Do Creatives Work Better at Home or at the Office?
It's the best of both worlds.
"Everyone at Tesla is required to spend a minimum of forty hours in the office per week.... If you don't show up, we will assume you have resigned."
First, let's address the fact that we still live in a pandemic. Working from the office not only puts people at risk of contracting Covid-19 but also puts friends and families of employees at risk. It's safe to say that Musk doesn't care. Not only is he enforcing a strict WFO policy, but he thinks that health restrictions are "fascist."
At the end of his email, Musk said that creativity works best at the office:
"Tesla has and will create and actually manufacture the most exciting and meaningful products of any company on Earth. This will not happen by phoning it in."
This post isn't about Musk's opinions on the pandemic. Instead, let's talk about how the company might not create the best products ever by forcing employees, especially creatives, to work 40 hours a week from the office (in case you didn't already know, the United States Labor Law states that employees must not exceed working more than 40 hours per week).
As Covid-19 cases decline and symptoms weaken, the concept of "Return to Office" has left employees demotivated to work. The CIEL HR Services in India conducted a survey, showing that 60 percent of survey respondents would rather WFH with a lower salary or even quit their jobs than return to the office.
Here are four reasons why WFH can produce better creative work:
1. Creatives need flexibility
Part of being creative means suffering what is called "a creative's block." People need to change sceneries to get their juices flowing. People often get re-inspired by changing locations (for example, from home to a coffee shop to a garden. Creatives need to switch it up and avoid the monotonous day-to-day trip to the office. Let's face it, the greatest of ideas will not come about by sitting in a 6x6 cubicle with the loud sounds of clicking and typing coming from every angle of the office.
Of course, avoiding the office entirely isn't the way either. Some of the most incredible ideas are produced in a group effort through brainstorming. A more balanced and flexible strategy between WFH and WFO is best for a creative.
2. Creatives must not suffer from any distractions
Here you are, sitting with your headphones on, right on the cusp of the best idea ever, and then your coworker taps your shoulder to see if you have a pen they can borrow. Boom! Thought lost, and your idea is gone. Or, maybe your calendar disrupts your train of thought by reminding you of your 2-hour long daily workload meeting beginning in five minutes; that's another beautiful idea disrupted.
That doesn't mean your home doesn't have any distractions. I can hear your kids fighting in the other room. It just means that finding your own place with no distractions is your best bet. Only you can avoid annoying disruptions, and only you know where that place is.
3. Asynchronous collaboration works best for a creative
If your meetings can be handled through a Microsoft Teams meeting, then so be it. It's best for a creative to avoid long commutes to the office and back, or even commutes from the cubicle to conference room A. Such disruptions can contribute to the creative block. On the other hand, asynchronous collaboration can create more thoughtful participation, and employees might be in better shape to share more creative ideas.
4. Creatives do not need any added stress
The creative block on its own can be a stressful and fearful time for all creative employees. They cannot handle worrying about anything else. Stressors such as anxiety at work, worrying about kids, and feeling burnout (and surviving an entire pandemic) contribute to poor mental health and worsened creativity. If employees feel stressed to return to the office, then I can guarantee that their creativity and innovation will diminish.
"We’ve all felt it: our creative spark dulled or distinguished by the mundane realities of life. Routine tasks like commuting, running errands, raising children, and advancing careers fill our calendars." - Erin Eatough
Bottom line, if your employees have greater productivity and creativity working from home (meaning anywhere but the office), then it might be a good idea to create a hybrid model with flexibility to let the employees decide what works best for them.