It is hard to believe we are quickly approaching the three-month mark since transitioning to working from home, and it is starting to look like many of us may not see a return to the traditional office for quite a while. With tech giants like Twitter taking the plunge to go fully remote, it is only logical that many larger companies and remote-friendly firms will follow suit.
However, while remote work may seem seamless for some, many creative businesses are still questioning whether it is truly possible to recreate a creative environment with a remote team. Without the luxury of swiveling your office chair and spontaneously bouncing ideas off your team, will we still be able to cultivate the big ideas we need in order to be successful?
The short answer? Absolutely, but it is not going to come without a few growing pains. Cultivating a creative environment that is conducive to big ideas takes intention, patience, and many hours of trial and error. Not sure where to start? Here are four things you should be doing right now to kick-start your team's creativity when working from home.
1. Keep your audio and video on.
With a full schedule of Zoom meetings every day, videoconferencing fatigue has become a significant problem in 2020. But while some meetings can certainly be run with audio only (we have all felt the pain of video calls that could have been an email, or worse, an IM), brainstorming with your team is not the time to shy away from using all the tools at your disposal.
When inciting creative ideas, make it a priority to keep your audio and video on at all times and encourage your staff to do the same. This makes it easier to pick up social cues and be able to more naturally bounce ideas off one another. Make sure to give everyone a chance to verbalize their thoughts and not get interrupted, but also allow ample time for impromptu discussion and collaboration.
2. Try your hand at group speed brainstorming.
If you are finding that one of your employees is really stuck for ideas, try hosting a speed brainstorming session with your entire team. Give everyone a time limit between 10 and 15 minutes and have them write down every stream-of-consciousness thought or idea that comes to mind during that time. They get one minute to edit, and then each person has to share their ideas with the entire team (again, with audio and video on).
The idea behind this strategy is to force your brain to start thinking creatively. Remember, there are no truly bad ideas. You never know when what you think is a "bad idea" will inspire down the line.
3. Take advantage of what you can do at home.
I will be the first to admit that working from home may have proved more challenging than some of us may have initially expected, beyond the health scares and concerns for vulnerable family members. Personally, there's a constant battle for attention in my home between my personal life (my lovely children, partner, and puppy) and my increased workload. However, despite the challenges, there are so many benefits to working from home that can help spark your creativity.
My advice? Use this time to lean into the things that help you get into a creative mindset that you may not be able to do in a traditional office. Whenever I am in a creative rut, I take my dog for a walk in the sunshine and blast my Spotify Daily Mix. This will take some experimenting, but once you have a few creativity boosters on your list, it will be easier to get the ideas flowing on a consistent basis.
4. Give yourself permission to ditch the technology.
It is so easy as leaders to get into an always-on mentality, especially when working remotely. You want your team to know that you are available for them at all times, which means you end up never truly retiring for the night -- your Slack status is set to active, your email is open, and your mind is constantly running with problems from the past day. Unfortunately, while it may give you some peace of mind in the short term, this is not the best strategy for fostering creativity.
If your team has a creative task or group brainstorm coming up, let them know that it is OK to log off every once in a while to really dive deep into the throws of ideation. In the end, this comes down to trust and knowing that your team has the skills, motivation, and tools to get the job done.
Remember, the most original ideas rarely come from a rigorously structured and time-pressed environment. Give yourself permission to log off, have an afternoon coffee, and give your brain a chance to work.