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How social spaces improve creativity in the workplace

No matter what industry you’re in, creativity is essential. You don’t have to be part of the so-called creative community before you consider introducing a social space to you workplace. Creativity also flows through companies outside of marketing, design and fashion, and that new idea is essential for gaining and maintaining competitive advantage. Whether it’s an innovative way of solving a problem, responding to customers’ evolving requirements, or even implementing a new operational process, a creative approach is vital.

Research carried out as part of Adobe State of Create 2016 shows that 77% of workers believe creativity will be a critical part of staff skill set in the future. What’s more, with over a third of employees questioned in the Steelcase Future of Work Survey saying their company actually measures productivity levels on how creative the ideas being generated are, creativity is more important than ever.

Social spaces are one of the best ways to boost creativity in the workplace

Of course, a lot of how creative your employees are comes down to their individual skills and personalities but we’re learning more and more every day that the environment we work in is a primary factor in supporting this and enabling people to thrive. Two thirds of employees feel they are not living up to their creative potential according to the Future of Work Survey and the lack of sociable working environments could well be holding them back.

Naturally, a workplace that’s conducive to collaboration will inspire more creative thought and while there is overwhelming evidence in favour of more informal layouts over traditional office furniture configuration, far too few businesses are responding to this growing requirement. By introducing functional and inspiring social spaces, you will be improving the bottom line of business via creativity and collaboration.

Social spaces are one of the best ways to boost creativity in the workplace

The importance of collaboration in the workplace

Even the most creative employee can’t always form a fully-fledged plan for a project on their own – because doing so relies on just one perspective. Creativity truly comes into its own when people are able to exchange and build on ideas in an open, collaborative environment, taking inspiration from others.

Focused work and private concentration are an essential part of a productive working life but it’s equally as important to make time and space for socialising and collaboration. Having nobody else to bat ideas off or ask opinions of can lead you into a creative but moving away from your desk from time to time and having a discussion with colleagues in a less formal environment can get your creative juices flowing again.

Having a separate social space that brings staff together and fosters innovation is also a key element in achieving better creative outlets and productivity in the workplace. Incorporating a social space into your workspace design can help to:

  • Open better lines of communication between employees during work hours and encourage more effective professional collaboration.
  • Give staff the chance to relax, rejuvenate and return to their tasks in a refreshed frame of mind.
  • Enable those who feel uncomfortable speaking in more formal environments to express their ideas and have their voices heard.
  • Break down the professional hierarchy and allow staff to hold discussions on more equal ground.

Social spaces are one of the best ways to boost creativity in the workplace

What is a social space?

The idea of social or ‘fun’ spaces in the office often conjure up visions of Google-esque slides, miniature golf courses and adult-sized ball ponds. While these are all great fun, once the novelty has worn off, they are probably left virtually redundant but it needn’t be that way…

A social space is simply an open, relaxed area that encourages interaction and is accessible by all members of staff in the business – regardless of function or level. It doesn’t need to make the front cover of the Creative Digest or double up as a fairground during the evenings – your social space just needs to be a neutral yet inspiring environment that enables people to share ideas feely and build bonds.

Often, a social space incorporates the canteen, which lends itself well to spontaneous brainstorms but for smaller businesses that don’t have one, all you need is some sort of breakout space with carefully considered furniture and decoration.

Social spaces are one of the best ways to boost creativity in the workplace

What features should a social space have?

To really boost creativity, you should consider the following when designing your social workspace:

A mixture of materials – try incorporating a range of colours, textures and patterns. Having various stimuli will encourage creative thought. Interesting accessories will also get people’s cogs turning.
Comfortable seating – research shows that a more relaxed posture promotes creative thinking, so include some more ergonomic options and soft seating where possible.
Natural light – brightness really improves our moods and productivity so think about where the windows are and if you’ve got an inspiring view, all the better!
Space – don’t cram too much into one place. People need room to feel comfortable and a clutter-free environment to think clearly.
Tools – make sure staff have everything they might need in a brainstorm situation. Easy access to technology and power access points is essential.

Social spaces are one of the best ways to boost creativity in the workplace

More and more businesses are claiming to put innovation at the heart of what they do yet looking at Steelcase’s statistics, only 40% of employees say their company has a culture that encourages creativity. With that in mind, now is the perfect time for employers to review whether the working environment they’re offering is truly bringing out the best in their employees and enabling them to retain great staff.

As we’ve seen, something as simple as introducing social spaces can be a really effective way of triggering creativity, which will ultimately help to propel a business forward whichever industry it’s operating in.

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