Pre-Covid, creative teams benefitted from being in close proximity. This is mainly because one of the driving forces of creativity is (ironically) its infectiousness.
Being part of a creative idea gaining traction – being able to see, hear, and feel its potential – is why most of us do this.
Now, with the panic of lockdown beginning to fade, and the possibility of remote working remaining part of daily life for a while yet, we’ve been evaluating the ways we’ve adapted over the last few months.
While our technology enabled us to switch locations immediately, our creative habits needed a little aligning to ensure a smooth transition.
Seeing people’s expressions and body language is vital when briefing, sharing, reviewing and presenting ideas.
Being able to notice the difference between silence when they are excited and scribbling ideas, and silence from them drawing a blank, ensures you can keep things moving.
Creativity needs energy and nurturing, and audio alone is not enough.
Creating a way to bounce ideas around as a team when our four walls became two-dimensional was an initial challenge, whether they were conceptual ideas, executional solutions or UX planning.
We found using collaborative programmes, especially Google Chat, Google Meet and Google Docs, meant we could share work straight away.
Sharing screens and documents in small groups for live ideation, or sharing screen grabs or photos of sketches in larger project chat groups, ensured the momentum was never lost.
None of these programmes recreate the beauty of walls covered in layout sheets bursting with ideas; but programmes such as Miro allow us to get nearer to the satisfaction of problem solving with Post-it Notes.
It’s easy to become task-orientated when you can’t physically see your team and without strong intentions individuals can become siloed.
But it’s vital that ideas are seen and challenged by others. A fresh perspective will ensure ideas are robust and refined.
We have staggered project team video ‘scrums’ each morning which serve to not only align us to our goals, but also alert us to opportunities to collaborate outside our initial tasks.
When you’re physically surrounded by creatives the unplanned check-ins that occur when you catch a glimpse of a colleague’s screen, or overhear an exciting idea, are often the times when projects gain momentum.
To attempt to create these naturally and informally without the pressure of a booked ‘meeting’, the team is encouraged to frequently share roughs, and experiments either one-to-one, or in small groups, via screen shares in video chats or screen grabs or sketches in chat groups.
When things get exciting and we want to share wider, the seconds it takes to drop a Google Meet link into individual chats is far quicker than running around a studio looking for other team-mates.
All this constant sharing means that the team has also had to allow for calm times in order to focus and produce the work.
We’ve had to become better at prioritising our time; knowing when to ask for time to focus and how ensure others are getting it.
We’ve found that early afternoon is when we can carve out concentration time; and for this isolated working can be a blessing.
The last few months have affected our work lives more than any impactful event I have experienced during my career; whether worldwide, like the 2008 recession, or the more localised and terrible 2005 London bombings.
Everyone is navigating their ‘new normal’ in different ways, at home and at work. This makes finding the right time to check-in and support each other a bit of a challenge.
But I think our communication and transparency has been forced to improve; bringing us closer, and making us far more efficient as a team.
This article first appeared on Mediashotz on 15 July 2020.