Telum Talks To… Huang Xu, Associate Dean (Research and Postgraduate Studies), HKBU School of Business

Telum Talks To… Huang Xu, Associate Dean (Research and Postgraduate Studies), HKBU School of Business

Professor Huang Xu from Hong Kong Baptist University (HKBU) recently conducted a research that looked at how satisfying marriages and relationships can help boost employee creativity. Today he shares his top tips on maintaining personal well-being and how companies can help employees enhance their creativity.

What inspired you to embark on this research?
Over the last two decades, research has shown that work-family role balance is critical to the well-being and productivity of employees. 10 years ago, we were asked by an agent in Guangzhou to conduct a survey on married couples to understand their family life. We thought that this presented a great opportunity for us to deeply investigate the dynamics of work-family role balance. This led us to come up with the hypothesis that in order to have a good balance, the marital satisfaction of both husband and wife needs to be considered.

In light of your findings, how can internal communications or in-house teams best communicate with their colleagues on best practices to boost creativity in the workplace?
Based on our research, personal psychological resources are critical for creativity. The research provided that an employee’s marital satisfaction helps boost these psychological resources, and we see that there are many ways companies can design policies that further enhance this effect. For example, internal communication teams can look beyond the typical factors that encourage creativity and open the discussion in the office on the important role romantic relationships play on workplace creativity. They can encourage feedback from employees on what support they might need to foster their creativity at work.

Companies can also organise activities that enhance the psychological and physical well-being of their employees both at work and outside work, such as family counselling services.  

How significant are romantic relationships in raising employee productivity and creativity?
Romantic relationships are not always beneficial for employee productivity. As shown in our research, even when a husband is satisfied with his marriage, if his wife is dissatisfied, the marriage won’t bring him the extra energy or psychological resources that help enhance his creativity at work. As I pointed out above, there are many ways organisations and individuals can do to maximise creativity. 

How can employers change their approach or introduce new initiatives to inspire employees with lower creative potential?
Our research shows that some employees are born to be creative. For these employees, companies don't need to do much. But for employees with low creative personalities, companies should do more of the above well-being development activities. In addition, I believe that creativity is strongly associated with an individual's ability to connect diverse information and knowledge. To help lower creative individuals improve their creativity, exposing them to diverse teams or organisational contexts and encouraging them to learn new skills and knowledge will be beneficial. 

PR professionals often have to work long hours and under stressful environments. What can they do to manage their personal well-being and maintain work-life balance?
My research doesn't say much about this. But based on my understanding from scientific literature, it is hard to strike a balance for some professions, unless the organisations / companies have some work-life balance scheme in place. As far as I know, some companies have policies limiting over-time working hours, and others organise regular family gathering parties or activities for their employees. Some organisations regularly invite employees' family members to visit their companies. These can all contribute to personal well-being.

Finally, what are some effective ways to enhance work efficiency?
Maintaining good physical health, keeping a strong interest in work tasks, having learning opportunities and good role models at work as well as fostering a creative climate / culture can all help improve efficiency and creativity.

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