Unpopular opinion alert…remote working might not be all it’s cracked up to be.
Sure, you get the benefit of not having to battle that daily commute, your favourite coffee on tap, and you might have even mastered that elusive work/life balance. But is remote working killing creativity?
Have you noticed something missing from your team in the last few months? Has the spark of creativity dwindled as time went on?
As social creatures, we thrive on communication. This ability to strategise as a team enabled us to rise to the top of the food chain. Human beings are inherently weak, so we had to evolve to work as a group to take on bigger, stronger predators. This desire for social interaction is a basic, fundamental need, it’s what makes us addicted to social networking, sharing intimate details of our daily lives with friends, family, and even strangers.
Even those heated office debates have a purpose if they are done in a healthy, constructive manner. Intelligent arguments foster new thinking, and without this we become stale, set in our ways, and prone to our own confirmation bias. This does not lead to innovation. Ideas stem from collaboration, cooperation and compromise.
How do ideas happen? Often by chance, and as that lovable 80s painter Bob Ross said, ‘we don’t make mistakes, we make happy accidents.’ Ok, so he was referring to paint and paper here, but the philosophy is the same. Being free to make mistakes without judgement, learn and adapt is all part of the creative process.
You really get a sense of this when you walk into a well-designed office, if it’s warm, open and positive, where each employee feels valued and proud to be there, you instantly get a sense of that joy and collaboration that leads to great work. Does your office feel like that?
At first glance, freedom to make mistakes can look a lot like unproductivity, and being ok with this is something very hard to overcome as managers of remote workers. We expect diligence at all times.
This lack of trust in employees is the main reason many companies didn’t make the leap to remote working sooner. But freedom to make mistakes doesn’t mean laziness or apathy, it’s the ability to look past the daily to-do list at the bigger picture, going a bit off-piste to come up with long term solutions to recurring problems.
That freedom to make mistakes is lost when you’re sat in your home office, isolated from the outside world, with a long checklist of tasks to hurriedly tick off so your boss doesn’t think you’re slacking. Look at your own management style, if you’re guilty of micro-managing your remote workers, could this be killing their creativity too?
What else hinders creativity? A negative outlook. Negative thinking blocks our optimism, and optimism is key for innovation. Unfortunately, 2020 has clearly been detrimental to our overall mental health as a society. The constant drone of the 24 hour news cycle has permeated our everyday working lives at home.
Even the most upbeat souls would struggle to not let that get to them, but you can’t reach for the stars if your head’s looking down. Break that cycle, switch off the TV during working hours, be mindful of your own social media use, and encourage your team to do the same.
If you’re planning on continuing with remote working for the foreseeable future, consider how you will drive creativity through your business. Lead from the top, challenge your own daily practices, give yourself the time and permission to take a break from the firefighting and allow yourself to strategise.
Returning to the office? Great! You have the perfect opportunity to provide that collaborative, energising and positive working space that your employees have been missing.