How Stress Impacts on Creativity in the Workplace

How Stress Impacts on Creativity in the Workplace

Publish Date: 2021-04-19

Author: Victoria Bond

It’s a well-known fact that stress is a direct cause of many physical and mental illnesses. But what role does stress play in creativity? And is there a way of combating it in the workplace? While it’s easy to assume that creativity would be negatively impacted by stress, it’s not that black and white. 

Stress, in its most instinctive sense, is the body’s reaction to dangerous and/or challenging situations. It’s a reflexive function specifically designed for performance, growth or survival. For this reason, stress can actually enhance our productivity in certain situations. This is why it’s important to look at the kinds of stressors, as well as time spent under stress, in order to determine its effect on creativity. 


The ‘Good’ Stress

Otherwise known as ‘constructive’ or ‘meaningful’ stress, this arises when an employee is challenged, set targets, or given a mission. This sort of stress can be a fantastic motivator and engager, giving an individual a greater sense of purpose in the workplace. BUT, it must strike a perfect balance between pressure and meaningfulness:

  • Asking an employee to do a high volume of repetitive tasks all day long is a no-go. It goes without saying that this form of stress via repetition and deadline puts an employee on autopilot. This will, without a doubt, have negative effects on creativity, ergo employee engagement. 
  • Giving them a purposeful problem to solve at their own pace with considerable reward upon completion is an example of a meaningful form of stress. 

If you feel like your team members’ creativity is suffering due to a lack of ‘good stress’, try switching up their routine. Challenge them with a more meaningful task. They’ll feel more appreciated in the work environment, and you’ll likely see an increase in your productivity as a result. Creating a fulfilling role for your employees, is a really key element of employee engagement to drive creativity. 


The ‘Bad’ Stresses

Today’s most common conception of ‘stress’ is the unfavourable kind. The kind that keeps you up at night, makes you ill, and leads to more complicated mental health issues such as anxiety and depression. 

This sort of stress can arise from an array of factors, such as deadlines, money worries, family issues, or job security. There’s absolutely no doubt that this form of stress leads to killed creativity, as concluded by countless academic studies. And while an employer can’t combat every stressor, they can certainly help alleviate work-related pressure on a team member. 

So here are some ways to help combat workplace stressors and increase your team members’ creativity and engagement. 


Look After Their Wellbeing 

Ensuring your team members feel safe, secure and supported in your business is a key element of tackling workplace stressors. Ensuring you know how to spot the signs of stress, so you can support your employees in the way they need is a key leadership skill. Knowing the red flags and how to spot the signs of stress in your team can make all the difference to how your team feel in the workplace. 

Allow Them More Time Away From Their Desk

We associate our desks with work. And if we associate our work with stress, then simply working in a different environment can help reduce any strong work-stress connotations. Offering remote working, or hybrid working is also a great way for companies to increase employee engagement and satisfaction rates. Offering a choice, being able to work where your creativity takes you, can be a really powerful motivator. 

Make Your Workspace a Green Space 

Studies have shown that including plants in a work environment can increase productivity by up to 15%. Touching and smelling indoor plants can also alleviate psychological stress. It seems like a simple measure, but may make a huge difference in the long run.

Talk It Out

Of course, nothing can help you understand how to combat a team member’s stress better than having a meaningful conversation. Let them know you’re there for them, that you’ll provide any support they need, and ask them what else you could do to help. You’d be surprised how much a 10 minute chat away from the desk can do. Sometimes offering a way to do this anonymously, can unlock additional insight that might help. 


If you’re leading a creative team and you’d like to understand their levels of engagement better, to turn up their creativity and productivity, Ten Space can help -

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