Conversation at heART is a global initiative that aims to inspire, connect and empower Foundever™ associates through the power of creating and taking ownership of artworks in the spaces in which they work.
Art is a tangible way of presenting and understanding the world in which we live and work. Easily accessible, it can reflect society at large or a community in particular. It provides meaning and can bestow upon a nondescript space a unique personality.
As such, it gives meaning, provides identity, a cultural and societal reference point. It can challenge beliefs or strengthen values and can harness the energy of the past and present to help the viewer consider the future.
Engaging our employees
Foundever™, we ‘Create Connection. Value Conversation.’ This is our brand message, developed in partnership with our people. Because art is so immediate and potent, it is the only truly universal medium that cuts through any linguistic or cultural barriers to create connections and encourage conversation. And, because it can give a physical form to our brand message – a message our people actively chose to describe the meaning and motivation that drives the work they do – we want to harness visual art’s power and put it in our people’s hands.
Conversation at heART is the next step towards empowering our people and engaging them in the discussion about the future of the employee experience. The ultimate goal is to have a dedicated space in each of our new Foundever Hub contact centers around the world devoted to an original artwork co-conceived or co-created by our people, for our people.
The MAX effect
As with any project directly related to optimizing the employee experience, Conversation at HeART is a MAX initiative. At its core, MAX is essentially three focus areas on which to constantly raise the employee experience – culture, technology and the working environment. By engaging directly with our community of associates and channeling their feedback, suggestions and innovative ideas around these themes, we can identify and begin to shape and apply initiatives that will make a measurable difference to our people and their working lives.
Focused on the final topic – the working environment – Conversation at heART is our way of providing our employees with a blank canvas where they can illustrate and express their culture and diversity, to bring attention to and initiate discussion around causes or values and to forge new connections with the wider community by working alongside local artists to bring their ideas to life.
The art of stress reduction
As well as its power to connect and to facilitate interaction, art is also proven to boost wellbeing, relieve stress and encourage critical and creative thinking.
A study co-authored by Angela Clow, PhD at the department of Psychology, University of Westminster, found that employees working in the high-stress environment of central London who spent just 35 minutes in an art gallery as part of their lunch break displayed a rapid drop in cortisol (the stress hormone). Under normal circumstances, this drop would have taken up to five hours to dissipate.
As well as lowering stress, art can stimulate the sense of pleasure and enjoyment. In 2011, Professor Semir Zeki, the chair in neuroaesthetics at University College London conducted an experiment where participants were placed in an MRI machine while being shown a series of artworks. He noted an increase in blood flow to the areas of the brain related to pleasure. Most impressive is the reaction was immediate.
Oshin Vartanian an expert on the neuroscience and aesthetics of creativity from the University of Toronto Scarborough, built on Zeki’s results in 2014 and found art also activates the areas of the brain related to processing emotions, engaging our rewards system and imaginations.
The art of wellbeing
When the effects of creating art as well as viewing art are combined, the benefits are greater still.
A study co-authored by Anne Bolwerk, Department of Physiology and Pathophysiology, Friedrich-Alexander-University Erlangen-Nürnberg, Erlangen, Germany that also employed the use of MRI machines found that people involved in creating visual art have a greater sense of wellbeing and the complexity of the activity stimulates new connections between brain cells and between the two hemispheres of the brain. This, in turn, improves an individual’s psychological reliance and adaptability.
When all of these ideas are transposed to the working environment, there is a measurable positive impact on productivity and wellbeing. This is partly due to the fact that art gives a space a solid relatable identity within an environment that is increasingly expressionless. Many towns and cities look the same and too many office spaces are focused on a minimalist, clutter-free design that can rob a space of warmth or comfort.
The art of empowerment
To prove this point, Dr. Craig Knight, who has studied the psychology of working environments for 12 years at the University of Exeter conducted a series of experiments where employees undertook the same types of work-related tasks but in four different office spaces.
The spaces were either lean (bare and functional), enriched with plants and pictures, empowered (had been decorated and designed by the workers) or disempowered, i.e., the decoration undertaken by workers was then undone by their manager.
And the more control over a space the employees had, the more comfortable and engaged they became. People working in enriched spaces were 17% more productive than those in lean spaces, but those working in empowered spaces were even more efficient — being 32% more productive than their lean counterparts without any increase in errors.
The art of investment
The first Conversation at heART pieces have now gone from concept to reality in our Paris, France EMEA HQ and our Foundever hubs in Barranquilla, Colombia and São Paulo, Brazil. And, as we had hoped, the finished pieces are already generating debate, a deeper sense of ownership and giving pleasure to our people.
In the coming weeks and months, we’ll be shining a spotlight on these first completed pieces, the motivations behind the artworks and the experiences, methods and insights of the artists chosen – by our people – to bring their ideas to life.