Art is a powerful form of human expression that over the centuries has made its way out of museums and the homes of the wealthy into the wider world, including the workplace.
Undoubtedly art has countless aesthetic qualities but did you know its impact includes very real physical benefits?
Lean: containing only the things necessary to do the tasks.
Enriched: featuring art and plants which were already arranged.
Empowered: the same art and plants but participants could choose where to put them.
Disempowered: participants could arrange the art and plants themselves – but the experimenter then undid these personal touches and reverted to the enriched layout.
The study demonstrated that those operating in an ‘Enriched’ office (one that contained art and plants) were 15% more productive than those in the ‘Lean’ space. Those working in the ‘Empowered’ office (with art and plants that they had arranged themselves) were found to be 30% more productive.
This significant increase in productivity can only contribute positively to the bottom line making it a no-brainer to bring art into the workplace.
A study carried out by the University of Westminster is one of a number to demonstrates the link between viewing art and the reduction of the stress hormone cortisol. Office workers were invited to take 35 minutes to look at art on their lunch break. By the end of the visit, cortisol levels had reduced, especially in those who had reported the highest levels of stress to begin with.
With work related stress contributing to a staggering 12.5 million days lost every year, this is an issue that can afford to be tackled from all angles. The HSE conducted a survey on workplace stress that revealed some of the highest levels of stress can be found in many office based jobs including professional, management, sales and administrative roles.
Enhanced Quality of Life
Norwegian researcher Koenraad Cuypers demonstrated the link between engagement in cultural activities and health, anxiety, depression and satisfaction with life. People who regularly took part in cultural activities, whether they were receptive (viewing art, going to a concert etc.) or creative (making art, playing music etc.) reported significantly higher levels of health and life satisfaction than those who didn’t.
Given the amount of time spent in the workplace, if it can simultaneously be a place of work and somewhere that people can engage with art, a contribution to quality of life can be made, especially for those who do not not take part in cultural activities outside of work.
The Experience of Pleasure
Professor Semir Zeki, a neurobiologist at the University of London, scanned the brains of volunteers while they viewed 28 works of art. Zeki discovered that when a person views art they deem beautiful, it triggers an immediate release of dopamine into the brain. Dopamine is best known as the chemical that relates to positive feelings of love and pleasure but also contributes positively to attention and memory.
If we can experience small pleasure hits throughout our working day by looking at pieces of art as we move through the office, these releases of dopamine can help to reduce stress and anxiety levels and help to facilitate relaxation.