Bambi George couldn’t have been happier when her company moved out of their small, sterile office into a larger building.
The previous headquarters of Valorem – a technology company based in Kansas City, Missouri – barely had any natural lighting and the walls were a stale grey. The new premises could not be more different. Its walls are covered in vibrant greens, yellows and blues, while natural light now filters into much of the space.
While it’s a more inviting place to work, George also thinks it’s made for a more creative and productive office. “It’s not only because of the space, but our people are coming with all sorts of crazy and innovative ideas,” says George, the company’s senior vice-president of operations.
There is a growing body of research that suggests lighting, wall colour and even the height of the ceilings can have a big impact on the way we think
The idea that a simple relocation has got Valorem’s employees’ creative juices flowing is not as far fetched as it might first seem. There is a growing body of research that suggests lighting, wall colour and even the height of the ceilings can have a big impact on the way we think. While cramped, open-plan offices may be an inexpensive way for companies to get more people in less space, these workspaces can sap our creativity.
“The office was designed for a manufacturing mindset, but most of the work we’re doing is knowledge work that values innovation and creativity,” says Kay Sargent, director of workplace at HOK, a global design firm. “People need to feel secure and comfortable so they can be free to be innovative and creative.” If those needs aren’t met, creativity can suffer, Sargent says.
Well-designed workplaces often create environments that make their employees better thinkers, often without even realising they have done it. But some are now actively turning to the science to help free their workers’ minds.
One of the easiest ways to inspire creativity is to put the right coat of paint on our office walls, says environmental design psychologist Sally Augustin. Her Illinois-based company, Design with Science, helps businesses incorporate the research into their office spaces.