Letting creativity reign in the workplace is key to establishing an engaged and innovative workforce, and it’s an even more important behaviour that needs to thrive in the creative industry. The challenge for companies is to figure out how they can get the best out of their creative talent, and put ways of working in place to ensure maximum creative output.
Research shows one of the biggest barriers that employees face in creativity is the strict processes staff often need to follow. To overcome this challenge, employers need to make sure that their workers have the freedom to think creatively when performing their tasks.
The key to encouraging staff to do the best work possible is actually more freedom and trust, not more restriction. After all, creativity is a process that changes depending on the individual and circumstances, so businesses need to give employees the freedom to think, and also to choose how and when they work best.
A Timewise UK study revealed that 87% of people want to work flexibly – which isn’t a bad thing. A trial by a New Zealand financial services firm found that a four-day working week increases productivity in its employees. Some creative firms are also implementing this practice, including comms agency, WonderEight, which noticed an enhanced quality of work. Radioactive PR received astounding results, achieving 70% growth one year on from a four-day work week trial.
Flexible working can provide the sort of conditions in which creativity flourishes. For a start, the traditional office space, no matter how bright, white and open plan, can be a real challenge to the creative process. This is because, while there is scope for collaboration, busy workplaces can often disrupt the deep thinking needed to generate new ideas.
"Working in different ways and in varying locations gives employees the opportunity to face challenges with a different perspective."
In many cases, the most innovative ideas come outside of office hours, so why should staff feel obliged to sit at a desk for eight hours a day? Flexibility gives creatives the ability to work in a space where they can think more freely.
Flexible working also increases employees’ potential sources of inspiration. Sitting in the same spot day in day out confines a workforce to a limited set of stimulants. By contrast, working in different ways and in varying locations gives employees the opportunity to face challenges with a different perspective. Working in this way means that staff members are likely to acquire new skills and new ways of thinking, which can be transferred across the entire workforce – with each employee learning from one another.
Finally, flexibility means creativity can flourish at personal peak times. Whether you work best first thing in the morning or in the middle of the night, everyone works to a different beat. Instead of fighting against it, working when your creative juices are in full flow will intuitively produce better results. While it’s likely that business will still have core working hours, flexibility still allows for the opportunity for employees to harness more creative moments.
With employees and employers able to benefit from a more dynamic working environment, it’s clear why more and more businesses are revising their working patterns. However, it’s vital that companies consider any flexible working schemes holistically, or else things can backfire.
Even with all its benefits, there are some practical factors that need to be examined before businesses can go ahead with flexible working initiatives. For example, how far in advance should a team be notified when a colleague is working from home? What hours must employees consistently work within a flexible working framework? Technicalities like these must be ironed out from the start so that things can run smoothly even when team members find themselves working in different locations.
This includes technology - without proper IT support, employees will really struggle to work together cohesively. There’s nothing worse than struggling to communicate with a colleague when a deadline is looming or trying in vain to direct a client call to the appropriate team member when they’re away from their desk.
Ultimately, businesses need to pay attention to details like these when it comes to introducing flexible working, as they can’t reap the rewards without taking the necessary considerations. But, if everyone is open to the idea of flexible working, and all the correct tools are in place, the benefits, particularly to creativity, can be significant.
Aliya Vigor-Robertson, co-founder at JourneyHR.