The Positive Effect of Creative Hobbies on Performance at Work

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Why photography, cooking or other creative hobbies might help you get on at work.

People who have a creative hobby outside work may find it boosts their work performance, according to a new study by organisational psychologists.

The study looked at the indirect effect of creative hobbies like photography, needlework or cooking on work performance (Eschleman et al., 2014).

The study found that creative hobbies may help employees recover from the demands of their job.

People in the study talked passionately about their activities outside of work.

The study’s lead author, Kevin Eschleman, said:

“They usually describe it as lush, as a deep experience that provides a lot of things for them.

“But they also talk about this idea of self-expression and an opportunity to really discover something about themselves, and that isn’t always captured with the current recovery experience models.”

In the study, two groups of people were asked about their creative activities outside work and also how creative they were at work.

The first group of 341 employees self-rated their job performance while a second group of 92 US Air Force captains were evaluated by coworkers and subordinates.

The results from both samples showed that those who had a creative hobby were more likely to feel a sense of relaxation outside work and to feel greater control and a sense of mastery.

At work, meanwhile, those with a creative hobby were more likely to help others and to be more creative in the performance of their job.

Statistical analysis suggested that the better job performance was partly a result of a greater sense of mastery and control during off-time.

Creative recovery

This study doesn’t mean organisations should start forcing employees to take up creative hobbies.

Eschleman continued:

“One of the main concerns is that you don’t want to have someone feel like their organization is controlling them, especially when it comes to creative activities.

Because intrinsic motivation is part of that unique experience that comes with creative activity.”

Instead the authors suggest:

“Large organizations, such as Zappos Inc., incorporate employee artwork into office decorations.

Other similar activities commonly found in organizations include food cook-offs, cross-discipline education opportunities, and costume contests during holidays.

A more cost-effective and less intrusive approach for organization is to inform employees that creative activity may help them recover from the workplace.” (Eschleman et al., 2014)

Image credit: Margot Gabel

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About the author


Dr Jeremy Dean is a psychologist and the author of PsyBlog. His latest book is "Making Habits, Breaking Habits: How to Make Changes That Stick". You can follow PsyBlog by email, by RSS feed, on Twitter and Google+.

Published: 28 April 2014

Text: © All rights reserved.

Images: Creative Commons License