106 Communications

6th Sense

Art at work: what’s the point?

January 2015 | Culture, Employee Engagement

Last week we visited the fabulous offices of a global insurance firm. Full of light, with huge picture windows showcasing views across London, a gourmet restaurant (subsidised, of course) – and some jaw-dropping works of art.

I spotted a Damien Hirst and a Mat Collishaw, amongst others. Each installation had an accompanying introduction but we didn’t have the time to study each one in detail, much as we would have liked to.

We’re lucky enough to see some amazing art in the buildings of the organisations we work with. I absolutely love the Bleigiessen installation by Thomas Heatherwick in the Wellcome Trust HQ. We’ve seen a lot of tat too, mind you: one law firm in particular could do with getting a new Curator on board…

But it occurred to me today just how easy it must be to become blind to art in your workplace. Pass the same picture on the way to the coffee machine every day, and you stop seeing it after a couple of weeks. It’s very different to visiting an art gallery. At work, corporate art becomes part and parcel of the office environment, along with water-coolers, fire extinguishers and grey carpet tiles.

I wonder how often works of art like those I saw yesterday are used as a tool for employee engagement, rather than as big, shiny, expensive purchases with which to impress clients and investors? Are there examples of employees being bought into the whole process? Being invited to choose artwork; running and participating in sessions to learn more about the works; hearing from the artists themselves; discussing reactions to new works in online forums; creating their own masterpieces in art classes – and so on.

Arts and culture have huge potential to unite disparate colleagues. Some workplaces already have choirs, and we’ve also heard of book clubs, cinema clubs, cookery clubs, and language clubs. When we helped a firm to re-launch its rewards package last year, we put huge emphasis on the role that these kinds of ‘feel good’ pastimes can have on health and well-being at work.

It’s January. It’s cold. And it’s dark. Anyone for a spot of collaborative crochet?!

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