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Why You Should Let Employees Work On Passion Projects On The Clock

Letting your employees work on non-business-related projects on the clock might be the best way to keep top performers happy.

Why You Should Let Employees Work On Passion Projects On The Clock
[Photo: Flickr user cottage industries]

As a manager, one of your biggest fears is probably losing your top talent. I know that as my team grows I’ll want to do everything in my power to ensure the people I hire stick around to help the company reach every lofty goal put in place.

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But it’s easy for managers to get caught up in corporate goals and forget to set aside time to nurture employees’ creative outlets. It’s critical that we learn how to empower people to explore and experiment in their roles so that we bring out the best in what they have to offer.

For a recent hire, I wanted to figure out the perfect balance in his day-to-day that would allow him time to work on passion projects while on the clock. Here’s the business case that I’ll pitch to my own boss.

Making The Business Case

While there are a lot of advantages to building structure into a creative role–time management and accountability–having too tight of a daily schedule can limit a person’s creative output. By introducing passion projects to the daily workflow, managers are giving their team members the opportunity to explore new concepts, which can ultimately lead them to more creative business solutions down the line.

Learning to Teach Creativity

Just like you should build time into your staffs’ schedule for passion projects, you also need to carve out a few hours to jumpstart your creative juices.

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Research suggests that teachers can successfully cultivate creative mindsets by nurturing their own passions. Results from these experiments show that teachers can actively transfer more creative characteristics when they lead by example in the classroom. The same can apply to managers and bosses in the workplace.

Managers need to discover ways to bring their unique and personal creative interests into brainstorm sessions and group projects. Your primary job should always be to help your team improve upon their unique skills. The more you can inspire through action and education, the more you’ll get out of them when it comes to time-intensive projects.

Giving Autonomy To Your Creative Team Members

There’s a lot to be said about freedom in the workplace–having the option to prioritize projects based on an individual’s preferred schedule.

I’m a hands-off manager in that I give direct reports the freedom to manage their own time, while still setting a standard that work must get done on deadline. A recent study out of Rice University found that leadership and creativity might come from a manager’s ability to give an employee the autonomy and freedom to carry out a job in the way he or she sees fit. Meaning, an employee who is given the control to manage his schedule develops stronger leadership, problem-solving, and creativity skills.

“Empowering leadership may be especially effective at promoting creativity for those who have high levels of both uncertainty avoidance and trust in their supervisors,” Jing Zhou, the Houston Endowment professor of management at Rice’s Jones Graduate School of Business, says in the report.

Cultivating Creativity Through Hands-Off Management

There’s a talent war raging in the business world. As managers, we have to identify those worth investing in, and do everything in our power to help them achieve both their professional and personal goals.

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I’m learning a lot about what it means to be a leader, and in this case, it’s that I need to learn how to give up control when it comes to the creative process. I cannot expect team members to churn out good idea after good idea unless I give them the freedom to flex their creative muscles. So I’m working to free up their schedules and taking on more work myself to guarantee they’re a success in and out of the company.

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About the author

Ted Karczewski is a writer and marketing strategist who focuses on bridging the gap between the creative and business worlds. He is the managing editor of the Content Standard, a media site covering creativity, innovation, leadership, and business transformation for Skyword, a content marketing platform and services company.

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