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Confession: I’m not the most observant person in the world, but over the last year or so, I’ve noticed an almost hilariously-depressing phenomenon that I want to share with you.

Then I want you to try and see it for yourself.

Every morning as I’m driving to work, trying to hype myself up for the day ahead, I inevitably end up at a stop light. Even though I try really hard not to be a creep, I do casually glance into the cars around me. What I see is so disheartening.

Sad faces and tired eyes. Starbucks cups in hand. Facial expressions that couldn’t mask the dread if they tried. These are people who aren’t looking forward to work at. all.

When I finally pull into the parking lot, I see 3-4 people sitting in their cars around me, soaking up every last second possible before they absolutely have to walk into the building.

On the flip side, when it’s time to go home, I see smiles, laughs, mouths singing, and heads bobbing – visible joy at being done with a day of work and finally being free to enjoy the more important aspects of life.

If you let it, the working world can suck the life out of you.

Corporate America has a crappy reputation for forcing uniformity by rewarding conformity and penalizing individuality, the very essence of what makes you you.

For millennials, many of whom are multi-passionate, ultra-creative, and contra-status-quo, the corporate environment can be stifling. Not that you need an article to tell you this, but most millennials are looking for freedom, flexibility, and impact in a career, rather than solely focusing on money.

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It’s not just corporate either. In many workplace settings, millennials tend to feel frustrated, undervalued, and unmotivated.

From personal experience, I can tell you that it’s really, REALLY hard to mask these feelings.

At the end of 2017, I decided to be me, freely & unapologetically, in all facets of life, including at work. This means making less of an effort to alter the way I speak, dress, or style my hair to “fit in” to a particular standard.

Fortunately, I don’t work in corporate so I have a liiiiiitle more wiggle room. (But I do work in a government setting, so it’s not like I can just wild out, ya know?)

Anyway, I can tell you that dulling myself down less and allowing my creativity to shine through has made me feel much more comfortable at work.

Ultimately, if you can find ways to bring your creativity to work with you instead of checking it at the door, your time at work will suck less.

So are you ready to learn how to incorporate creativity into your workday? Then read on!

how to embrace your creativity in the workplace

Find the overlap between your interests and your job

I used to work in health communications, which means I got to nerd out over scientific articles and put them into language the general public gave a damn about. I did that through fact sheets, infographics, brochures, videos…

Within our millennial-heavy comms team, there was also a group that specifically worked on social media campaigns. I wanted in!

Since I enjoy social media, I asked bosslady if I could work with the social media team too. She was down for it, and I began drafting messages for our Facebook and Instagram pages and leading Twitter chats!

It didn’t feel like extra work because it was something I enjoyed and was good at.

It can’t hurt to try to find ways to incorporate your personal interests into whatever your work responsibilities are.

Take advantage of breaks

When I came back to work after maternity leave, I spent my work breaks pumping milk. (Yep, it was as much of a haze as it sounds like it was.) 

Now that that’s over (thank God!), I’m free to spend my breaks however I please. So what do I choose to fill my break time with?

Writing, of course, because that’s what I enjoy doing!

Engaging in a creative activity throughout the day gives me enough of a release so that I don’t feel like the whole day has passed without me doing anything I love.

Let your style shine through

Your physical appearance – the way you look and the clothes you wear – can really affect how you feel.

Even though many workplaces have rules about what is and isn’t acceptable, you can work within those rules to express your individuality without getting sent to HR.

Disclaimer: If you’re gonna push the boundaries, be ready for potential consequences!

I covered up my hair at work for about a month after I got purple highlights, but eventually I said f*** it and went all out.

Surprisingly I got compliments from my entire team, including my boss!

Join or start an interest group

Are you involved in any of the interest groups offered at your job?

Other than the ones dedicated to underrepresented minorities, many workplaces also have groups dedicated to various interests.

For example, we have a Toastmasters club for people interested in public speaking, a gardening club, and a young professionals group. These groups allow you to connect with people at your job who share similar interests as you.

If they don’t exist already, find out what it would take to start one.

It’s much more fun to spend 40-ish hours a week with people you share a creative interest with!

Apply creativity to solving problems related to your work

Creativity isn’t just about producing art. Creativity also includes problem-solving and thinking outside the box.

This strategy is a double-hitter because it solves two problems:
1. You get to do some creative thinking.
2. You’ll get mad props from your boss. (Yes, I said “mad props.”)

Even if the idea ends up not being feasible, your boss will likely appreciate your interest, enthusiasm, and problem-solving skills. (If she doesn’t, she might be a jerk, but don’t tell her I said it.)

Lead a creativity lunch & learn session

Yet another way to release some creative energy AND score cool points from your boss: plan a lunch & learn session for your team that’s based on creative development instead of traditional professional development.

You can include several creativity exercises and frame the session in a way that explains how creative thinking makes better employees. Use this list of creative team-building exercises to inspire you during your planning efforts!

One great exercise to include in your lunch & learn is the famously fun 30 circles test. I explain the 30 circles test in great detail here, plus you can download the worksheets you’ll need to lead the exercise! It’d be a fun, engaging exercise to include in the session and will give you some insight into how your coworkers think.

Decorate your office

A creative environment can do wonders for your mental health. What better way to express your creativity and individuality than to jazz up your workspace?!

It doesn’t have to take a lot of time, and the results can be amazing!

Here are a few ideas for how you can take your office from drab and depressing to individualized and invigorating!

  • personalized canvas prints or picture frames
  • color-coordinated trinkets from Hobby Lobby
  • drawings from your children, nieces, or nephews
  • inspirational quotes and artwork
  • lamps

Set the mood right

Since my work-mood changes from day to day, so does my music selection.

Personally, I’ve never encountered a problem that the right song couldn’t fix, so hit up Tidal, Spotify, Pandora, or whatever music streaming service you pay for and let your creative inspiration flow!

We're gonna set the mood right.

– Justin Timberlake

If it sucks that much, find a new job

Here’s where you have to use your own discretion. True, no job is worth your mental health, but at the same time, your bills ain’t gon’ pay themselves.

If you truly feel your job is eating you away piece by piece, you’ll want to work on getting out of there and replacing that income as soon as you can.

LinkedIn is a resource that many millennials sleep on, but you’ll definitely want to make use of the free platform if you’re looking to move on from your current job. I’ve written several posts and filmed a few videos with tips that can help you optimize your LinkedIn profile, so be sure to check those out.

Work doesn’t have to suck the life out of you. You deserve better than that.

how do you express your creativity at work?