Weekly Editorial

Inspiring Creativity in the Workplace

Written By Rob Kirkbride, Editor-in-chief, OI Publications • June 5, 2023

Woman sitting at desk and working on a interior design project

When you boil down our industry’s mission to its essence, it is this: To create highly productive products and spaces — better than any alternative — that inspire innovation and creativity in the workplace. That should be the North Star for everything we design, create and deliver to our customers.

Knowing this does not make achieving it any easier. After all, the devil is in the details, though I like minimalist German architect Mies van der Rohe’s quote better: “Der liebe Gott steckt im detail” or “God is in the detail.” No matter how you slice it, it’s not easy.

So how do you inspire creativity in the workplace? I don’t have the answer. But I do have a few thoughts based on my observations of how people work and how space is designed.

Before we get into my thoughts about inspiring creativity in the workplace, I want to get back to part of the definition I laid out above, more specifically, when I mentioned the space had to be “better than any alternative.” If you would have asked me the same question 15 or 20 years ago, this would not have been part of my answer because workers didn’t have a choice. They were tied to desks because of technology. They had to work from an office if they wanted a computer and fast internet.

Today, where people work is limited only by a wi-fi connection and where they can set up a laptop or jump on a smartphone. That can be on an airplane, at the poolside of a Las Vegas resort, a busy Starbucks in Manhattan or the den in their own home. And until the pandemic hit, people still preferred going into the office. They got a taste of freedom during COVID and it is our job to show them that the office is still better than any alternative.

It is my opinion that a well-designed office is still the best place to inspire creativity and get the most out of a team. But workers will not return unless their office is better than any alternative and it is getting harder and harder to convince them that commuting to an office building in downtown Chicago is better than the screened-in porch at their cottage.

Designing creative spaces is critical, especially as workers return to the office. As we have seen, they will not return to the same old space. So here are three observations about designing creativity into the workplace:

People like choice — Creating offices where people have choices on where and how they work is critical to fostering creativity in the workplace. It was a trend that was beginning before COVID, but it is essential now. Some people like working at desks or even in cubicles, some like working on an outdoor patio, some like lounge seating and residential-like settings and some like working in cafes. Give them options.

People like comfort — Casual work areas are going to be even more important in office design and the industry is responding. At NeoCon, you are going to see a lot of soft seating — sofas, lounge chairs, poofs and pods. There’s a reason for that. People want to feel comfortable at work. The days of the stark white offices and sterile office products are long gone.

People like to connect with other people — This is our ace in the hole. People want to be around other people and not on Zoom or Teams calls. The office is most creative when people are together, bouncing ideas off each other and connecting on a personal level. The personal connection goes beyond office productivity. According to a Forbes survey, 43% of married people met their spouse at the office and that you are two times more likely to marry a coworker than someone from a dating site or app.

Simply put, properly designed offices inspire creativity at every level. But to engage workers, the spaces must be better than the alternative.

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