Florence Nightingale once wrote: “Little as we know about the way in which we are affected by form, by colour, and light, we do know this: that they have an actual physical effect. Variety of form and brilliancy of colour in the objects presented to patients, are actual means of recovery.”
That’s a quote from someone who had a real understanding of how our surroundings can affect our mental health. Of course, she was speaking about medical patients in hospital, but studies continue to show that what we see and interact with directly impacts our happiness and productivity.
Over the course of the past two years, we have seen a marked uptake in businesses, hotels, and university accommodations asking to rent artworks with the sole purpose of improving the spaces for their workers, guests, and students.
Companies across sectors are now actively seeking the benefits of art and art’s engagement for the workplace, as the happiness and productivity of their employees is paramount to securing a healthy bottom line.
But productivity is notoriously hard to measure. What makes me more productive in my job, compared to others? If I asked each member of my staff if they thought they were being productive, I would imagine most would say that they were. It is a natural response, and measuring our own productivity is entirely subjective.
What we do know from a 2017 study by the All-Party Parliamentary Group on Arts, Health and Wellbeing is that four out of five individuals enjoy greater wellbeing if they participate in arts and culture activities.
Another recent study by Dr Craig Knight, of the Identity Realisation Research Group, found that during a 12-year study, people worked 15 per cent more quickly in spaces with art and plants, compared to spaces containing only the things necessary to complete their tasks.
This figure doubles to over 30 per cent for spaces where participants had a say in curating the art. So if you empower your employees and give them creative agency over their environment, it has been proven to have a positive impact on productivity.
We know this, so why are the employment benefits offered to staff often limited to a gym membership, cycle-to-work schemes, fresh fruit boxes, and a team night out with the company Amex behind the bar?
As we become more attuned to our mental health and the psychological impact of daily life, stimulating our creative receptors during our working day has to be beneficial. If employees are engaged and happy at work, it follows that there is a reduction in staff turnover, and positive impact on productivity.
Anxiety UK states that a good employer “values, supports, and invests in its staff, not simply because of the impact that sickness absence has on the business and brand” but because “creating a mentally healthy workplace improves productivity and profits… and reduces significant costs relating to staff turnover, underperformance and untapped potential”.
We can certainly see that more and more employers are looking to take care of their workforce, both physically and mentally. So if seeing a few pieces of art can brighten your day, why not hang something up?
Main image credit: Carl Court/Getty