Tips for Staying Creative at a Distance

A Creative Team Starts with Healthy Team Members

  • Create the space to walk away from your screen—even if it’s a trip to another room to sit in a chair and give your eyes a rest. Make this a regular practice for yourself and your team.
  • Test out little things that recreate the benefits of your former routine, like taking a walk around the block before and after work. Setting book-ends to your day will help you transition between work and home—especially now that the two feel blended.
  • Maintain monotonous tasks—even something as simple as emptying the dishwasher on a regular schedule every morning. This can be a great source of basic routine and accomplishment that may inspire you to kick-start your day with focus.

Redesign Social Interaction to Keep Creativity Flowing

  • If you can, set short, intentional times during the work week for virtual social interaction with your team, and make this clear upfront. This can feel unnatural at first, but it pays off (and gets easier) in the long run.
  • If your team uses Slack, use the Donut integration to get randomly paired with colleagues for virtual social meetings. We’ve been using Donut at Think Company and have recognized its value for those who thrive on social interaction—and for those who need a nudge.

Lean Into Working Synchronously *and* Asynchronously

  • Get into the habit of chunking out creative work into group working sessions and parallel, but individual sessions. Allow your team to work through solutions in whatever style leads to creative progress. Encourage your team to try out both methods and see what happens.
  • Focus more on the “places” where people can contribute—whether it’s a large conversation during a meeting, notes in a digital Kanban board later at night (when they feel most inspired), or comments in a collaborative document that multiple people are working on.

Find New Ways to Inspire Creativity in Others

  • When on a video meeting, consistently scan the panels to watch people’s reactions, facial expressions, and small signals that they may have more to say, like unmuting. Keep a consistent “spidey sense” about who seems more or less engaged, and follow up with people one-on-one. Strengthen this muscle to gradually improve your virtual situational awareness skills.
  • Try to avoid situations where team members feel stuck in their own heads solving a problem alone. Make yourself available for impromptu chats and virtual ideation sessions throughout the day, and encourage your teams to do the same with their peers.
  • Encourage your team to take “mini adventures.” One of our Design Leads has been taking long, meandering walks around her neighborhood to regularly take in new sights, sounds, and smells. This small act can give you and your team a jolt of inspiration when needed.

Embrace the Benefits of a Level Playing Field

  • Acknowledge that formality is out the window. Change the tone of your meetings from formal presentations, for example, to a more casual touchpoint to share progress on a project. In our experience, this approach can smooth the wheels of making a decision and pushing past blockers.
  • Embrace the vulnerability that comes from working remotely. We’re all exposed to each other’s homes, families, pets, and more, and while this changes team dynamics, this change can and should be seen and recognized by your team as a positive one.

Intentionality, Communication, and Emotional Literacy are Key

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