Germans protest "for the revival of the cultural and club scene, through the creative use of public space" in Berlin, May 1.

Feeling creative? Join the pandemic-weary.

Isolation and remote work have led to a burst of innovation – and a search for the sources of creativity.

After a year of staying at home during the pandemic, more than half of Americans have picked up a new creative pastime, according to one survey. More than half say they are working more collaboratively from home than in the workplace. Another survey shows a boom in patents for new technologies to assist at-home work. And unlike previous recessions, the United States has seen more than 4.4 million new businesses created over the past year.

In Europe, meanwhile, a survey of managers and employees found 82% say their productivity rate held steady or increased after learning to work remotely. A majority said remote work is a powerful way to retain top talent. In both Europe and the U.S., productivity is expected to increase 1.5% a year until 2024 – or double the pre-pandemic rate, according to the McKinsey Global Institute.

All this was not expected a year ago. The great disruption of COVID-19 has led to a great burst of creativity or, at the least, a search for ways to foster and manage creativity.

According to the World Economic Forum, the pace of change in industries will require more than half of employees to acquire new skills by 2025. And what skills are most needed? They are creativity, active learning, innovative thinking, and originality. The shifts caused by the pandemic “have accelerated the need for reskilling, upskilling, learning and redeployment at scale,” according to the WEF.

“We have learned skills that we didn’t have,” said Christine Lagarde, president of the European Central Bank, at a recent Aspen Security Forum. “We have experienced remote working relationships, we have not lost much in terms of productivity, quite, sometimes, to the contrary.”

One change is most noticeable, according to Jon Friedman, Microsoft’s vice president for design and research: Companies no longer define productivity as how much a worker produces in a period of time. Rather, workers are judged for creativity and innovation.

By that standard, many of the limits once set for work and for workers are coming off.

As poet Maya Angelou said, “You can’t use up creativity. The more you use, the more you have.” For all the finite restrictions imposed by the pandemic, people have chosen to tap into an infinitely renewable resource.

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