Art in the workplace

SAMSUNG CSC

Sir Ratan Tata Gallery in Mumbai. The Tata name is synonymous with big industry in India.

By Grant Hall.

It seems that almost every day now, a new study is released showing how art and culture can improve our lives in every way, from helping our kids succeed at school to inspiring innovation in the workplace. Just recently, I wrote about the mental health benefits of breakdancing and how the arts can improve workplace safety; today I read that looking at artworks helps you to keep the doctor away, just like an apple a day is said to.

I read a LinkedIn post the other day by John G. Taft who is the CEO of RBC Wealth Management in the US. In discussing RBC’s art collection, Taft says that visual art is ‘a way of telling our employees, our clients and the communities in which we operate who we are and what is important to us’ and points out that ‘The Human Touch (RBC’s current exhibition) tells that story more immediately and in a more complete way than words ever could’. Taft and I are on the same wavelength, and it’s for this exact reason this blog is called where words fail.

A company’s art display or collection speaks volumes about the type of company they are. In my line of work I have visited businesses all around the world and I’ve noticed that great companies have great art and rubbish companies have rubbish art, or none at all. A few Van Gogh prints and framed inspirational quotes hung in perennially tilting cheap frames by the ping-pong table is embarrassing when compared to the collections of Deutche Bank or Wesfarmers, a collection to which I came to know whilst living in Perth, Western Australia. Besides corporate image building, a well-considered and expertly displayed collection or exhibition can bring much more to a company.

To start with, having good art that is accessible in a way that encourages staff to engage with it will help the company to access advanced levels of achievement in the much desired fields of innovation, creativity and productivity. As I’ve written elsewhere:

Creative people are problem solvers who have often developed their creativity through extensive immersion in the arts or through creating art, be it music, painting, photography, film or the like. A good artist is a good problem solver because creating art requires the creator to find solutions over and over again. Creative people often find their solutions and derive their inspiration from a diverse range of cultural sources.

It’s often said that if one wants to become more creative one should spend more time with creative people such as artists. I’ve spent countless hours over the years with Beethoven, Picasso and Shakespeare and have learned a great deal about creativity from them and hundreds of other acclaimed artists.  I’ve learned even more from the living artists I’ve been able to meet and ask about their art and practice. But most of what I’ve learned about creativity came from a couple of periods in my life where I was actively creating art, initially as a songwriter and later as a fiction writer.

As I’ve also written:

Most of the time that an original artist spends creating their art is on solving problems.  Take for example the songwriter who solves problems like “this chord doesn’t sound right”, “this lyric doesn’t fit” and “this tempo’s uncomfortable”.  To write a novel, writers solve problems such as “this character’s actions aren’t believable”, “this plot device leads nowhere” and “this section is really boring”.

As I discussed in Mental Health, the arts and safety in the workplace, engagement in the arts and participating in arts activities is healthy, and study after study has confirmed this.  Workplaces that care about their staff have corporate health and wellness programs that usually revolve around physical safety, insurance, counselling availability and exercise. As I’ve previously argued, workplaces will derive excellent health benefits from having an arts and cultural program as well, particularly in regards to mental health. Healthy staff means the company will experience lower rates of staff absenteeism, increasing productivity and reducing costs.

Having suitable art professionally displayed helps companies create an enjoyable ambience that encourages employees to stay within the company. High levels of staff turnover place a considerable strain on your bottom line.

Ownership of art builds company wealth and is an investment. Companies can buy artworks from emerging artists for less than $5,000, and as the prestige of those artists grow, so too does the worth of the artwork. Many companies will have an acquisitions policy of purchasing a certain amount of works a year or an annual budget for developing the collection. I’ve had a CEO mention to me, after a profitless year, that the only asset the business had that was growing in value was its art collection!

There are many more ways that visual art can benefit your businesses; in coming posts I will write about how you can start building a corporate art collection (hint – you don’t need much money), how to use your collection or display to develop innovation, creativity and productivity in the workplace and finally some of my experiences of how art in my workplaces has helped me. I’d also love to hear from you if you have ever been inspired by the art in your workplace.

If you’d like to discuss incorporating art into your workplace, be sure to contact us!

This post was first published at wherewordsfailblog.com