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What makes a workplace a "cocoon of inspiration"?

Positive, memorable experiences in the workplace can have a positive impact on employee well-being, health, productivity, business performance and growth. But how can you create a workplace that supports performance and productivity without stifling creativity?

We sat down recently with Dr. Marie Puybaraud, Global Head of Research, JLL Corporate Solutions, to discuss how work and inspiration can come together.

How can an organization design a workplace for inspiration?

Ideally, you provide a variety of spaces for different types of work and preferences. Allow for flexibility and variability in what different groups of employees want. After all, freedom is at the core of any team's success—freedom of movement, thoughts, ideas and creativity.

You can even give a team a space and let them create their own cocoon of inspiration. Within reason, of course. Provide a budget and practical parameters, and you will see more freedom of expression.

Whatever you are doing with workplace strategy, involve users in the early stages. They are the ones who will be working there. Allow for maximum flexibility in the design so you can embrace flexible ways of working.

Are high-tech enabled offices the best for creativity and productivity?

I would not assume so. Low-tech environments can be the most productive, even in today's hyper-connected world. You should always provide at least one minimal-tech area. Too much control over the workspace environment restrains freedom of thought.

For so long, we've talked about how technologies are changing our way of working. A counter trend is starting to emerge, though. After years of building a close relationship with a screen and falling in love with millions of pixels, we need more reality in our experience and more authenticity in our relationships.

In general, we believe organizations should provide work environments that enforce human-to-human contact. Use third spaces to bring people together, create work around clusters for teams, break down visual barriers, maximize space for collaborative work, and encourage teamwork.

Have you ever been surprised by what employees find inspiring?

Years ago, I visited an underground R&D lab with no direct light. It had a white board, which was a real innovation at the time. The introverted researchers would occasionally emerge in front of this shiny white surface to share their latest ideas—and these bright ideas would sparkle on the board for weeks. The lab space overall was terrible, but it provided a focal spot for innovation that yielded lots of inspiration.

But there's a lesson here: Inspiration often comes down to a single element or product in the work environment. If that is the case, resist the urge to change it, even if it looks appalling. Your employees may love it. Take their temperature first.