In this article Peter Lambert of Fenham Hall Studios considers seven key points affecting creativity and as we return to the workplace, he argues that an innovatory work environment features high on the list

As an Architect my work of the past 20 years or so has encompassed creating new environments for clients in many different sectors from housing and leisure to commercial, retail and office environments.

When our team moved into Fenham Hall Studios following the major refurbishment we undertook to the Listed Buildings, we not only had much more room in our new airy open plan office, but the Historic grounds in which it is situated offered us a creative environment within which to develop ideas for our clients.

The building has, since then, been the home of a creative marketing company and has just become available again for creative businesses looking to bring their teams together in an innovative and creative environment as we gradually emerge from home working.

Right on the doorstep of the beautiful stone built Grade 2 star listed, Fenham Hall, built for John Ord, Mayor of Newcastle, in 1748, with its mature gardens and ancient Yews, Fenham Hall Studios provides outdoor space for a stroll and a tranquil backdrop to the offices.

The Historic Grounds of Fenham Hall built in 1748. A tranquil environment that encourages creativity

It’s often the ability to pause from what you were doing and look at it from another perspective that enables creative thought to bear fruit.

Recent studies have identified key factors in encouraging creativity, and these include:-

Encourage creativity and learning with an inclusive team environment.

A team-based environment, in which connections are forged through collaboration and social time, is essential for innovative teamwork.

Instead of staying separate and heads-down on their own projects, employees who have the opportunity to interact with other colleagues gain an informed understanding of the company as a whole. This helps spark creativity, and allows for ideas and inspiration to flow freely and is also an essential part of ‘in house training’ for those less experienced members of staff.

Promote creativity through office design.

An inspiring workspace inspires creativity and innovation. An office layout with plenty of open space, helps employees feel inspired by their surroundings. Encouraging a shared culture by having an interior environment which reinforces team structures in the way the space is laid out is important.

There needs to be break out space away from individual workstations, these now need to be carefully spaced, at least while the current medical criteria continues, but space is of long term benefit to office health and well being as well.

An office with shared kitchen and rest room facilities and an office design that caters for the needs of different staff e.g., provision of showers and bike store for those who cycle to work, in addition to plenty of car parking, encourages identity with one’s workspace.

Provide freedom and flexibility in how work is done.

Creativity in the workplace does not have to mean creativity in the workspace. Sometimes a change of scenery can help spark new ideas. Every now and then, changing the team’s routine with off-site and walking meetings. Brainstorming at a coffee shop might generate more ideas than you think, as it helps to break up the routine.

If your employees have returned to the office, consider expanding or updating your current remote work policy to allow employees more flexibility while helping them cut costs and save time when it comes to commuting.

Offer the space for knowledge sharing.

Take advantage of the talent and skills within your organization, just waiting to be passed on. Encourage your employees to share what they know and what they can do with other co-workers.

This can be done through lunch-and-learns or special classes taught over video or in small groups. Sessions can include Excel tips, LinkedIn profile best practices and guided meditation/yoga.

 Encourage the practice of self-reflection.

When the workload picks up, it’s easy for employees to become focused on work and forget about the significance of what they’re accomplishing.

Encourage employees to get in the habit of self-reflection check-ins. This exercise helps them to focus on what they’ve achieved, as well as what’s coming up next, and helps inspire them to see things differently.

If possible, also share monthly or quarterly accomplishments with your team so they can see the concrete results of their hard work and innovative solutions.

We ran a Monday morning session attached to our ISO 9001 Certification. Although initially it was assumed that a quality control system would be counterproductive to innovation, the feedback sessions encouraged a ‘lets see how we can improve on that’ approach. This in turn reduced the need for ‘random supervision’ replacing it with employee centred control checking which was a much happier outcome.

Support employees in creative risk-taking

Cultivate an office culture that rewards creative risk-taking. One reason why employees are not thinking out of the box or proposing different solutions is due to the fear of making mistakes and not having their ideas supported. As much as possible, make it clear to your employees that your organization values creativity—and understands its importance. This can be communicated clearly by being receptive to new ideas and recognizing risk-takers for the impact they’ve made.

As well, be open to feedback and suggestions from your employees. Provide an open door policy or offer an anonymous outlet for anyone who wishes to share their thoughts privately.

I’m sure that most of the above seems pretty obvious and the above points are certainly at the core of many successful innovative businesses. Now that we are returning to the office it might be time to look at them carefully again and see how we measure up.

Take a careful look at your space requirements

It may also be worth having a careful look at your space requirements. Remote working might reduce the area required for full time workplace staff, but this will be balanced by the need to provide adequate space through social distancing, not only for current health reasons but for long-term benefit and general wellbeing in the workplace.

Open trussed rafters to offices and meeting room of Studios A and C Fenham Hall Studios

If you are in a position to consider a possible office move at the moment it may be worthwhile taking a look at the space available at Fenham Hall Studios. Our original architects office of 2,362 ft2 (219.41 m2) is currently available to lease. It certainly benefited our practice, I am sure it will benefit the creativity and quality of environment for innovative companies in the future.

For more information see the self contained office space to let at where you can download a brochure of the currently available office to let.

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