It’s a given that employees will perform better when they are healthy, happy, and motivated. By supporting staff wellbeing, employers are setting themselves up to reap many benefits which include a more innovative, loyal, and committed team working within a more positive collegial environment. Creating a work culture that promotes health and wellbeing takes time and investment; it’s an ongoing process rather than a one-off workshop. There are, however, ways in which creativity can help teams to take a moment to reflect whilst coming together to reach a common goal.
Engaging in creative tasks can spark employees to go into a state of “flow” which is the mental state of being completely present in the moment and immersed in a task. Being “in flow” can improve many other aspects of life including one’s wellbeing and workplace duties. So how can museums specifically employ creative tactics to get the juices “flow”ing and promote staff wellbeing? In this article, we’ll highlight three ways in which museums can strike the creativity match and light an inspirational spark for their employees: wellbeing sessions, creative resources, and unconventional ways of working.
All meetings don’t need a strict business agenda. Allocating the time and providing the space for museum staff to get together and do something creative as a team can have amazing long-term benefits. Studies have proven that even minimal engagement with a creative task can reduce stress and help people better manage their lives. The Jewish Museum London places the health and wellbeing of their staff at the forefront with their weekly “Wellbeing Wednesdays”. These popular sessions are led by a different staff member each time with an average 90% attendance rate. “We’ve done tea tasting, disco dancing, guided meditation, quizzes and reflection journals over the years” says Museum Director Frances Jeens. The longevity of this programme has been identified as a core reason for its success. “Whilst we have done things for wellbeing week and put in wellbeing days as extra staff leave… it’s the weekly nature of Wellbeing Wednesdays that has caused the biggest culture shift”, Jeens adds.
Museums routinely offer visitors the time and space to be contemplative and creative, but the same isn’t always true for museum employees. Take a leaf through the staff calendar to find a time that works for employees to take a beat together and pick up their pens, pencils, headphones or even tea for tasting!
Signpost to creative resources
Office memos shouldn’t be the only all-staff communication arriving in employee inboxes. Management should strive to keep everyone working at the organisation abreast of imaginative opportunities in the form of classes, virtual tours, webinars, and new exhibitions. Employers that take the time to share creative resources with employees demonstrate their investment in the overall wellbeing and creative development of their staff.
A lockdown silver lining was the resurgence of the virtual museum tour and a boom in online classes and interactive offers. Invite your team to explore the works of Renaissance masters at the Uffizi Gallery in Florence or engage in an all-staff Sporcle trivia contest.
Directing employees to resources not directly related to their work may seem counter-intuitive, but research shows taking regular breaks can actually improve brain stimulation and make work-related tasks seem less tedious. Encourage employees to pause and briefly dive into something creative to break up their day; whether it be word quizzes or touring renowned museums is up to them!
Check out the list of creative resources we’ve assembled below to help shape your next employee inspiration mailer…
Guggenheim, New York
Musée d’Orsay, Paris
Uffizi Gallery, Florence
National Museum of Modern and Contemporary Art, Seoul
National Gallery of Victoria, Melbourne
MASP – Museu de Arte de São Paulo Assis Chateaubriand, São Paulo
Educational and Fun Websites
Domestika (Arts and design courses)
Coursera (MOOC, massive open online courses on various topics)
Sporcle (Trivia and quiz website)
Autodraw (Online drawing tool)
Daily Jigsaw Puzzle (Online puzzle emporium)
Play Geography (Online geography quizzes)
Wordle (New York Times daily word game)
TED Talks (Influential videos from expert speakers)
Unconventional ways of working
In recent years it’s become apparent that requiring all employees to work traditional hours from a designated desk in the museum office is like trying to fit a square peg into a round hole. If possible, allowing employees to have some flexibility and freedom in how and where they work can boost happiness and improve wellbeing overall. Due to the nature of some roles, working remote/hybrid isn’t possible but that doesn’t mean that employees must be chained to a desk. A change of scenery can be really refreshing and help generate new ideas for a team that’s based in-office. Motivate staff to get out and about by hosting a team meeting in a local coffee shop or inviting colleagues for a walking 1-1 catch up.
Speaking of office spaces, too often museum working environments harbour 1/100th of the creativity that their gallery spaces possess. As educational spaces that speak to ingenuity through objects and design, museums have a duty to spark that same imaginativeness in their employees. Invigorating museum office spaces can be as simple as injecting some colour by painting walls and changing carpets, or as comprehensive as having rotating artworks on display. Adopting some office plants can also help to purify the air and bring a touch of nature indoors. Small changes like these can add up and shift the office perception from one of dull to dynamic.
Wrapping it up
With lots of flexible working taking place, people have fallen into new modes of functioning that don’t involve the typical 9am-5pm schedule and commute to the office. Upholding creativity and promoting wellbeing really involves recognizing and respecting how your employees best work and live in a harmonious way. Without this foundation, other wellbeing initiatives like art-making sessions and activity-based newsletters won’t be set up for success.
Any programme to promote wellbeing being creativity-based or not, needs to come from management and be modelled by museum leaders. Employers must send a clear message to their employees that wellbeing matters and that taking time to be creative and get into a state of flow is important to them as well as the museum. The ideas shared in this article can help to promote and shape a culture of wellbeing through creativity, but ultimately, an infrastructure that genuinely upholds health and wellbeing as integral to the organisation is necessary for success.