Menus Subscribe Search

Findings

creativity-concept

(Photo: everything possible/Shutterstock)

Leisure-Time Creative Endeavors Make for Better Employees

• April 16, 2014 • 5:00 PM

(Photo: everything possible/Shutterstock)

New research finds a link between off-hours creative activity and several measures of job performance.

It goes without saying that employees’ off-hours activities can affect their on-the-job performance. This dynamic is usually framed in negative terms: Workers who, say, spend every evening club hopping aren’t particularly productive most mornings.

Well, new research finds there is one category of leisure-time activity that actually makes people better employees. If you’re looking for workers who are unusually innovative and/or team players who enjoy helping their colleagues, check out those who spend their free time painting, playing music, or engaging in some other form of creativity.

“Creative activities are likely to provide valuable experiences of mastery and control,” writes a research team led by San Francisco State University psychologist Kevin Eschleman, “but may also provide employees experiences of discovery that uniquely influence performance-related outcomes.”

“Employees who reported greater levels of creative activity were also rated (by themselves and others) as higher in job creativity.”

In short, the researchers write in the Journal of Occupational and Organizational Psychology, creative activity seems to help workers recover faster from work-related stress and depletion, even as it fosters skills and attitudes coveted by employers.

Eschleman and his colleagues conducted two related studies that found a link between leisure-time creativity and job performance. One featured 341 Americans (average age 37) who participated as part of the StudyResponse Project. The second featured 92 active-duty captains in the U.S. Air Force who participated in a six-week leadership development program.

On a scale of one to five (“rarely” to “very often”), all participants were asked how often they “took part in creative tasks” or “used (my free) time to explore my creative side” over the past 30 days.

Those in the first study then rated their own work performances using several measures. Using that same five-point scale, they reported how often they “come up with creative solutions to job problems,” “go out of the way to make others at work feel welcome,” and “defend the organization when others criticize it.”

For the Air Force officers, that same evaluation form was filled out by “randomly selected subordinates and co-workers.”

Researchers found a similar pattern of results for both studies.

“Employees who reported greater levels of creative activity were also rated (by themselves and others) as higher in job creativity,” they write. They also performed above average on two measures of “organizational citizenship behaviors”—willingness to assist their colleagues, and loyalty to the organization.

Eschleman and his colleagues list a variety of possible reasons behind this association. They noted that mastering an art form can build transferable skills, build self-esteem, and allow for “a cathartic release of intense negative emotions,” which otherwise might build up and impact one’s job performance.

So employers should encourage this sort of off-hours activity, right? Sure, the researchers write—so long as they aren’t too heavy-handed about it. “Intrinsic motivation is part of that unique experience that comes with creative activity,” Eschleman notes in a statement accompanying the paper.

But without a hint of coercion, firms can offer discounted memberships to art studios, drama clubs, or writing workshops. They could even give their employees freedom to decorate their offices however they desire. It works for Zappos.

Tom Jacobs
Staff writer Tom Jacobs is a veteran journalist with more than 20 years experience at daily newspapers. He has served as a staff writer for The Los Angeles Daily News and the Santa Barbara News-Press. His work has also appeared in The Los Angeles Times, Chicago Tribune, and Ventura County Star.

More From Tom Jacobs

A weekly roundup of the best of Pacific Standard and PSmag.com, delivered straight to your inbox.

Recent Posts

August 1 • 6:00 AM

The Idea of Racial Hierarchy Remains Entrenched in Americans’ Psyches

New research finds white faces are most closely associated with positive thoughts and feelings.


August 1 • 4:00 AM

How and Why Does the Social Become Biological?

To get closer to an answer, it’s helpful to look at two things we’ve taught ourselves over time: reading and math.



July 31 • 4:00 PM

Thank You for Your Service: How One Company Sues Soldiers Worldwide

With stores near military bases across the country, the retailer USA Discounters offers easy credit to service members. But when those loans go bad, the company uses the local courts near its Virginia headquarters to file suits by the thousands.


