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How Does Your Physical Workspace Impact Creativity?

In our new interview series, Workflow, we got the opportunity to talk to people from all different careers and lifestyles about how they work and also to showcase their own, unique workspace. One of the questions we asked is how does their workspace affect their creative process?

According to psychoanalyst, clinical psychologist and author, Ester Schaler Buchholz: “Others inspire us, information feeds us, practice improves our performance, but we need quiet time to figure things out, to emerge with new discoveries, to unearth original answers.”

As we’re in the midst of COVID-19, most of these interviews were focused around people’s home office setups as opposed to their normal office working environments. As a result, the focus wasn’t on how they can work undistracted, but rather, how they use their current working environments to maximise their creativity and productivity.

This conversation is brought to you by the Walkolution Treadmill Desk, offering people a real alternative to sitting. An office for humans.

Dan Kim, Android Programmer at Basecamp & Hello Weather

Primarily it’s about quiet — having a dedicated space (and a closed door) means a quieter workspace with no hustle and bustle, which helps me concentrate. When I really need to think, I need that quiet. Some folks can do their best thinking while blasting music sitting in the kitchen, but I’ve never been able to do that.

Jessica Middleton, Founder & Creative Director of Sunstone Studio

My workspace plays a huge role in my creative process. I generally start my projects with a clean desk which gives me a clear mind, ready to start brainstorming on whatever I’m working on. People who I work with being in the office is also great as it’s always good to have a second point of view and bounce ideas around.

Cathryn van der Walt, Director of 12Worlds

I think it has a huge impact. I find I really need calm and quiet to be creative – somewhere I can turn off the phone and emails and just work or collaborate with my wider creative network.

I love having everything set up just for me – the more personal the better – family pics, pot plants and an anti-stress station on my desk. I have essential room spray, hand cream and a candle at hand to help me re-charge. It’s a big reason why I have worked at home for the past 20 years and delivered some of my most creative output and managed the balance of family and work.

Rachel Segal, Director of Digital at Briteweb

I appreciate more than ever still having a separate, dedicated space to go to for work. Our internet is finally getting an upgrade in the next month or so and we’re plotting a separate office in what is right now a semi-finished tiny home. When I instead need to tuck in at home I find life is constantly tipping the daily frenzy into chaos that’s less planned, less productive and more distracted.

Mia Klitsas, Founder & Director at Moxie

I often find I’m most creative if I completely step away from my regular working environment (that means phone and emails on silent, too). Sometimes a change of scene is enough of a circuit breaker for me, giving me a creative energy boost away from the regular thought processes that come with managing a team/running a business.

Beatrice Nacor, Community Manager at The Commons

I work best when my environment is clean and organised so I always need to make sure that my surroundings are both so I can get my ideas going. I feel creative when I’m in a quiet and safe space and mellow music (sometimes with a matching relaxing scent).

Lisa Cugnetto, Freelance Writer, Editor & Content Producer

I tend to find if my workspace is messy and chaotic, so is my headspace. I think moving around and working in different corners of the house allow helps my creative flow.

Jacqui Roth, Senior Brand Manager at Lion

I find it more difficult to work amongst clutter. Clear desk = clear mind. I also find that looking at/being in nature unlocks my creativity which is why having plants on my desk is so important. I often find myself getting lost in the greenery as I am looking for creative solutions.

My Gabby Bernstein card is so important to me too- it helps me to maintain perspective and gratitude every single day. If I am ever feeling a momentary lapse in creativity or lacking motivation, her words get me back on the wagon!

Hayden Bleasel, Director of Jellypepper

My workspace is pivotal to how efficient my creative process is. When I travel, I bring my Macbook Pro with me which allows me to have the same process wherever I am, but I’ve noticed I’m a bit slower without the augmentations of a mouse, standalone keyboard and two 27-inch monitors.

On top of that, I’ve specifically designed my home office to have lots of natural light and airflow. This is super important when you’re working from home as it assists in regulating the body’s natural circadian rhythms (sleep-wake schedules).

Diony McPherson, Co-founder & COO at Paperform

It allows me a clean and focused environment to let loose without the stress of external pressures. I’m a highly visual person, so my space has to be a primed, blank canvas if I’m working on any big projects. Admin and other stuff doesn’t need that environment though, just the larger bodies of work.

Anne Miles, Managing Director of Suits&Sneakers

I’m the most creative I have ever been in my life at the moment and I feel that keeping up with tech has been the biggest part of this. Running across multiple screens and devices means I can reference things from all sources, take photos or videos and airdrop to the main computer without interrupting flow. I can juggle many projects and work with many amazing talent to keep us all on track.

Jessica Li, Investor at Soma Capital

Standing upright (i.e. having a standing desk) has helped me think more clearly. Facing two big windows and looking out toward nature has provided a greater sense of peace.

I also love organization and need to have an uncluttered room, so my desk is quite minimalist. I tend to like overhead lights better since they are less glaring and direct, so that workspace choice has helped me work better as well.

I always need water nearby and usually have collagen tea, a superfood smoothie, and coffee in the morning on my desk. In this era of remote work, I actually work in the same room as my bedroom, but have surprisingly not found this too challenging.

