Brisk business for art consultants as UAE companies try to make offices homely for employees

With months of working from home, the focus is now on the impact of our surroundings, experts say

DUBAI, UNITED ARAB EMIRATES. 21 JANUARY 2021. Sam Saliba, Founder and Creative Director of Art Painting Lab in Al Quoz. (Photo: Antonie Robertson/The National) Journalist: Gillian Duncan. Section: National.
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Art consultants in the UAE have received a flurry of queries from companies looking for decorative pieces that can help to make their workspace warmer and homely.

After spending months working from home because of the coronavirus pandemic, the focus is now on the impact surroundings can have on our wellbeing and productivity.

Many people who switched to remote working to prevent the spread of Covid-19 have now returned to the office.

But the period spent at home could have had a significant impact on employees and companies are now considering giving them a warmer office space that can have a positive bearing on their health and wellbeing, said experts.

We spend eight hours at work, so what we look at is quite important and instrumental for so many reasons

Art Painting Lab in Dubai said bulk of its orders came from restaurants, hotels and hospitals and until the Covid-19 outbreak corporates accounted for only 30 per cent of its clients.

By contrast, offices now make up eight in every 10 clients.

"I find that interesting," said Sam Saliba, co-founder and creative director at Art Painting Lab.

The company is a hybrid of an art consultant and service provider. It creates all forms of artworks for clients, including murals, works on canvas, installations, print and illustrations.

Businesses commission or buy a mix of different art works for offices, but the amount they spend varies considerably.

Art consultants said customers have spent on average between Dh30,000 to Dh600,000 in January and February.

Companies are demanding more pieces of art but have not directly attributed it to the pandemic. But it is likely to be a decisive factor, even if at an subconscious level, Ms Saliba said.

“I believe the pandemic had a very profound effect on all of us. So there are a lot of levels of thinking that are probably not immediately in the foreground,” she said.

“The fact that we have so many corporate offices reaching out to us, it’s probably a combination of the influence of the pandemic where they are seeking creativity and meaning, while aiming to create a more lively, and a more comfortable workspace.

“We spend eight hours at work, so what we look at is quite important and instrumental for so many reasons,” she said.

Studies have shown surroundings can have a profound impact on a person’s wellbeing.

In 2019, researchers from Florida State University College of Fine Arts found "biological evidence" that art promotes wellness and fosters adaptive responses to stress.

We emotionally respond to things we see in a picture, painting, or in reality, said Ola Pykhtina, psychologist, art and a play psychotherapist at Thrive Wellbeing Centre in Dubai.

“If you’re going back to the office, it is recommended to surround yourself with a beautiful, safe, creative space that brings positive emotions in you,” she said.

“Something that calms you down".

Using art can help offices personalise a space, and make it more like “home".

“And once you feel calmer and good in the environment, you are likely to be more productive," she said.

“Several companies approached us for workshops on different topics, but it kind of related about how to go back to the office.

“People have to go back to work, and everyone is stressed about it. They are looking for a way to make this transition a little bit easier.”

Artists at work during the pandemic - in pictures