Two very different types of workplace behaviour are necessary for innovation.

Offices need to offer spaces for focused work and restorative activities if they want to facilitate creative thinking. That's according to a new report from Harworth:

According to Bech Johnson from Haworth's research and innovation team "Offices tend to promote only one kind of work. They are either open and collaborated or highly segmented. It's about finding the right balance between those two types of spaces while also providing spaces for respite."

There are two very different types of workplace behaviour necessary for innovation:

  1. Concentrative modes of working
  2. Restful activities

Concentrative modes of working allow for focus and productivity which is sometimes referred to as 'Deep work'. Restful activities (like going for a walk, or simply daydreaming) create opportunities for insight.

Offices need to be designed in a way that supports all three of the brains neural networks. 

  • The Salience Network - The workplace can impact upon how we think, feel and behave. The salience network takes in external stimuli and internal stimuli and allows us to prioritise tasks and activities. 
  • The Executive Control Network - This lets us develop new ideas in response to focus work or more concentrative modes of working.
  • The Default Network - This takes over when we are bored or understimulated and allows us to form creative insight. 

We can do this through:

  • Providing areas for focused work - In many workplaces, this will be in the form of an office or quiet area. For open plan offices, it may be possible to use virtual barriers like do not disturb signs to allow employees to undertake focused or deep work.
  • Allowing for downtime - Walking, daydreaming or simply taking some time out are essential to the creative process. According to the report, "When we do this, we're letting our brains noodle on potential ideas. How many ideas have come to light when you were doing something routine, like commuting to work?"
  • Having the right level of ambient noise - Ideally, this should be around 70 decibels. When we hit 85 decibels or more, sound can become loud and distracting. At the other end of the spectrum, in quiet work areas (under 50 decibels) even the quietest conversation is broadcasted for everyone to hear and can become quiet in itself. 
  • Environmental Control - Natural light, and views to the outside are proven to enhance our performance. Additionally, employees should be given control over the level of light in their working area and temperature. This will help create a more productive working environment.

The report goes into a lot of detail about how we can design better workspaces through an understanding of our brain's natural thought patterns. You can read the full report here.