7 ways to create a highly creative work environment

By Robert Half 7th April 2017

Want to boost recruitment and retention? Make sure you offer your employees a supportive and highly creative work environment.

Many businesses today are calling for professionals who are innovative and creative in their work, adding value to their organisation in the long-term. To encourage this type of behaviour in the office, a good starting place is to assess the work environment and office culture. A creative work environment is an engaging one, that allows people to stretch their skills, find inspiration, communicate openly and do their best work.

What does the ideal creative work environment look like? As you probably guessed, there's not one right answer. But if you toured the offices of some of the most successful creative agencies and in-house teams, you'd likely notice some commonalities.

So, what might those commonalities be, and how can you use them to establish a culture that fuels employee fulfilment and innovative ideas at the workplace? Consider the following seven elements of a highly creative work environment.

1. Celebrate people and their work

The greatest drivers of happiness for UK employees are pride, fairness, respect, and feeling appreciated. This is supported by, new research published in The secrets of the happiest companies and employees, a report from our company that you can use to increase happiness in your office.

Be sure your staff feel valued, and regularly remind individual employees about how essential their contributions are to helping the team achieve its big-picture goals.

A supportive work environment is also one where success is lauded – there are a few creative employee recognition ideas you can try. For instance, does your office have a "brag board" where employees can post work they're proud of? Do you encourage innovation with ideas boards or idea incentives? Do you encourage team outings to toast a big completed job? These are low-cost, easy-to-implement approaches you can adopt immediately.

2. Reflect employees' interests

Your employees often come from different backgrounds, possess different skills and pursue a variety of activities outside work. Whether you allow employees to bring their dogs to the office, tackle individual or team-focused side projects, or express their personal fashion style, a more creative work environment will be achieved if you celebrate this diversity and allow your employees to be themselves and feel comfortable at work.

3. Encourage collaboration

Creativity and innovation rarely happens in a vacuum; it thrives on collaboration and the cross-pollination of ideas. The ideal office space is set up to make it easy for team members to work together, with ample communal space for people to meet up and swap ideas. These spaces encourage creative thinking exercises, such as regular ‘brainstorms’ or scrums.

Related: Why not schedule a lunch break with a non-finance person?

4. Respect communication

Nothing throttles the creativity and innovation in the workplace like the failure to communicate, such as managers who don't deliver full information about a project to the team, or employees who fear being honest with leaders.

In a work environment where top-quality work and openness are valued, even difficult conversations and constructive feedback are welcome. Maintain an open-door policy and keep the communication lines clear.

5. Set a tone of risk-taking

Many professionals feel their firms or departments don’t take enough risks. But risk is an inherent part of encouraging creativity and seeking out innovation to enhance your businesses' competitive advantage. Don’t micromanage employees, but do empower them to make bold decisions, and push them to take smart and calculated risks, when appropriate.

6. Fosters innovation

The CBI and the Behavioural Insights Team reviewed the UK's most productive business and how they encourage innovation. One key tip they found was the importance of ‘operational transparency’ which means showing employees the effect their work has on clients. For example, chefs who saw customers eat their food achieved higher customer satisfaction ratings in later meals.

Encouraging reflection in employees can be a smart way to foster innovation as this ensures employees aren't just going through the motions of their role, but are critically thinking about the actions and the impact of those actions on the business.

Read about the 4 innovative insights from the UK’s most productive businesses

7. Promotes learning and teaching

In the optimal work environment, employees are encouraged to grow by learning from their colleagues and taking on projects that introduce them to new techniques or skills. Whether it’s paying for employees to go to industry conferences or allowing them to attend training events during work hours, make sure you support employees in their professional development pursuits — and then ask them to share what they learn with their colleagues.

Considering how much time you and your employees spend on the job, it’s important that the work environment where everyone spends those hours is filled with positive energy and happiness. These seven tips will ensure you motivate your staff and encourage creativity and innovation in the workplace!

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