How to keep the creative spark alive when working from home
“There’s a temptation in our networked age to think that ideas can be developed by email and iChat. That’s crazy. Creativity comes from spontaneous meetings, from random discussions. You run into someone, you ask what they’re doing, you say ‘wow,’ and soon you’re cooking up all sorts of ideas” – Steve Jobs
The recent outbreak of COVID-19 has brought the world to mandatorily work from home. This once in a century event is bound to give us revelations and experiences that would shape the future of work that we have so far only imagined.
Working from home comes with a plethora of benefits. No commute, no traffic, work in your PJs, flexible schedule, the list goes on. In fact, ever since the invention of computers there have been predictions that say working remotely is going to be the thrilling future of work. Despite its pros, working from home leads to a loss of companionship among employees which is a prerequisite for a spurt of creativity.
In a famous 9-month long experiment, conducted by Ctrip one of China’s largest travel agent, employee views on a work from home setup was studied. The experiment at first gave extremely positive results. Employees working from home were more efficient. The staff turnover rate slipped by 50% owing to lesser work exhaustion. The company also benefited by saving at least $2000 per employee due to reduced demand of work space. Thus, employees were more productive, quit less and more satisfied while employers cut their costs. However, after a certain period, employees wanted to come back to their original setup of working from office premises. This was because they felt lonely.
Back in 2013, the then Yahoo CEO Marissa Mayer had made a rather controversial decision of eliminating the option of working from home. In an interview in 2015, defending her decision she said, “People are more collaborative, more inventive, when they come together.”
The question that arises now is - how to make people more collaborative and more inventive without the water cooler breaks and casual collisions? How to make working from home design a hive of ideas and creativity? Here are a few strategies that might help you in achieving this goal:
Tap into technology
Remote working can only be made effective with collaborative tools and technology. It is important to establish a culture where this change is embraced. There should also be a system of feedback involved into this setup. Even though things may seem to be going fine, an efficient feedback mechanism helps leaders learn more about employee experience. Each organization has a different culture and norms around which the employees work. Something that may work for one organization may not necessarily work for another. Experimenting with various platforms and taking feedback into consideration will help identify what suits best to enhance the creative efficiency of your employees.
Bursting the work bubble
Meetings must be set with the agenda of creative collaboration. This would involve not just discussing work deadlines and task delegation, but rather as an opportunity, a platform to brainstorm, share ideas and develop on them. These meetings should also involve employees who do not necessarily consider themselves to be in the creative lot – Finance Managers, Operation Analysts, Quality Managers etc. Such a collaboration would bring in different point of views and disagreements, also encouraging participation from those who have great ideas but are shy to come forward and speak up. Therefore, bursting the work bubble that would have otherwise reduced the scope of creativity within the group.
When working in a confined space, a creative professional might struggle to think out of the box. In addition to that, stretched work deadlines kill the fun and drains out creativity, especially when working alone. Working on mutually agreed upon timelines doesn't only create scope to be more productive and constructive in lesser time, but also helps foster accountability. Employees are likely to become more self-aware of their abilities and are in a better position to commit deliverables basis their understanding and capabilities.
Time for reflection
A little distance may actually be good for creativity. Use this time to reflect upon your ideas, work on them and make them better. It so happens that we are usually so focused on drawing inspiration from leaders, peers and other colleagues within the company that we forget to reflect on the world outside or within our ownself. Encourage employees to utlize this time to introspect as well as enhance their awareness and understanding of the world at large. This is bound to get the creative juices flowing in different directions.
An advantage of working remotely is that everyone is in a different working setup as compared to being together in the same workplace. Steer conversations about their unique work set up during check-ins and daily video huddles. Ask them about the playlist they have been listening to, tell them the new recipe you tried last evening or talk about the trending Netflix show. Diverse conversations lead to inspiration and an environment that encourages ideas to flourish.
This new working environment comes with a lot of challenges and restrained human interaction. However, by stepping out of the comfort zone and following a few strategies we may just surprise ourselves by how creative we can still be. In a time when the entire world is bound by limits, let's enable limitless creativity.