How Cultivating Creativity Can Reduce a Team’s Stress

It’s not a secret that happy employees are engaged employees. And as we’ve discussed in previous posts, when workers are engaged and invested in their work and their organization, they are generally more productive.

Creativity and productivity, rather that juxtaposing, tend to work hand in hand.

And when a lean leader really thinks about it, it makes sense. Would an employee think best when they’re being reprimanded? When they’re overwhelmed with busy work and stressed? Probably not. While some workers certainly can thrive under pressure, that doesn’t necessarily mean their creativity blossoms when under duress.

Now we know the reverse is also true: creativity can help quash stress. So what could that mean for your team?

Study: Positivity Means More Creativity

Science has recently shown us that there’s a direct correlation between engaging in regular creative activities and a negative mindset. According to a study from Harvard professor Teresa Amabile, fostering creativity among workers actually can reduce stress.

She studied the diaries of 200 corporate workers who logged their activities and their emotional states while engaging in their work. And the results were telling.

“When people were feeling more positive, they were more likely to be creative,” said Amabile, who wrote about the research in her 2011 book, “The Progress Principle.’’ “People were more likely to come up with a creative idea or solve a complex problem in a new way on those days, weeks, months when they were having the most positive affect.”

How can creativity quell stress? One theory is that working on projects that require more imagination forces them to shift focus away from stressors. It breaks people out of their normal thought patterns and gives them somewhere to focus their energy. Art therapy is a great example of this practice.

And the opposite was also true. According to her research, workers who felt sad, angry, stressed or other negative feelings, were far less likely to come up with new ideas.

So how can you apply these findings to your own workplace?

Work to Cultivate it On Your Team

For lean leaders focused on creating a happy team engaged with meaningful work, then injecting a bit of creativity into their work (and routines) is worth considering.

While we’ve already made some great recommendations about how to foster creativity amongst your team members, it’s especially important to try to turn these practices into a habit.

A few findings from the study that can easily be implemented into your lean leadership style include recognizing small victories. Normally these mini milestones could easily be forgotten, but ensuring employees get a pat on the back for a job well done is a great way to encourage them to feel more invested (particularly when working on a long-term project that may cause long-term stress and strife).

It also helps to encourage employees to pursue their creative pursuits (yes, even during those hours they aren’t at the office). Host lunch-and-learn sessions where team members teach one another one of their artistic hobbies (painting, sculpting, etc.), or occasionally pursue offsite activities with your team to bond and work on imaginative projects.