Is the office environment stifling creativity in your company?

The majority (55%) of office workers in British small and medium businesses (SMBs) are still required to be in the office all day, every day in order to get their work done, yet this could be hampering the creativity of some of our brightest workers according to new research from Microsoft and Ipsos MORI.

When did you have your best idea at work?

We asked over a 1,000 employees of SMBs up and down the country about a range of issues. One of the areas we looked at was creativity and when employees had their “best ever” work-related idea. Only one in ten (11%) said this had come when physically in the office. Most identified a location away from the office – 20% said home, 10% said on their commute to work, 9% said in the shower or bath and 7% said the car. Some of our best ideas are literally ‘dreamt up’ when asleep – 7% said this was when they had their best ideas and an unfortunate 8% admitted they’d never had a good work-related idea.

Looking at productivity in a different way

Businesses of all sizes find themselves in a transition and are constantly looking for the best ways to reinvent themselves and gain competitive advantage by being different. At Microsoft, our stated mission is to help organisations ‘reinvent productivity’. At the heart of this is helping people make the most of the moments that matter to them whether at work, home or on the move.

The original definition of ‘productivity’ dates back to the 15th century and refers to “bringing into being” to “develop, proceed or extend”. Productivity was all about the ‘magic’ of creating things. Today’s SMB employees are some way from this definition and the research shows that many have become focused on ‘ticking off’ more mundane tasks when in the office.  When the people surveyed were asked what a ‘productive’ day at work means, they largely listed less creative endeavours – 81% said ticking off everything on their ‘to do’ list was important, 60% said attending all the meetings in the calendar was important and nearly half (42%) said achieving zero email in their inbox at the end of the day was important.

Bring creativity back to the SMB workplace

While the activity outlined above may to some extent be necessary it’s unlikely to truly ‘make a difference’ to an SMB, many of which thrive on creativity and innovation. It could be that there are still too many employees compelled to spend their entire working week in the office given that over half (55%) are not permitted by their employer to work flexibly.

As well as being more creative when out of the office, it could be that we’re more productive too. One in three (32%) mentioned that fewer distractions in the office would also help them be more productive. So, allowing SMBs workers to spend at least some time out of the office environment could reap huge rewards. With a substantial number of employees now having access to mobile devices and Cloud computing services, it really can be business as usual from any location.

Does a company need its staff to work in an office?