Nobody can really dispute how awesome it is to have a creative outlet. Therapists have long been using creative outlets like art and music to help trauma victims heal. Teachers and child psychologists have been singing the praises of how creative play helps children’s mental health, and of course, scientists everywhere have been urging people to take downtime seriously for years.
Sure, having a creative outlet does wonders for our personal lives, but a new study from San Francisco State University shows that there’s another reason creative outlets are important: they can actually help us do better at work, too.
The researchers surveyed 341 employees about their creativity. The questions ranged from how creative they were at work, how well they supported their employer and co-workers, and of course, whether or not they did any creative activities during their downtime. The original purpose of the study was to determine whether or not a creative outlet impacted an employee’s performance by allowing them to detach and recover from a stressful workday.
The researchers left the definition of “creative activities” remain lax. The interviewers were allowed to decide what “creative” meant, and their answers ranged from video games to novel writing.
Of course, the answer wasn’t so simple. For some workers, their hobbies and careers were nearly synonymous. A freelance writer by trade might write mystery short stories in their downtime. The work is still extremely similar to their “day job”, so the work-life detachment isn’t so clear.
What the study found was that their hypothesis was correct: those who had creative outlets really did do better at work overall than those who simply sat and watched Netflix or did household chores after work. Partaking in creative activities led to an experience of mastery, control, and relaxation…or as some creatives call it, “flow”, and higher work performance. Why? The scientists aren’t sure.
Creative Expression and Self-Efficacy
It may have to do with “self-efficacy”, or the belief in one’s one effectiveness. When someone has a creative outlet that they enjoy and experience mastery in, their confidence grows. Self-efficacy is directly linked to a person’s ability to perform well at work.
Besides that, people who have creative hobbies outside of work often learn new skills and abilities that help them when they’re on the job.
Oh, and there’s the relaxation side of things, too. The less stressed you are, the better you perform.
All in all, even though each study participant defined “creative” differently, the researchers found that no matter what that activity was, it still provided these workers with some form of self expression and confidence which had a lasting impact on the rest of their days that they then carried with them back into the workplace.
So take this as a sign: find something you love to do that stimulates the creative side of your brain. It could be gardening, RPGs, writing, music, or even stand up comedy. Whatever you choose, you can be sure it’ll have a lasting impact on your work performance and, ultimately, the rest of your life, too!