5 Creative Ways To Use Art To Boost Employee Morale
If your team's feeling a little beaten down, boost morale and productivity with these tips.
The arts have long been recognized for their power to heal,
provide calm during a storm, and keep the mental clouds at bay, and they
may be just the mental break from routine your team needs to clear
their minds of the suffocating strategic, financial, and operational
demands that are part and parcel of organizational life.
Art is more than aesthetic. It has a positive—and
powerful—physiological impact on the brain. Fine and performing arts
have been used in health care programs around the world to help reduce
blood pressure while improving one’s focus and outlook on their job or
about life in general.
As your organization’s CEO, bringing art into the workplace is one
way that you can improve the well-being of your own team, and your
Art will help your team look at something with a different
perspective by stimulating creativity and thoughtful observation. Art
can combat tunnel vision, and help make a cold, sterile work environment
feel more inspiring. Steelcase,
the global leader in office furniture, has long understood the
interrelationships among art forms, design, functionality, creativity,
and workplace efficiency. If you ever want to see one of the most
effective blends of art, architecture, and business success, visit the
Steelcase corporate headquarters in Grand Rapids, Michigan.
The entire business environment delights the senses and heightens the
desire for discovery. Robert Pew, the former board chairman of
Steelcase, felt so strongly about the impact of art that, during the
construction of Steelcase’s new corporate headquarters in the 1980s, he
oversaw the acquisition of hundreds of pieces of art to be integrated
into the building’s design. The works—including those of James Rosati,
Dale Chihuly, and Andy Warhol—remain with the organization and are
exhibited in the company’s offices around the globe.
This is no big shock, considering that Pew and his partner Frank
Merlotti, Sr., the former president and CEO, were leaders who believed
in—and practiced—humility, generosity to their employees, and being a
team player while delivering quality and value to customers.
While you can undoubtedly think of others, here are five suggestions for integrating the arts into your own workplace:
The Nordstrom department stores were once well known for their
pianist-in-residence. The pianist was there for the benefit of
customers, but associates benefited just as much.
Take a cue and install a music system for the lunchroom or a
conference room and set up a good playlist to run. Ask your team what
type of music they prefer and incorporate their ideas. Some executives
may like classical music while others prefer jazz or rock. Choose a
selection that will appeal to all so that your team and their teams can
enjoy some music during their workday or lunch hour. The result will be a
more relaxed and refreshed team—and that translates into more effective
If you have the funds, consult a landscape expert to create a
soothing Zen garden—or better yet, ask employees for their own ideas. Be
sure to include tables, chairs and benches so people can enjoy their
Don’t have any outdoor space? Transform a patio or the lunchroom with
beautiful plants, potted trees, and flowers. Place plants throughout
the workplace. Add statuary from the local garden store and a water
feature like a fountain. The result will be a calmer team, better able
to focus. And don’t be surprised if they start meeting regularly in the
newly installed garden.
Consult a local gallery owner or artist to help bring in paintings,
sculptures, professional photography or other pieces of art for display
the way many hospitals do. If you don’t have the budget to purchase
pieces, invite local artists, art students, or even employees to display
their works on a rotating basis in the hallways at your place of work.
Chances are the artists will be thrilled: you get a rotating gallery and
they get free exposure; it’s a win-win for all.
You can also ask a local foundation or art school to help you acquire
donated art. The result will be a less-sterile environment that will
inspire your team, and may even elicit conversations between team
members viewing the art—conversations that wouldn’t have otherwise taken
Try a dance troupe or a play. Check the local newspaper listings or
go online to find a production that fits everyone’s schedule and make a
day of it. Even if some team members complain that they can’t afford the
time away from the office, I assure you that everyone will appreciate
the break and come back refreshed and ready to problem solve.
Go to a local museum, art gallery, or arboretum. Keep the meeting to a
few hours and allow everyone to enjoy the venue afterward. The off-site
setting alone will reduce anxiety and encourage people to participate
more than they would have back at the office. Without office
distractions and surrounded by an inspiring setting, chances are they’ll
Business is inherently stressful, especially for those in leadership
positions. Merlotti believed that office environments either promote
mental health and sustained competitive excellence or deprived workers
of both. He taught me that chief executives must monitor their teams for
burnout and mental malaise—in fact, Merlotti insisted his own team
always take their full vacation time for renewal purposes. Bringing in
the beauty, splendor, and restorative power of the arts is certainly
worth the return you’ll see on your investment. —Ritch Eich is president of Eich Associated, is a
retired captain, U.S. Naval Reserve who commanded three naval reserve
units and served in NATO, JCS, Atlantic and Pacific Fleets. He is the
author of Real Leaders Don’t Boss (2012) and Leadership Requires Extra Innings (2013). He has a Ph.D in organizational behavior and communication.
“The true work of art is born from the 'artist': a mysterious,
enigmatic, and mystical creation. It detaches itself from him, it
acquires an autonomous life, becomes a personality, an independent
subject, animated with a spiritual breath, the living subject of a real
existence of being.”