Employees who get out the office ‘are more innovative’

20 Oct 2017 By Hayley Kirton

Study finds staff are most creative when given time to consider ideas from multiple sources

Businesses that want their employees to be more innovative should send them out of the office more often, new research has found.

The study from King's College London’s King’s Business School and the University of Amsterdam revealed that managers who demand constant outputs from their staff don’t give their teams enough time to think, preventing them from formulating new ideas.

The researchers, who studied more than 1,000 people working in consultancy and almost 200 in healthcare, also found that the best ideas were developed when employees were given time to consider feedback from multiple sources, as opposed to just what they could find in their office cubicle.

“People need to get out of the office and seek feedback from the likes of friends, family, customers and suppliers on their ideas, but that alone is not enough,” said Frederik Anseel, professor of organisational behaviour at King's Business School and one of the study’s lead researchers. “They need time to consider and reflect. It’s not just for entrepreneurs, but for anyone who wants to be innovative.”

Roy Sijbom, assistant professor at the University of Amsterdam in the department of work and organisational psychology and the study’s other lead author, said: “The idea is simple: seeking feedback from different sources – also known as feedback source variety – benefits one’s creativity since it leads to a greater diversity of viewpoints. And the more diverse the viewpoints, the more it benefits one’s creativity because, by combining and integrating all the different viewpoints, new perspectives will emerge that in turn will result in more creativity.”

Other recent studies have also suggested that too much time in the office might be taking its toll on employees. A report published in September by research company Leesman revealed that only half (57 per cent) of staff worldwide felt that their workplace fostered productivity, while research published in August by workplace and office design consultants Peldon Rose found that 42 per cent of employees believed their office had no positive effect on their happiness.

“If you look outside your everyday world then you are going to be looking in new and fresh places for stimulus and inspiration,” said Mok O’Keeffe, founder of The Innovation Beehive. “This will help you to be exposed to new trends and opportunities, and to see your challenge or opportunity from a new perspective. This will then lead you to have different ideas from the competition – and it is new ideas that will deliver growth.”

Meanwhile, a separate study from King’s Business School, which was published earlier this month, discovered that the people who were most dedicated to their job were also the least productive. Such people were more likely to work long hours and less likely to be able to switch off when they did leave work, which, in turn, depleted their energy for the following day.  

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