It’s no secret that helping people tap into what makes them feel engaged at work can boost morale and increase productivity. An engaged employee is more communicative, collaborative, and just plain happy. On the other hand, not-so-engaged employees may struggle to tap into their creativity, and have a hard time seeing the purpose in their work. But how important is it, really, to encourage employees to fulfill their personal interests and invest time in their passion projects outside of the office? The answer: very.

It turns out that supporting employees with endeavors that might have nothing to do with their job titles comes with a host of benefits for workers and bosses alike. Engagement in a passion project has been found to help workers reduce stress, boost energy levels, and switch “off” the workday when they leave the office — which allows them to return more refreshed and inspired the next day.

If you’re a manager looking to support your employees’ passion projects but aren’t sure where to start, these simple strategies will help. 

Bring it up in your one-on-ones

One-on-one meetings with your direct reports play a huge role in building positive rapport and overall company culture. These check-ins are also a great opportunity to discuss any outside interests that matter to employees. Make it clear that you care about who they are and what they are interested in — both inside and outside of the workplace, and ask how you can support them to keep up those pursuits. To effectively show your support, encourage them to talk about these things regularly, instead of making it a one-time thing.

Make it part of your company conversation

The best way to show support for your team members’ passions is to normalize a culture of caring about those passions. Discuss outside achievements at company all-hands meetings. Did someone run a 5K or complete a marathon? Give them some kudos! Is someone’s garage band playing at a local bar? Maybe they want to invite their colleagues and allow them to participate in the passion, too. As a company leader, you can also take the conversation into your own hands and lead by example by sharing your passions with your colleagues. 

Leave room for different work styles and attitudes

As a boss or a manager, it can be tempting to want your employees to relate to work in the exact same way that you do — but that’s not realistic. If work is your main passion, it can be hard to see why others “need” to find fulfillment in other places. Yet being open to other people’s unique needs is exactly the kind of attitude that increases employee trust and leads to better manager-employee relationships overall — which is as good for the company’s bottom line as it is for an employee’s happiness.

Encourage a culture of giving back

Making volunteerism a staple of your company’s culture is another sure-fire way to put your employees in touch with their passions. Research shows that corporate volunteerism gives employees the opportunity to express “personally meaningful values,” which in the long run can help them feel more committed to their organization. What’s more, providing employees with the chance to give their time and energy to a cause they wouldn’t otherwise become involved in can help them find a passion they didn’t know they had.

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