Want to Be Better at Your Job? Get a Creative Side Project

creativity better workers

It’s already a known fact that crafting is a healthy activity for your brain — but did you know that what you get up to on your off-time can actually improve your workplace performance? New research has found — again! — that employees with creative pursuits in their off time are better workers.

San Francisco State University assistant professor of psychology Kevin Eschleman recently studied the direct effect of hobbies and other off-work creativity on job performance at work. Going into the study, his theory was that employees who did something that they loved and received creative satisfaction from would help them feel happier and, as a result, be better workers. And, in fact, that’s exactly what he and his colleagues found.

To conduct the study, Eschleman and his team asked 341 employees about their creative pursuits outside of work, how they scheduled their non-work time, how well they feel they assist their co-workers with problems-solving, and how they would rate their creativity on the job generally. What they found was that employees who engaged in creative activities — which ranged from writing poetry to playing videogames — were happier, better problem-solvers, and generally had higher levels of self-efficacy and were more helpful with their fellow workers.

The findings aren’t that surprising, considering previous studies have found that employee happiness directly relates to productivity, and that creative pursuits can make employees happier.

So what does all this mean? A few things: First, that stamping out creativity in the workplace is a recipe for workplace angst, so-called “presenteeism” (where employees show up to work but aren’t actually very productive), and a higher turnover within companies. And second, that companies that engage in employee-encouraging behavior, like offering paid “time on” for volunteer work or incubators and other programs to help workers grow their own side-projects, are making a smart decision with their time and money.

Investing in worker happiness isn’t just about snacks in the break-room, or even company-sponsored teambuilding; workers who are encouraged to be creative outside of work (which also requires the expectation of a healthy work-life balance) are a smart investment for everyone.

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Hanna Brooks Olsen is a writer and editor for CreativeLive, longtime reporter, and the co-founder of Seattlish. Follow her on Twitter at @mshannabrooks or go to her website for more stuff.