Creative De-Stressing From Work Rigors

Employee stress dropped and job performance improved as result of their creative activities outside work

(RxWiki News) What employees do on the job and away from it has its effects. Leisure activities that help workers detach from work for a while may affect their job performance and outlook.

Doing creative things outside work improved employees’ problem solving and other aspects of workplace performance, according to a new study.

"Find ways to unwind from work."

Organizational psychologist Kevin Eschleman, PhD, of San Francisco State University, was this new study’s lead author.

For this study, Dr. Eschleman and his team of researchers obtained 341 employees’ answers to questions about whether a range of creative activities outside work, including ones that taught them new skills, influenced how creative they were at work and how well they collaborated with their co-workers.

The questions also asked whether study participants took charge of their own leisure time schedules and how much having that kind of control made them feel.

Those 341 persons were chosen from the The StudyResponse Project database, which lists the names of 80,000 individuals who agreed in advance to participate in surveys. The 341 workers were from a range of occupations. Half of them were women. The group’s average age was 37. On average, they had spent 10 years working.

Also, these researchers obtained answers from a second group, comprised of 92 active duty U.S. Air Force captains, about their creative pursuits outside work and whether those activities helped them relieve workplace stress. However, the job performance of the 92 captains was evaluated by their peers and those they supervised at work. Those evaluators were assured that their identities would remain anonymous. They submitted the evaluations via email.

On average, the captains were 31 years old. About three-quarters of them were men.

Both groups of employees were able to choose their own creative activities.

Based on their findings, Dr. Eschleman and team concluded that employees who exercised control over their off-work activities and involved themselves in pastimes that let them mentally detach from work raised their creative problem solving on the job and improved at helping and supporting their colleagues.

Dr. Eschleman said that employers should encourage their employees to engage in more creative pastimes and give them free rein in determining those activities.

"One of the main concerns is that you don't want to have someone feel like their organization is controlling them, especially when it comes to creative activities," he said.

Employers also may consider letting their workers bring their creative activities into the workplace, Dr. Eschleman said. He cited, as examples, cake baking contests and other employee satisfaction-focused programs. Dr. Eschleman also highlighted how online retailer Zappos lets employees decorate their offices with personal artwork.

"A lot of organizations carve time out where they talk about physical heath and exercise and eating habits. But they can also include in that a discussion of mental health and the importance of recovery and creative activity," he said.

This study was published April 16 in the Journal of Occupational and Organizational Psychology.

These researchers did not report whether or how the study was funded.

Also, they did not report whether they had financial investments or other ethical conflicts that might affect study design, analysis or outcomes.

Review Date: 
April 16, 2014