As both emerging and established companies seek to infuse their workplaces with creativity, disruptive thinking and innovative products and services, founders and CEOs clamor to unlock secrets that might give them a competitive edge. And while the media touts flashy additions like slides and bean bags as the secret to success for some companies, we think there’s more to it.
We believe there’s an undeniable link between creativity and wellbeing in the workplace. A healthy wellbeing boosts employee engagement, which in turn positively affects relationship building and workplace trust. Steelcase 360 Magazine, issue 67, reported:
“‘People who are happier at work are more productive—they are more engaged, more creative, have better concentration,’ says Nic Marks, who’s spent more than a decade studying the economics of wellbeing.”
The willingness to participate fully in crazy brainstorms and expose vulnerable, innovative ideas all depends on trust: trust that coworkers will accept and welcome even the most off-the-wall concept; trust that you won’t be labeled silly or foolish; trust that your voice is heard and your vote counted. All of these contribute to a climate that supports creativity and innovation.
But these aren’t the only connections between wellbeing and creativity. Steelcase researchers have identified and defined six dimensions of wellbeing necessary in vibrant, productive and creative workplace environments:
- Optimism: Fostering creativity and innovation
- Mindfulness: Fully engaged
- Authenticity: Really yourself
- Belonging: Connecting to others
- Meaning: A Sense of purpose
- Vitality: Get-up-and-go
Like instruments in a symphony, each dimension plays a particular role to support the larger environment. And when one is off, even slightly, the tune changes. A lack of authenticity or diminished feelings of belonging could result in a key team member clamming up, feeling afraid to share ideas or simply “checking out.” And once someone has checked out and disengaged, creativity is nearly non-existent.
How to foster wellbeing (and boost creativity) in the office:
If you’re serious about supporting wellbeing so that creativity can flourish, there are a few things you can do today.
- Hire Optimists. Of course we’re not talking about naive pollyannas. What we are talking about is asking interview questions that probe a candidate’s feelings around risk, attitudes about learning new things and their commitment to create enjoyment and pleasant experiences for those around themselves. Optimists spark a natural desire in others to create and innovate.
- Promote Authenticity. Encouraging people to be themselves allows them to relax and concentrate their energies on abstract thinking and problem solving—not on worrying about how their hair looks or whether they’re accepted by the larger group. Send the message to your team that you hired them for who they are—not for who someone else hopes they’ll be.
- Create Moments that Nurture Belonging. Intentionally scheduling team moments and celebrations that bring people together nurtures feelings of belonging in the workplace. From Steelcase 360 magazine, “Gallup data provides empirical evidence that having close friends and positive interactions at work significantly increases engagement with the organization.” So whether it’s creating spaces for socializing and building friendships, planning a potluck luncheon or hosting a lunch ‘n learn about a topic you love, make it a point to bring your people together.
- Sow Passion, Reap Meaning. Turnstone’s research around startup culture shows that passion, or knowing your “why,” is a key pillar for creating meaning. People want to invest their time and talents into something bigger than themselves; they want to be part of a movement that does good in the world and inspires others. Founders who share their passions facilitate this for their teams, helping to make important emotional connections that result in increased engagement and a greater vision for the future of the brand.
- Designate Spaces that Make Connecting Easy. Meaningful connections in the workplace happen when their are spaces to support socializing and mingling. Cramped corners with nowhere to sit, nondescript open areas or overpowering HVAC noise can kill culture and the opportunity to build relationships in the office. If you have the power to reconsider your floor plan, work with a professional who can help you think through your options for creating lounge spaces and standing height tables to gather around. Space matters, and what you do with yours can make all the difference in your employees’ wellbeing and ability to be creative.