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Problems At Home Impact Employee Creativity

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Problems At Home Impact Employee Creativity

Mayowa T. Babalola , Associate Professor of Organizational Behavior & Human Resources at NUGSB.

Ever felt left out at home or at the office? Research has shown that feeling excluded at home can negatively impact employee creativity, more so than feeling excluded at work.

- Feeling ostracised by family creates stress which employees takes to work

-This has a negative impact on their creativity

-Creativity is vital to the success and growth of an organisation

During the coronavirus pandemic, many countries introduced ‘work from home if you can’ mandates. Thanks to this, many of us have become very familiar with the trials and tribulations of remote working: internet connection cutting out during an important Zoom call, children running amok as we work towards an important deadline, and the isolation of not working amongst your colleagues.

Two years on and, although employees are moving towards going into the office again, many companies are adopting hybrid models, allowing employees to work both from home and the office.

And whilst many (certainly younger) employees embrace these greater flexibilities, some of us still find ourselves struggling with certain aspects of remote working – even two years down the line. When you’re working from home, it can be hard to separate your personal and professional life, especially if you don’t have the luxury of a dedicated office space to work in. Whilst some struggle for space and peace whilst working from the kitchen table, others can roll out of bed, wander the short distance to their spare room/makeshift office and isolate themselves for the next eight hours with only a laptop for company.

But perhaps the “home office” isn’t as beneficial as it seems. Given the increase in working from home, it’s important to understand how family and home experiences can impact employees and their professional output.

Researchers from Nazarbayev University Graduate School of Business were interested in exactly this. Associate Professor Mayowa Babalola and colleagues decided to investigate what happens when employees feel alienated by loved ones at home. Surprisingly, feeling ignored or excluded by family members is more prevalent than you may think – past research reveals around 60% of individuals report feeling ostracised by their partners.

Data was collected from employees about their need for affiliation, perceived family ostracism, strain-based family-to-work conflict (this is strain in the family that interferes with work responsibilities), and creative process engagement. Finally, they asked supervisors to evaluate their employees’ creativity.

They found that feeling excluded by family at home creates stress which the individual then takes to work; this results in lower creative process engagement, which ultimately inhibits creativity at work. Work creativity includes the generation of new and useful ideas around products, processes and procedures. Employees with a greater need for affiliation at home were more susceptible to these negative effects. Their results also showed that the impact of family ostracism on creativity is more significant than the impact of workplace ostracism.

Employee creativity plays a vital role when it comes to the longevity of an organisation, so it is important for leaders to understand what can hinder it. Professor Babalola says,

“Employee creativity is central to the success, growth and survival of organisations. Leaders can play a crucial role in stimulating creativity in their employees, but its development can be limited by the effects of family ostracism, so they should encourage awareness of the effects of family-related issues on creativity and develop initiatives to help individuals deal with family-based stressors. Possible approaches include developing employee mindfulness and psychological capital, and building a supportive work climate.”

Organisations would also benefit from taking steps to identify and support employees experiencing family ostracism, says Professor Babalola. “They should ensure the work environment is a place where employees can fulfil their socio-emotional need for affiliation, mitigating the negative effects of family ostracism that would otherwise pose a risk to them.”

This research acknowledges that family is an integral part of employee functioning, both at home and at work. We can’t just assume that an employee being able to work more from home – or being forced to during strict covid regulations – is always seen a positive thing.

If you’re a manager or CEO and your employees are working from home, are you regularly checking in with them? Not just to make sure they’re doing their work, but to check in on how they themselves are coping? If not, perhaps you should start.