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The 5 types of daily workplace experiences – and what they have to do with creativity

June 3, 2022

Five types of daily workplace experiences influence employees’ creative performance. That’s what a trio of researchers from the VCU School of Business has identified. They examined more than 11,000 surveys where employees shared their everyday workplace experiences and rated their workdays on several key factors that stimulate and inhibit creativity.

They came up with the following definition:

Toxic days

“These are low in stimulant factors such as freedom and organizational support but high in obstacle factors such as time pressures and conservative attitudes. These days are rife with conflict, and not the good kind. Thankfully, they are uncommon, making up about 8% of the days.”

Disengaged days

“These are low in both stimulant and obstacle factors. Simply, people are “checked out” on these days, which make up about 10% of the workdays.”

Typical days

“As the name sounds, typical days show “average” levels of stimulant and obstacle factors. As one might expect, this was the most commonly occurring type, making up about 34% of all workdays.”

Ideal days

“These were high in all stimulant factors, and the obstacle factors were low. (Interestingly, there were still moderate levels of time pressure.) Simply, these days were the opposite of toxic days and made up about 30% of all workdays.”

Crisis days

“These were unique in being high in both stimulant and obstacle factors. Simply, there were a combination of toxic and ideal days, making up about 19% of all days. These days seem to have “good” conflict, where employees are debating and wrestling with key problems in their work.”

The researchers from Virginia Commonwealth University found that people had a higher creative performance on ideal days relative to all other days, with creative performance being particularly hindered on toxic days and disengaged days, to an extent. It’s likely the presence of creative stimulants helps motivate people by creating a positive environment where they can be creative.

“It is important to understand and manage these daily workplace experiences to improve employee creative performance,” Mayoor Mohan, Ph.D., an associate professor of marketing said to VCU News. “As many contemporary organizations will attest, this is an area that is increasingly important for companies to develop a distinct competitive advantage.

The authors also say that people often have the same type of experience from one day to the next, mostly getting stuck in a rut. But the goal should be being able to smoothly sail in a supportive workplace, benefiting their creative ideation over longer spans of time. Inevitably, crisis days will occur and that’s not a bad thing, researchers highlight. “However, ensuring these days turn back into ideal days — and not into toxic or disengaged days — is key.”

Source: Virginia Commonwealth University | Journal of Product Innovation Management