When was the last time you found yourself with a block of free time at work? Maybe a meeting got cancelled or a client call got delayed. These surprise gifts of free time can be used in all kinds of beneficial ways at work, from taking time to brainstorm to gathering the team for a spontaneous outing.

Pete Hinojosa, the director of thought leadership at Insperity, says there are some major benefits to unscheduled moments, especially when your calendar is usually packed. He calls them “unscheduled adventures,” and they can help boost employee engagement and creativity. And since this level of spark isn’t usually achievable in an overly rigid schedule, he recommends creating the kind of environment that leaves room for those special moments.

In this issue of PromoPro Daily, we share Hinojosa’s thoughts on how to support more unscheduled adventures at work.

Understand yourself. Self-awareness is key when embracing unscheduled moments. Do you tend to appreciate the break, or do you get frustrated when things don’t go as planned. Hinojosa says there’s no right or wrong — just different ways of thinking and handling situations.

Understand others. It’s also important to know what other people on your team prefer. For example, some employees may like to stick to an agenda and get things done while others may like to go with the flow and avoid adhering to any set schedule. Knowing your team members can help you anticipate how they’ll respond to unscheduled moments.

Know your workplace culture. Is your company the kind of place that already allows room for spur-of-the-moment conversations? Does your company value continuous learning and development? Hinojosa suggests assessing what your culture will tolerate when your team veers off schedule.

Model the right behavior. If your team members see you go berserk like Clark Griswold in Christmas Vacation, they’ll probably follow suit. Instead, give people room to explore, stretch and grow by infusing the atmosphere with calm and assurance, Hinojosa says.

Unscheduled moments can be just the way to usher in more creativity. Instead of saying “We need to get back on track,” leave room for spontaneity. Some unexpected free time can help shake things up in the best possible ways. As a leader, you can help your team make the most of unscheduled moments while still accomplishing your goals. You can start by understanding yourself, your people and your workplace. From there, give your team permission to make the most of unplanned free time.

Compiled by Audrey Sellers

Source: Pete Hinojosa is the director of thought leadership at Insperity. He has more than 25 years of experience in training and development.