Unlocking your remote team’s creativity


-Remote team’s creativity requires different strategies than traditional teams to come through

-Collaboration between coworkers is essential to unlocking the team’s creativity, but autonomy and flexibility are just as important in remote teams.

Ensuring that virtual meetings are a safe space for everyone to participate is crucial. Still, asynchronous collaboration can be even more effective because it allows people to create original concepts through thoughtful observation.

-Time, autonomy, and diversity breed creativity, and these elements are easy to find in remote working environments.

Spontaneous interactions and brainstorming sessions in office settings are considered some of the primary sources of creation and innovation. But the massive migration to remote work worldwide has proven these beliefs to be only partially true

New ideas don’t only spark while physically interacting with coworkers, as these encounters can sometimes create the opposite effect. Strategies and methods to breed creativity in workplaces were built through decades, but they were designed in many cases for physical settings. As the Covid-19 pandemic hit and millions transitioned to and stayed telecommuting, new approaches are established to boost work innovation.

Employers everywhere started to experiment with their remote teams and had to challenge preconceived notions on how employees come up with new ideas. In reality, this new way of working can further foster innovation. This article will go through some strategies to help employers unlock their remote team’s creativity.

Collaboration is one of the best ways to do this physically and at a distance. But autonomy can be, for many team members, the state in which they can truly be innovative. Working without the distractions of an office helps employees focus deeply on their work. Also, managers should provide their employees with a broader time frame to work on creative tasks. Micromanaging and not allowing people to be relatively independent can stifle their creative thinking. In many cases, people come up with the best ideas as they take a walk or do activities by themselves. It is especially true for introverted people who have difficulty speaking up in crowds. 

Providing employees with more flexibility on when and how to work is also helpful. In remote teams, giving people the option to choose their own schedules and working environments allows them to be free to work when they feel particularly inspired. And in these moments, people tend to perform at their best. 

Another considerable advantage of this is that embracing flexibility can reduce employees’ stress levels, as they feel freer to dispose of their time as necessary. Creative ideas need time, space, and thoughtful observation to come through. Going back to my previous remark, in many cases, individuals give in to creative thought in solitude and in more relaxed environments. 

People also feel encouraged to share their ideas with others when they feel safe and valued. If employees feel that coworkers may judge them as “incompetent”, they probably won’t be inspired to share ideas or even think about them. Without trust, individuals will hardly collaborate and build on each other’s ideas. So make sure that as a manager, you are guaranteeing a safe space for everyone to share their ideas. 

A great way to build a connection is to be open and vulnerable to each other. It can be a scary step to take, but reminding your team that it is okay to fail will encourage them to want to participate more actively and share some original ideas. Also, provide feedback, reward their creativity, and let them know that their proactiveness is valued. 

Dedicating some video calls to having fun helps to create a safe workplace. Inviting employees to participate in games can therefore unlock creativity as well. Relaxed environments where innovation is understood more as a game rather than as an obligation can contribute to having people connect authentically and create new concepts together. Other alternatives are to try hackathons or business case study competitions, as these are easy options to implement for remote teams.

Relying on meetings and brainstorming techniques to encourage creativity can sometimes be a bad decision. Meetings can sometimes be dominated by the most outgoing personalities, leaving aside the ideas of the more introverted members. Even if you did everything in your hands to create a safe space for people to talk, some will still be uncomfortable expressing their ideas in public. 

This is why you should always give your team a chance to write them down in a document. People can gather their thoughts, refine their ideas asynchronously and write them in the same document. In a way, this technique can help democratize the conversation and make people feel more comfortable participating. This is key to setting them free of expectations and allowing them to be as creative as they please.

Another great strategy is to bring people from different areas together. People tend to be immersed in the same information when they regularly work together. But joining, for example, the marketing and the HR team to develop an idea on how to improve processes can merge diverse perspectives to create an original result. This may be even easier to do with remote teams, as all that is needed is a relatively similar time zone and an Internet connection. In many cases, software for video conferencing includes features to create breakout rooms for random groups of people to chat between them. Mixing different people is significantly easier when working remotely with tools like these.

As it is already known, remote working is here to stay. This can be a beneficial opportunity to test new ways of collaborating and communicating, as the drastic reduction of physical encounters does not necessarily translate into reduced innovation. In fact, some of the essential elements that breed creativity are time, autonomy, and diversity. And it is easier to find these in remote working environments, but managers will not unlock creativity unless they understand that they need to take a different approach. 

Developing a creativity-driven culture in a team is a journey with no shortcuts. But building the right environment, tools, and motivation for your employees may help them produce some of their best ideas yet.

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