This whole out-of-office, home-working malarkey has really messed with the way that many of us are used to working. It’s no longer as simple as wheeling your chair across the room to ask a colleague a question. No paper planes can be thrown to remind people of deadlines. And the office coffee machines are no longer a hub for sharing ideas and insights, whilst taking a break from your desk.
We asked around to find out exactly what people are doing to maintain their creativity whilst we’re all working remotely (and if creativity is important to anybody, it’s this lot). Here’s a little insight on what they’ve experienced and what they recommend…
Keep the Conversation Going
Stay connected, make yourself available, keep in touch. If you’re going to do just one thing to maintain team creativity levels it should be regularly communicating with each other. Everybody we spoke to mentioned that this is key. Stuart Collins from Verve says “The best thing you can do is make yourself available. Hopefully most people - creatives or not - will appreciate you being there for them. Whether it’s to run things past you, have a whinge, show off or just prat around for a bit, it all helps.”
Steve Long says that at Gravity Global “We make sure we have a daily catch up for half an hour where we can chat about whatever we want to. We also ask people to share anything of interest that they may see. Can be a programme or film we should all watch. Not necessarily advertising creative.”
Mentoring programmes are another excellent way to keep channels of communication open. We touched on why mentors are important in a recent blog post, and Bex Highfield at Action Rocket says “Keep communication open, so team members can call or message whenever they need direction or a touch of motivation. Conversations are important, and remember there’s no such thing as a bad idea! We also run an internal mentoring program so we can really get under the skin of each other's skills and share our knowledge around. Sometimes it’s better to pick up the phone, as tone can easily get lost via message, so be kind and patient.”
Be Creative to Stay Creative
FleishmanHillard’s Steve Hickson advocates setting yourself a creative challenge - no matter how big or small. “I recently collated lots of my work from the last 15-20 years and created a bespoke Instagram feed for that work. All of the work sat in several boxes in my garage or was stored on numerous CD's, so I spent a long while sorting through it, de-archiving it and turning it into small case-studies that could be used on the Instagram feed. I still have a lot of work to post, but I felt it was worthwhile to give it a digital home beyond sitting in my garage!” You can check out the fruits of his labour here.
Stuart Collins says it’s common sense. “It seems obvious, but the best way to stay creative is to create. Even better if it’s in a way you’ve not created before. Since lockdown I’ve designed and built an outhouse for my dog (I never even took woodwork at school), threw a clay bowl (I’ve never pottered before) and built a giant tortoise shell from cardboard boxes for my 6 year old (I’ve never... whatever that is before). You don’t have to be talented - the simple act of making something new, something different creates new connections in the brain far beyond the task at hand. And no number of bruises, cuts and swearing can take those away.”
Utilise All Channels
There are 101 different ways to communicate and every single one of them can be your friend. Bex Highfield says at Action Rocket they really push to use different platforms for their strengths. “It’s been refreshing for us to have a little more time to actually think, contemplate, and then share our ideas and connect in new ways. Finding the right technology for strong connectivity has been paramount. We use Google Hangouts for our calls, Slack for daily conversations, and Google Jamboard for ideas and collaborations. Our Slack channels always have inspirational links, work and stories shared around.”
Steve Hickson reiterated this as at FleishmanHillard they have regular Microsoft Teams catch-ups and have set up a “Teams inspiration feed where people can post things that creatively inspire them or that other people will find interesting”.
Momentum Builds Success
“In a world where you have to jump on a Teams call to share work or discuss something, I’ve found to keep the momentum going on some projects, having brief 10 minute catch-ups every hour or two (short sprints) helps with injecting some energy into the process.” says Steve Hickson. “It makes you think on your feet a little and helps with the direction of a project rather than leaving it until the end of the day when you realise that the project hasn’t gone quite in the direction you wanted it to.”
And maybe - for some - the comfortable and familiar environment is actually increasing momentum. Verve’s Stuart Collins says “Creativity is at its best in a comfortable environment - it’s when you’re most likely to creatively push yourself out of a comfort zone. What could be more comfortable than one’s own home. It also gives us the chance to get to know each other better - either nosying in the background of a zoom call, or asking people the most interesting object near to them - the team is learning a whole load about each other!”
So there you have it - make the most of all your social channels, start a little side project, keep the momentum, and talk to your team. A big thank you to Steve Long, Bex Highfield, Stuart Collins, and Steve Hickson for shedding a little light on what’s keeping them creative at the moment!