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Opinion: Forget the future, the past is where it’s at

  • Publish Date: Posted over 2 years ago
  • Author: Emma Richardson

​If you, like me, are someone who tends to overshare a little, you might be familiar with trying to reign this impulse in at work. But, perhaps you don’t have to…

Nostalgia is the act of remembering loved past experiences, a more carefree time in your life, moments that shaped you. Work — a place of forward thinking, proactivity and professionalism. On the face of it, the two don’t seem like they should coexist, but according to a study by Professor of Management Clay Routledge, this is not the case.

Through dozens of studies, Routledge discovered that previous assumptions of nostalgia in business were misguided. Instead of ‘undermining innovation, creativity, and ultimately progress’, he found that nostalgia provided ‘the motivation needed to move forward with purpose and focus’.

The study breaks the effects of nostalgia down into three positive categories:

  • Building strong relationships and teams

The act of sharing nostalgic stories ‘may help [employees] build deeper connections because nostalgia orients people toward social goals.’ Routledge also found that nostalgia is contagious — and the simple act of creating a work playlist with favourite nostalgic songs submitted by employees was an easy way of bringing people together towards a common goal.

  • Making work feel meaningful (reducing turnover)

This one is easy. When people recognise meaning in the past, they prioritise it in the present. ‘By encouraging employees to revisit meaningful memories created within the organization, managers can help the ones experiencing stress and burnout reconnect with what made their jobs meaningful in the past’.

  • Helping organisations be more creative and inspired

‘People are more likely to feel comfortable taking risks and exploring new ideas when they feel socially supported, energised, and confident.’ Nostalgia creates these conditions within teams — the security of knowing you are supported by your team will galvanize you to be your most creative self.

So, what can I take away?

Managers and up, think of nostalgia as one vital tool towards creating cohesion and trust within your teams. It can be as simple as introducing topics of conversation (school, university, past jobs) at desks or during informal meetings, or trying Routledge’s playlist idea.

For others, don’t be shy to share your past personal experiences — it turns out a little oversharing at work can be a very positive thing! ​