I am someone who loves working and being “on” all day, so I have actually found more energy from combining work and life instead of feeling burnout.

Jordyn Christensen, Co-Founder of Centennial Beauty

I work best having structure and routine, so by having a dedicated workspace to sit down at, my brain knows it’s go-time. While freelancing and working in different spaces lends itself to developing creative ideas, having a structured work space helps me execute those ideas.

Veronica Nguyen, Marketing Assistant at Market Australia

My workspace at home is quite organised however in my diary, I have notes pretty much scrambled everywhere. When I get a hint of creativity, I’ll jot it down as soon as possible because I’m as forgetful as they come!

Always having pen and paper by my side helps me, especially when I’m going through writer’s block – getting that bit of inspiration is a great feeling however being able to write it down before it goes away, is necessary to my creative process.

Andrew McDade, Managing Director of Andpeople Australia

I do like things neat and organised. I accomplish this better at home than in the office for whatever reason. I know my creativity doesn’t come from sitting at a workspace all day.

I try to move around a lot, go for walks around the block, move my car regularly. I’ve found exercise to be the one thing that gets my creative process going the most so usually I try and make sure this is incorporated into my schedule. But it can sometimes be tough to find the time.

Sarah Fritz, Founder of Yes Queen + Co-Founder of St Dakota

Our ‘hoffice’ is in the middle of the Sunshine Coast hinterland which means we’re afforded consistent calm energy – this is an amazing location for a creative agency as ideas flow and flourish throughout the space – whether it’s on a mountain walk, meditation on the hill or at our desk which has a window out to the forest. The closeness to nature definitely facilitates an unfiltered creative process.

Corey Ginnivan, Designer and Developer

A lot of people will say your workspace is an extension of you, or something like tidy desk tidy mind. There is some truth to that, but I’m not too affected by different workspaces. There’s times I love being in the office, there’s times I like being at home workspace, or on the couch, kitchen bench, etc. My creative process is ever changing and doesn’t rely too much on static surroundings.

Catherine Ngo, Founder & CEO of Keynoteworthy

I’m about getting sh!t done, so the first thing I do every morning before I start working is tidy up and wipe down my space. Having a messy environment can disrupt the flow of energy (hello Feng Shui) and can also be distracting too.

I open my office window and blinds to let natural light and air in. I’m also an asthmatic which means maintaining a clean and dust-free workspace is important in order to be productive and creative.

Dr Karen Sutherland, Lecturer & Program Coordinator

It’s a really calming space and I’m surrounded by the natural environment. My most creative ideas and work tend to burst forth when my mind is still and free from distraction.

Bianca De Candia, Senior Client Partnerships Manager

I usually love to keep my workspace neat and tidy, when I have things all over the place I don’t feel structured or organised. Usually when my desk is a total mess it’s a reflection of where my head is at during a busy time at work. I really like to surround myself with images of my family and even just some inspiring fashion images that help to keep my head in the game!

Marina Vasilieva, Creative Art Director at Host/Havas

My environment and workspace affect the way I think and feel – the more free my space is, the more free my thoughts are. Conversely, if it’s chaotic and cluttered, my headspace follows suit.

As an Art Director I pull from a lot of beautiful things for my work, so to curate my space as much as I can, and surround myself with beautiful things that inspire me creatively where possible.

Ryan Cooper Henniker, Senior Global Brand & Cultural Communications Partner at LEGO

If somebody tells you that they have an original idea, they are lying! We are all inspired by the work of others, it’s how we interpret and evolve the concept that matters. For me, being at home and surrounded by the work of my favourite curators, artists, designers and poets not only inspires me, but allows me to reference my creativity.

Richard Laycock, Insights Editor at Finder.com

I really like to stand when I’m writing as it helps me think: if I get stuck on idea I’ll bounce around on the anti-fatigue or pace back-and-forth.

Uka Battulga, Investment Banking Analyst at Morgan Stanley

I’ve always enjoyed writing so I like to keep my writing journal and sticky notes within reach. My journal is for stream-of-consciousness thoughts that I like to transpose onto paper and my sticky notes are for writing down random flashes of ideas that reveal themselves throughout the day.

Ishtar Schneider, Associate Director at Edelman London

I think your space is super important but like most people I didn’t anticipate having to work from home everyday in the long term. I gravitate towards the areas with the most natural light and greenery (eg kitchen and back garden) as it keeps me from feeling so drained when I’m on calls most of the day.

I recommend avoiding working from your room so it can be a fully “restful” space if possible. Just helps to draw the lines between work and recovery so you can mentally switch off. I also spruce things up with some eucalyptus or a nice candle and take “walking meetings” either solo or with my housemate when possible to keep creatively stimulated. Just switching up the route you walk can really help.

Rebekah Bek, UX Writer at Ahrefs

It has a huge influence. If I have to do any “creative thinking”, I’m almost never at my seat. I tend to take a break from my laptop while that happens – go do a chore, sit at my sofa or balcony, or go for a walk if I’m in the office. I start mapping ideas or sketching with a pen and notebook after that before I take it digital again.

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About Author

Balance The Grind gives me a platform to talk to these people about how they're achieving their ideal lifestyle. I'm inspired by the passion, the work ethic, the hustle; and these conversations motivate me to live life the way I want to live it.