Productivity vs. Creativity: Finding the Balance in Innovative Workplaces

By Deanna deBara | Published February 6, 2024

Many businesses claim to value creativity. For example, according to a survey from the World Economic Forum, a whopping 90 percent of business leaders recognize creativity as an important part of staying competitive in today’s market.

But that’s not always reflected in employees’ experience; in many companies, creativity is sacrificed in favor of getting more done. For example, according to a study from Adobe, 75 percent of workers said they felt pressured to be more productive than creative—and they reported only spending 25 percent of their time at work creating.

Both productivity and creativity are important—for both companies and workers. But how, exactly, do you strike the right balance—and build workplaces that create space for employees to be both productive and creative?

Shift the perspective

Some people view creativity as a hindrance to productivity; if people are spending too much time on ideas and creative work, they’re not actually getting anything done.

But that perspective is not only a hindrance to people doing their best work (you can’t perform at your highest level if you have no time or space to be productive), but it’s also just not correct. Creativity isn’t a barrier to productivity; it’s an essential part of productivity—and in order to foster a workplace that’s both creative and productive, it’s important to shift that perspective. Creativity isn’t preventing people from getting work done; it is, itself, work—and valuable work at that.

Creativity makes people (and businesses!) more productive in a number of ways, including:

  • Innovation: Innovation is a direct result of new, creative ideas. Workplaces that don’t foster creativity might be efficient (AKA productive), but they’re unlikely to innovate or evolve—which is a huge competitive disadvantage. 
  • Better problem-solving: Creativity encourages people to think outside of the box and find new, innovative solutions to existing problems—which, in turn, makes employees better, more resilient problem solvers.
  • Increased happiness: Research shows that creativity increases happiness and well-being—and a recent study from Oxford University found that workers are 13 percent more productive when they’re happy. As such, when employees are allowed time and space for creativity, they’ll be happier at work—and more productive as a result.

Creativity doesn’t stop productivity from happening; it’s a form of productivity itself—and if you want to find the balance between productivity vs. creativity in the workplace, you need to embrace that perspective.

Embrace automation

According to the Adobe survey, 52% of workers said lack of time was their biggest barrier to creativity at work.

So, if you want to create more time for creativity at work—without sacrificing productivity—one of the best things you can do? Look for ways to cut down on the time it takes to get work done—or, in other words, look for ways to automate tasks.

Review the tasks that you work on each day. Are there tasks that, instead of tackling manually, you could automate with a tool or software?

For example, let’s say you spend a lot of time responding to customer inquiries. If that’s the case, you might consider adding a chatbot to your website to handle customer FAQs—and take that time back to work on more creative tasks. Or let’s say you spend the bulk of your day posting and responding to comments on social media. Instead of manually posting each day, you could use a social media automation tool to batch schedule your posts for the month—and then use that time each day to work on the more creative elements of your social media strategy.

Even if you can’t fully automate a process, there are so many ways you can cut back on the time it takes you to manage that process—and therefore, create more time for creativity. For example, are you spending hours each day responding to emails? You can use a tool like ChatGPT to create email templates and, instead of starting from scratch for each message, you can just customize the template for that specific email. Starting with a template can significantly cut down your email response time—and over the course of the day, that time can add up, freeing up more of your schedule to focus on more creative work.

The point is, there are so many ways to automate tasks and processes in the workplace—and by doing so, you’re able to create more time for creative work without sacrificing efficiency and productivity. (It’s a win-win!)

Actionable ways to foster creativity and productivity in the workplace

Clearly, creating a balance between productivity and creativity at work is beneficial—both for the company and the team. But if you’re looking to prioritize both productivity and creativity, what are some ways to actually strike that balance—and empower yourself to not only get things done but carve out time to be creative?

  • Work on a variety of tasks: Research has found that switching between tasks reduces cognitive fixation and enhances divergent and convergent thinking—both of which play a major role in creativity. So, scheduling a variety of tasks throughout the day—and periodically switching between those tasks—will not only help you knock more items off your to-do list, but boost creativity in the process.
  • Take a walking meeting: Some meetings are unavoidable. But if you want your meetings to not only help you accomplish the task at hand but also increase creativity once the meeting is wrapped. Make it a walking meeting. Research has found that going for a walk—especially if that walk is outdoors—increases creative output by up to 60 percent.
  • Turn on some tunes: Another way to increase creativity as you tackle productive tasks is to listen to music as you work. One study found that listening to “happy music” encourages divergent thinking—delivering a boost of creativity in the process.

Productivity Tips  

Deanna deBara

Deanna deBara is an entrepreneur, speaker, and freelance writer who specializes in business and productivity topics. When she's not busy writing, she enjoys hiking and exploring the Pacific Northwest with her husband and dog. See more of her work and learn more about her services at