to creativity, it helps to listen to something that is reasonably familiar or something that doesn’t have lyrics, such as instrumental rock. You want to ensure that your mind is not drawn too much to the music. According to Donald Rattner, you want the music to distract your attention from your self-awareness and analytical side of your mind so that you have a level of dream-like creativeness and relaxation. Making music yourself can help to boost creativity, so if you can play the guitar, it may help to have one in your home office. Einstein famously used to play the violin or the piano when he was struggling to solve equations:
“Einstein’s second wife Elsa told the story of him one day appearing totally lost in thought, wandering to the piano and playing for half an hour while intermittently jotting down notes.”
The best type of noise in an office is nondiscernible noise – similar to white noise. Having a single person in your home office next to your talking on the phone is highly distracting, but background noise like in a busy coffee shop can help you be more creative. This is also the reason that instrumental music tends to help the creative process.
Creativity is not something you can generally force, but having cues to get into a creative mindset can help greatly. Another that can help you to relax can also help you to enter an innovative mindset. This can be achieved by making the most of nature, either with views of nature or by bringing plants into your office. Open spaces can also help us feel relaxed, while the colors orange and yellow are the best for facilitating the creative process.