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7 Tools To Optimize Workspace: How Design Sparks Creativity

The future of workspace design demands that we shift our focus to designing workspaces centered around those who inhabit them daily. How you work is greatly influenced by the environment you work in. As we are in the age of the ‘knowledge worker’ creating environments that inspire employees and facilitate collaboration is crucial. We explore 7 elements that will transform your workspace into a creative hub where innovation thrives.

Author: Siphilele Magagula

Photo: Courtesy of Rawpixel via StockSnap


Do you often feel stuck at work? Are you finding it increasingly harder to find inspiration? What may be standing between you and the next big idea may be how your work environment has been designed. Here are 7 tools to help you optimize your workspace and create a more positive work experience that inspires new groundbreaking ideas.

1 | Use The Right Light for the Task

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Daylight is reportedly the number one requested element in a workspace. Access to natural lighting is proven to increase productivity and improve moral, which creates breathing ground for creativity to flourish. One neuroscience study found that people who sit by the window slept for 46 minutes longer a night on average, compared with those who didn’t.

Other studies have found that well illuminated spaces with natural elements such as daylight and greenery can improve creativity and learning.

The above study suggested that architectural design of office environments should place more emphasis on sufficient exposure to daylight for employees in order to promote better health and well-being. Unfortunately not all working environments have the luxury of access to ample natural light, therefore it is important to invest in alternative light sources that mimic daylight such as smart LED lighting (e.g., Osram, Philips Hue and CoeLux). These are worthwhile investments in the plight to restore circadian rhythm and serve as a catalyst to idea generation and productivity at work.

1.1 | Dim Mood Lighting

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Although we know from a plethora of research that low exposure to natural light can have negative effects on your mood, a German study showed that when trying to get creative dim light proved beneficial. According to their findings, low light encourages “a feeling of freedom from constraints, self-determination, and reduced inhibition” which are said to encourage innovative thinking, however researches also noted that dim lighting better facilitated the generation of ideas, while brighter lighting served best for analytical thinking.

If you often find yourself in need to generate ideas and do not have access to dimmable lighting in your workspace, fear not as the German study proved that simply recalling or imagining a space with dim lighting triggered the same response in terms of sparking creativity among the study participants. Alternatively you could try out this affordable desk lamp to help get your ideas flowing.

2 | Create Flexible & Adaptive Workstations

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When people become confined to a space, their perspective tends to be stifled as well. Creating a flexible environment, by having modular workstations with rotating desks and desks on wheels allows employees to reconfigure their spaces to suit their tasks. This gives them a sense of control of their environment, eliminating perceived constraints that could hinder creativity. A flexible configuration also invites employee interaction and collaboration as they can easily migrate their workstations around the office. Modular workstations are easily accessible as they come in different sizes and at varying price points to fit a range of budgets.

​3 | Create Visual Access Across The Workspace

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Having visual access to your workplace surroundings can really help to encourage the creative and collaborative process. Integrating glass or a similar transparent material opens up the space - inviting more active participation and involvement.

In addition, moveable walls can turn an open collaborative space into a private project space in a matter of minutes. That ability to reconfigure the space gives the user a sense of autonomy of the space, giving them license to reinvent it as they wish.

4 | Integrate As Much Nature As Possible

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Biophilic design is said to unburden our cognitive system, supporting it in collecting and recognizing information in the quickest and most efficient way, as well as generally supporting wellbeing.” —Alisa Ahmadian. In Eva Selhub and Alan Logan’s book Your Brain on Nature, the authors discuss a 2005 study that found that participants reacted faster and made fewer mistakes after viewing images of nature. Similarly, a study of over 100 schools in Michigan showed significant gains in academic performance on standardized tests in classrooms that had views of green vegetation. Simply put, this research suggests that thinking is best suited to natural environments. Adding landscape imagery, planting a garden, and creating more spaces with views of nature can reduce stress and anxiety and even improve health. Studies have also shown that hospital patients with a room with a view heal more quickly.

It is clear that man cannot live without nature as it engages our brains and nurtures the birth of new ideas. Within the workspace you could apply the principles of biophilic design by providing direct views to the outdoors, placing greenery throughout the office - for a more personalized touch, employees can bring in their own plants. Depending on location - a rooftop garden with indigenous plants where employees can congregate and cultivate new concepts would be ideal.

5 | Increase the Probability of Chance Encounters

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Think of how people move throughout the day, where they go, and what spaces would cause frequent collision with one another. Build designated areas for collaboration and place them strategically throughout the workspace - adjacent to high traffic areas. These collaborative areas can vary in style, from intimate secluded seating pods, to open seating, to standing whiteboard brainstorming areas. This will encourage people to take much needed breaks from their desks and cut down on noisy disturbances in the areas where people are trying to get work done. These are more big budget items but will prove very helpful in generating new ideas by facilitating collaboration.

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“It’s more crucial to make sure people are connecting and brainstorming with each other” says Miguel McKelvey, who leads design and architecture at WeWork. It is important to cater for all types of interaction, from formal to casual by also incorporating standing whiteboard stations throughout the office. This standing space could perhaps entice less talkative team members to sketch their ideas, which could encourage brainstorming. Creating areas for chance encounters is necessary to increase familiarity and to hopefully create conversations that lead to solutions.

6 | Mobility: Choosing Furniture That Helps People Move More

The Jarvis Bamboo standing table by Fully is said to be the best for and on the planet | Image courtesy of Fully.

Research shows that sitting too much is harmful to our health and should be addressed in the design of office configurations. The solution to this problem is adjustable office furniture such as the adjustable desk, which is said to be a healthier alternative and can help people feel more alert throughout the day. The adjustable desk is insync with your natural movements as it adjusts in height to allow you to sit or stand. Standing is reported to lead up to 10 percent more productivity. Research also shows that standing meetings keep groups more engaged and less territorial than sitting meetings. Combat the sedentary workday by integrating adjustable furniture - e.g. - moveable desks, standing and walking desks. Standing and adjustable desks are accessible from a range of manufacturers at varying price points.

7 | Use Colour To Stimulate Creativity

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Colour influences productivity, creativity, and mood at work. It is one of the quickest and ways to create a difference in your space. Colour can be integrated into a space in a variety of ways to fit into any budget - from furniture, fittings and finish selections, to simply adding plants and artwork. It is important to create focal points with colour in order not to overwhelm the space. The following is a description of the benefits of each colour in the work environment.
Blue. An intellectual color. It represents trust, logic, communication, and efficiency. Use blue as the primary color in office areas that require focus and mental strain.

Red. A physical color. It represents courage, strength, and excitement. It’s a great color to use in areas of the workplace that demand physical exertion.
Yellow. An emotional color. It represents creativity, friendliness, optimism, and confidence. Incorporate yellow when you want to stimulate positivity, creativity and happiness.
Green. Provides balance. It represents harmony, nature, and restoration. Green proves to be a great color in offices that require people to work long hours, since it’s the easiest color on the eyes (requiring no adjustment). It’s also a great color to use anytime a sense of balance is top priority, which is why it’s commonly found in medical offices.

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