Top Workplace Trend Number 3

Top Ten Work Trends Quarterly Updates

A diverse group of SIOP members are serving as Trend Champions for the people-related work trends that SIOP members collaboratively predicted to be the most impactful in 2023. Each Trend Champion has expertise in and professional passion for their trend subject. SIOP appreciates their service to the profession in providing quarterly updates on their chosen topics.

Find the full list of topics and links to the other Top 10 Work Trends here

Trend #3: Managing the Transition into the Post-Pandemic World


2023 1st Quarter Update

Human behavior may seem simple, but often things are more complicated than we assume. For instance, having access to more choices or making more money does not always equal happiness. Similar complications occur in the workplace where context matters and individual differences drastically shape experiences. One supposedly simple assumption that we will discuss here is that employees must be present in their workplaces (most often offices) to be creative.

What is Creativity?

Before exploring this assumption further, let’s define creativity. Intriguingly, despite the ongoing buzz creativity receives, there is no standard definition of the term. Nonetheless, creativity scholars generally agree that creativity involves the creation of new and useful ideas. More recent conceptualizations incorporate surprise into the definition. The idea behind the incorporation of surprise into the definition of creativity is that it represents the novel and unexpected ideas that can materialize during the creativity process. These three elements of creative ideas are best optimized through thought trials where individuals present a wide range of novel ideas but rely on criteria such as practicality, time constraints, and potential costs to evaluate the feasibility of ideas. As mentioned earlier, surprise occurs throughout this process as employees discuss ideas and uncover new, unexpected insights.

How does Creativity Happen?

The action of employees meeting at a specified time in a specified place is a key assumption of our discussion of creativity. It is here where we now revisit our assumption that employees must be present in their workplaces to be creative. A study recently published in Nature aligns with the interests of Bob Iger and other CEOs in favor of employees returning to the office for the majority of the work week by demonstrating that employees came up with fewer creative ideas when collaborating on videoconferencing platforms. The performance of employees may have suffered because they focused on on-screen content instead of the creativity process. (Side note: Recall your last meeting on Zoom, Webex, or other videoconferencing platforms where you had to have your camera on while also focusing on on-screen content and remember how exhausted you were afterward). Though it is noteworthy that employees collaborating on video conferencing platforms were able to select which ideas to pursue at a rate similar to their peers working in person. Informal interactions and chance encounters in the workplace also play a role in the creative process. Informal, serendipitous interactions in the workplace seem to help employees complete creative projects. These serendipitous interactions also help employees be better liked, receive better performance evaluations, and receive assistance from colleagues in the future. Overall, it seems that being in the office facilitates creativity.

Lost magic found?

Since his return to Disney seemingly at the behest of unsatisfied shareholders Bob Iger expects to recapture the “magic” that Disney has seemed to have lost since his departure by requiring employees to return to the office at least four days a week. Helping Disney which has entertained and delighted us for decades seems to be a good enough (but not entirely satisfactory) reason to require employees to return to the office. While most of not have a hand in redesigning Disney theme park attractions or planning the next great Disney+ series our work does incorporate creativity. Maybe what Iger and other CEOs actually want is to create a time and space for the informal, serendipitous interactions that may (but aren’t guaranteed to) spark creativity. With that being said, there a couple of things we can do to (re)capture our creativity.

  • Using creativity and/or organizational culture as justification for demanding employees return to the office has been cleverly criticized by many. However, bringing employees together in a way that encourages the serendipitous informal interactions discussed above potentially has great value for employees and organizations. There are many ways to go about creating places and spaces for these interactions from office design to company outings. With the appropriate planning, one way to do this would be to bring employees together to share meals, specifically meals served family style. Yes, passing dishes around during the course of a meal can be a little awkward, but there is evidence that the act of sharing food makes people feel more connected to one another and more likely to cooperate. So perhaps the occasional department meal could address multiple issues at once.
  • My second, and more pointed suggestion is that companies use meeting time wisely. Meetings do not top the list of many employee’s favorite thing about their workplace experience, although there is a way to better run meetings related to creative endeavors. Brucks and Levav’s research which was referenced earlier provides insight on how to do so. It seems that generating potential creative ideas is best accomplished with in person meetings, whereas deciding which course of action to take with a creative idea could be done over Zoom or other videoconferencing technology. In other words, I suggest that a hybrid approach could make the creative process more efficient for everyone.

In closing, I challenge everyone to keep an open mind when it comes to creativity and the creative process. Afterall, creativity is supposed to be an enjoyable process.

Champion: William Luse, PhD

William Luse, PhD

Dr. William Luse is an Assistant Professor of Management and Leadership at the University of La Verne where he teaches Negotiation, Organizational Behavior, and Conflict Management courses. Dr. Luse’s research interests include individual differences, groups/teams, and organizational justice. His research is published in Journal of Applied Psychology, Equality, Diversity, and Inclusion: An International Journal, and Current Psychology.