Naturally, the dawn of a new year brings change. 2021 is certainly no different. Professionals across the country and world remain at home, working from kitchen tables and makeshift desks. Office buildings stand nearly empty in many cities and organizations look to how the past year will affect future business models and employee work patterns. Important questions are at the forefront of the conversation:

What does a return to the workplace look and feel like? 

How can I make the workplace engaging, efficient and effective for employees as they adjust from a work-at-home experience? 

Aesthetically pleasing environments allow offices, restaurants, hotels and even hospitals to curate a brand image and, to do so, they often incorporate art. Be it immersive sculptures or framed prints, funky neon signs or historic artifacts, the design of a physical space wholly transforms the in-person experience. Office design is not exempt. 

In a study conducted by the University of Exeter, subjects were asked to do an hour of work in four different environments ranging from the bare basics to an enhanced workplace with art and plants. The result showed that employees worked 15% quicker in these enhanced environments. They were also 32% more productive if they also had personal input on the art in their surroundings. Creating a welcoming, and safe, atmosphere for employees plays a vital role in their productivity and satisfaction at work. Incorporate art into your office space by starting with these contemporary approaches to office design. 

Build hype through “can’t be missed” experiences 

Upon returning to the office full- or part-time, soothing and comforting spaces will be imperative in the physical design. Consider displaying calming pieces that are uplifting, positive and elicit reflection. Verdant, wall-length lobby installations or cloud motif paintings throughout the Jackson National Life office building underscore how serene, nature-inspired pieces can interlace the company’s brand with a focus on employee engagement and satisfaction.

Big, bold creations are a popular trend in the art realm right now. With social distancing as the way of the world, large pieces allow for people to experience the beauty of each piece safely. However, don’t limit your space to only an oversized framed painting on the office wall. Weave inspiration throughout the building. Outdoor and indoor murals, lifesize sculptures, and multi-dimensional installations build interest and entice employees to explore the facility. 

Denver’s Dairy Block is a prime example of how larger than life installations build buzz and draw attention. When approaching the exterior, visitors are greeted by a splashing sculpture, Spilt Milk in Dairy Block Alley, setting the tone for what’s inside. The co-working spaces within the Dairy Block offices are filled with pieces of art ranging from three elevator installations to an 8 foot high, 15 foot wide, mixed media commission. References to the building’s past and nods to the office’s modern purpose connect visitors and employees alike with scenes that demand consideration. 

Each piece of artwork that makes someone go “ooh” or “ahh” provides your employees with bragging rights for working at a place that invests in creativity and helps you make the case for your employees to stay. Instill a sense of pride and create an inspiring environment by touching on your staff’s need for a change of scenery. Office designs that incorporate shareable moments are the wave of the future. Take advantage of that. 

Tap into the need to know 

Work doesn’t have to be only for working. In fact, the more opportunities for your employees to be inspired, learn something new and encounter new experiences, the better. Consuming art allows for this. Art has an innate objective to teach, to stimulate. Allow for this by guiding your employees through the installation. 

Context is key. Simple tactics like Identification labels provide basic information, including the artwork and artist’s name, as well as any other identifying elements — like material or medium — create a dialogue between object and viewer. Take it a step further and include a brief description or explanation about the work. This encourages the viewer to comprehend the exhibit, instead of merely passing by. Serving the diverse arts community in the Santa Fe Arts District, the Bonfils-Stanton Foundation offices offer visitors the option to learn about the collection of artwork through a bilingual handout. Some workplaces have even gone a step further to offer app-based audio capabilities mimicking a museum tour that works them through the artwork throughout the facility. Materials like this ensure inclusivity. 

Of course, safety will continue to be integral in the work environment. But don’t let the need for touchless spaces stop you from providing enlightenment to your employees and office visitors. Continue the teaching moment by creating a self-guided tour feature with applicable supporting marketing materials. 

Remote workers’ at-home experience should not be spared. Finding ways to still incorporate artwork into your work-from-home employees’ day-to-day is essential. Digital iterations of your facility’s collection promote employee engagement and nurture an affinity for the job, even when not on-site. 

Design a brand story that stirs the spirit 

A mural at the Bonfils-Stanton Foundation offices received so much positive feedback from employees and visitors the design was printed on mugs highlighting the perfect story of the artist’s role in creating a branding opportunity. Putting brand stories front and center are the product of organizations that understand the importance of aligning your mission with visual aspects. Business owners across the country realize art plays a vital role in the success of their organization, according to our inaugural State of the Art Consulting & Curating Business survey. It brings your brand to life. 

When we talk about art experiences, it’s important to understand the use of multiple pieces and mediums. An emerging art trend involves multidisciplinary art that combines a variety of methods to tell a story. This could involve murals, sculptures, painting, installations and more. Home Advisor’s Denver headquarters also embodies this approach to utilizing a strong brand identity in the physical space. Determined to create an environment that was comfortable and relaxed, the interior of the building emphasizes a theme of “The Home” with pieces like a 3D installation featuring varying colorful household items.   

Designing a well-rounded experience, anchored in storytelling will spark conversation and build a connection to your brand for visitors and employees. Intentional art is timeless and effective. Artful initiatives engage employees, whether in or out of the office. After all, art and design are the most visible element to represent your brand.