July 31 • 2:00 PM

A New York State of Fracking

Court cases. A governor’s moratorium. Pending health study. A quick guide to the state of fracking in New York.


July 31 • 11:17 AM

How California Could Power Itself Using Nothing but Renewables

We don’t need fossil fuels.


July 31 • 8:00 AM

Should Athletes Train Their Memories?

Sure, but it probably won’t help.


July 31 • 6:00 AM

Universal Basic Income: Something We Can All Agree on?

According to Almaz Zelleke, it’s not a crazy thought.


July 31 • 4:00 AM

Medical Dramas Produce Misinformed, Fatalistic Viewers

New research suggests TV doctor dramas leave viewers with skewed impressions of important health-related topics.


July 30 • 4:00 PM

Still the World’s Top Military Spender

Although declining in real terms, the United States’ military budget remains substantial and a huge drain on our public resources.



July 30 • 2:04 PM

The Rise of the Nuisance Flood

Minor floods are afflicting parts of Maryland nearly 10 times more often than was the case in the 1960s.


July 30 • 2:00 PM

The (Mostly Awful) Things You Learn After Investigating Unpaid Internships for a Year

Though the intern economy remains opaque, dialogue about the role of interns in the labor force—and protections they deserve—is beginning to take shape.


July 30 • 12:00 PM

Why Coffee Shortages Won’t Change the Price of Your Frappuccino

You’re so loyal to Starbucks—and the company knows it—that your daily serving of caffeine is already marked up beyond the reach of any fluctuations in supply.



July 30 • 10:00 AM

Having Difficult Conversations With Your Children

Why it’s necessary, and how to do it.


July 30 • 8:00 AM

How to Make a Convincing Sci-Fi Movie on a Tight Budget

Coherence is a good movie, and its initial shoot cost about the same amount of money as a used Prius.


July 30 • 6:00 AM

Are You Really as Happy as You Say You Are?

Researchers find a universal positivity bias in the way we talk, tweet, and write.


July 30 • 4:00 AM

The Declining Wage Gap for Gay Men

New research finds gay men in America are rapidly catching up with straight married men in terms of wages.


July 30 • 2:00 AM

LeBron James Migration: Big Chef Seeking Small Pond

The King’s return to Cleveland is a symbol for the dramatic shift in domestic as well as international migration.


July 29 • 4:00 PM

Are Children Seeking Refuge Turning More Americans Against Undocumented Immigrants?

A look at Pew Research Center survey data collected in February and July of this year.


July 29 • 2:00 PM

Under Water: The EPA’s Ongoing Struggle to Combat Pollution

Frustration and inaction color efforts to enforce the Clean Water Act.


July 29 • 12:40 PM

America’s Streams Are Awash With Pesticides Banned in Europe

You may have never heard of clothianidin, but it’s probably in your local river.


July 29 • 12:00 PM

Mining Your Genetic Data for Profit: The Dark Side of Biobanking

One woman’s personal story raises deep questions about the stark limits of current controls in a nascent industry at the very edge of the frontier of humans and technology.


July 29 • 11:23 AM

Where Should You Go to College?


Follow us


Subscribe Now

The Rise of the Nuisance Flood

Minor floods are afflicting parts of Maryland nearly 10 times more often than was the case in the 1960s.

America’s Streams Are Awash With Pesticides Banned in Europe

You may have never heard of clothianidin, but it's probably in your local river.

How Textbooks Have Changed the Face of War

War is more personal, less glorious, and more hellish in modern textbooks than in the past. But there’s still room for improvement.

NASA Could Build Entire Spacecrafts in Space Using 3-D Printers

This year NASA will experiment with 3-D printing small objects in space. That could mark the beginning of a gravity-free manufacturing revolution.

The Big One

One in two full-time American fast-food workers' families are enrolled in public assistance programs, at a cost of $7 billion per year. July/August 2014

Copyright © 2014 by Pacific Standard and The Miller-McCune Center for Research, Media, and Public Policy. All Rights Reserved.