How to keep collaboration creative when everyone’s apart
Modern enterprise software means all kinds of remote workers can easily store and share files, manage projects and talk to each other – and it's no different for marketing teams. But beyond organizing, planning and communicating, no one has yet developed digital platforms to transmit the collective alchemy that occurs when we're creating in the same place! Here are three ways to help collaborators overcome the distance.
Where we work is changing – and not just because the physical world’s shut its doors for the time being. A Global Workplace Analytics study found the number of full-time remote employees grew 140% between 2005 and 2018. Developments across every kind of business infrastructure mean that people can talk to each other, contribute to group projects and manage files from any kind of location, with only time zones to separate them.
Few areas of knowledge-based work are unsuitable for a virtual office setup. Creative work, from concept to production, just needs a little extra help to keep the magic flowing – just look at the 42% of employees who said they think remote working stifles creativity when asked by Barco last October. But by ensuring our brains are aligned and taking time to let ideas find us, any team can maintain productive creative energy, no matter what circumstances we're up against.
Cultivate and check in with a shared goal
No matter what work a team's producing, its members need to be in sync – especially when everyone’s contributing remotely. Even the most artsy teams need to visualize their goal and the journey to it; without the shared physical location that nurtures this understanding, it’s easy for creative work to slide into 'working for working’s sake'.
When everyone in your team knows what they're aiming for collectively, individual improvisation becomes more effective.
Key performance indicators are great for tasks with quantifiable results but for creative goals, objectives and key results (OKRs) can be more meaningful. Whether your objective is devising an exciting new campaign or improving brand consistency, you can establish what the key results might be by asking yourselves "how will we get there?" and picking out two or three important steps. When everyone in your team knows what they're aiming for collectively – and is working to the same list of sub-goals that isn't so prescriptive it hampers the creative process – individual improvisation becomes more effective.
Take time out together, to innovate… and diversify
If your team – and wider colleagues – can find the opportunity, the occasional day of focused breakout activities can help refresh creative minds and draw in perspectives from fresh sources. It's entirely possible to hold this remotely. In our case, Third Light’s workforce has always been distributed so when we held an innovation challenge day in February last year, it took place with the help of a number of platforms – you can read more here from our Senior Developer Nicola Aitken, about how we made the day happen remotely.
"One of the best things about the challenge is that we made an effort to work with people outside our immediate teams," Nicola says. "It was an incredible way to build new connections and foster company spirit, not to mention produce some fascinating ideas."
Go with the flow – of energy
Using our brains burns through a surprising amount of energy – between 350 and 450 calories daily if you’re an adult, or as much as 6,000 if you're an elite chess player! Everyone's working day is made up of peaks and troughs, affected by a wider organizational timetable and individual physical factors such as food and exercise. But no magical diet or regimen can grant you unstinting creative energy for eight solid hours a day – and those who can manage it are at high risk of eventual burnout. Working at home, in relative isolation from the office rhythms we collectively follow, can exacerbate this – or it could be an opportunity to optimize the resources you do have to draw on.
Sharing energy peaks and troughs across a remote team can help everyone identify the perfect times for brainstorms, planning and creative collaboration.
Noting when your energy highs and lows tend to occur will allow you to 'surf' the slumps and harness the peaks. If it's hard to get going in the mornings or you find the post-lunch period a slog, get in the habit of tackling the jobs that demand less mental power at those times. Doing this will leave you with maximum possible energy for the times you know you'll be operating on all cylinders for creative work. Sharing this information across a remote team can help individual members understand each other a little better – and allow everyone to identify the perfect times for brainstorms, planning and creative collaboration.
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Author: Edie Mullen
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