Employees who take time to take part in creative pursuits are better able to recover from the demands of the job, so have more discretionary effort to give, according to the San Francisco State University study.
These activities done away from work seemed to have a direct effect on factors such as creative problem solving and helping others while on the job, said head researcher Kevin Eschleman, an assistant professor of psychology.
The creative down time, including anything from creative writing to playing video games, helped employees by restoring them through relaxation, increasing their sense of control, or challenging them to lean to new skills that can be transferable to one's job, but the study finds it also improved performance beyond those typical forms of recovery.
“They usually describe it as lush, as a deep experience that provides a lot of things for them," he said. "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."
Eschleman said that employers can encourage their employees to engage in more creative activities outside work, but the encouragement has to strike the right tone.
"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," he said, "because intrinsic motivation is part of that unique experience that comes with creative activity."
Eschleman suggested work activities such as a baking contest, or display of employee art, could be a way to support those activities, adding that companies could provide discounts to local art studios and other outlets for creative work.
"A lot of organizations carve time out where they talk about physical heath and exercise and eating habits, but they can also include in that a discussion of mental health
and the importance of recovery and creative activity," he said.
You might want to add craft supplies to your next stationery order, according to one recent study that finds creative activities outside work can boost employee job performance.