A change of scenery — like Kanye West and Madonna have done — can boost your work performance, experts say
Pulling a Kanye might improve your workflow.
The rapper’s controversial tweets have raised eyebrows lately — but he did make the right moves in retreating to Jackson Hole, Wyoming last week to finish his new album dropping at the end of the month. Experts say that a change of scenery can spark greater creativity and improve your overall happiness and quality of life.
“We get into ruts at work by following strict routines,” career coach Dr. Todd Dewett tells Moneyish. “Routines give us efficiency, but can mess up the way we think. That’s the problem.”
Many other celebrities have taken similar work getaways to get their creative juices flowing. Madonna fled to Comporta, a seaside village in Portugal, ahead of her Met Gala performance last week. Her Instagram feed showed her riding a horse on the beach before the big night. Singer-songwriter John Mayer has a ranch in Montana where he escapes to write music, and actress-turned-lifestyle guru Gwyneth Paltrow frequently taps into her own mental health and wellness at a spa in Sedona.
But you don’t necessarily have to hop on a plane to get re-energized. Research suggests that the most innovative employees are those who get to choose their work spaces, which can be a conference room, a cafe or Cabo San Lucas. These transient employees typically spend only 74% of the working week at the office, in fact, and are twice as likely as other employees to utilize an office cafeteria or outdoor space instead of a desk.
“The way the brain works is pretty simple: we operate on autopilot for the vast majority of our days,” Dewett explains. “Working in a place that’s new, you mess up those routines, and the brain tends to kick into conscious processing. The big new location is about … waking the brain up, because you’ve changed the script.”
Studies show that we are not meant to be physically sitting at a desk for long periods of time. Simply standing up and moving around to improve blood flow to the brain can work wonders to enhance cognition. But when it comes to really improving your mood and generating ideas, going to a new city or even working from a different space like a coffee shop, restaurant or a different floor in your office building, can have a posItive effect.
“It has to do with a process called habituation. At work we are accustomed to the same surroundings all the time. Your senses might be heightened if you’re somewhere new, and it sparks different thoughts that get you more excited and engaged,” Dr. Patricia Thompson, president of Silver Linings Psychology tells Moneyish. “It’s like when you go on vacation, and you feel recharged and renewed. Whenever you change things up, it puts you in a better mood, which is linked to more productivity.”
A SUNY Buffalo study also found that social withdrawal can increase creative thinking — which could be the perfect creative catalyst for urban dwellers accustomed to the noise and crowds of the city. And, by contrast, those who live in rural areas should explore cities every so often, where there are more opportunities to connect with different kinds of people and generate new ideas, research suggests.
“Getting out of a traditional office setting has been vital to my success as a writer,” says freelance writer Hilary Sheinbaum, currently in Manhattan, who has also worked from six different cities — including Los Angeles, Chicago, and Louisville this year alone — to change things up.
“Being able to experience other cities and cultures, and practice first-person research, has allowed me the opportunity to observe people and trends in their natural states — literally and figuratively,” she explains. “Similarly, traveling — and even working from coffee shops or in New York City — helps me see how people are living outside of my inner circle and even my neighborhood, and what conversations are taking place that I otherwise might not partake in.”
But before booking a flight, Dewett recommends experimenting with leaving the office on occasion to work nearby first, pending approval from your boss. Dewett suggests explaining to your boss that you’d prefer to work remotely for X-number of days, and make it clear that you will meet all of your deadlines just as you would if you were in an office setting.
“I’d suggest that a person should try to shake up the location routine at least once per month locally, and once per quarter in another office – assuming they have another office,” Dewett says.
If you don’t have another office, Dewett recommends checking out co-working spaces like a WeWork, public libraries or even outdoor parks where you feel like you’ll get inspiration rather than more distractions.
“If trying a new location near the office, you need to carve out at least two hours to get comfortable and see how it feels,” she says. “If (you’re going to) another office or city, spend three to four days minimum. After experimenting a bit, you’ll settle on a duration that works for you.”
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