It’s been 3 years since the transition to remote/hybrid work was thrust into hyperdrive with the pandemic’s onset. Some organizations have embraced it, while others have taken a firm stance that going to work means being at the workplace.
Depending on where you sit (literally and figuratively), remote/hybrid work has benefits as well as drawbacks. And in some instances — as with creativity — it can be both depending on your approach.
With the right practices, you and your coworkers can make the most of remote/hybrid work to boost creativity, while minimizing the drawbacks of not being in the same space:
- Turn down more meetings. Meeting bloat — especially for remote workers — is real and can be a big creativity quasher. It’s not just the sheer number seeping into every nook of your calendar, but the mental fatigue of preparing for, staying engaged during, and addressing the to-dos coming out of each meeting that saps creativity. And if you’re not preparing, staying engaged, or coming back with to-dos, you’ve probably attended an unnecessary meeting.
Be at meetings where you know you’re needed as well as those that give you energy rather than take-away. Do your best to avoid the rest.
- Carve out space to think. Block 2 hours twice a week (more if you can) to think about a challenge, problem, opportunity. Close your laptop, turn off your phone. Write down 1 thing to consider until you’ve explored every facet and brainstormed every solution — without the aid of colleagues or the internet.
When it feels you’ve reached an endpoint, plug back into your resources to do some research and solicit feedback. Then act… or not. It’s okay to decide the thought time you invested today won’t lead to a clear path. It’s wasted only if you don’t give yourself a real opportunity to think.
- Go where you don’t belong. Novelty heightens the senses. Sameness dulls them. Showing up — physically as well as mentally and emotionally — in new environments opens you to creative thinking. Spend time with people at work and in the community who are not part of your regular group for new ways of seeing and doing.
- Produce lots of ideas. Some ideas can be bad, but not at the start. When first approaching a problem or opportunity, try to suspend judgment of the idea’s value or practicality in favor of volume. It’s hard to do, especially in a Zoom setting. But the best solution is often a mashup of concepts, including those that seemed implausible at first. If you stop to consider only “good” suggestions, you may never get to best.
- Invest in problem finding. Necessity is the mother of invention and the cousin of creativity. If problems aren’t apparent, it may be there are none — but more likely you’re not looking hard enough. Finding a problem early gives you a chance to flex your creative muscles, seeking solutions before it becomes more difficult to remedy.
How do you do this in a hybrid workplace? Ask. What’s wrong with the wellness program? This service? Why didn’t you participate? What did you like least? If you could fix one thing about XYZ, what would it be? Ask remote employees who don’t participate, not just the regulars at the workplace.
- Sleep on it. Some creative ideas feel like the perfect answer when they emerge. You’re so excited, you can hardly stand it. When that feeling washes over you, stop. Unless something is on fire, most difficulties can wait — until tomorrow, next week, next month, maybe even next year.
That doesn’t mean procrastinate; it simply means giving it enough soak time to remain convinced you’re on to something meaningful and valuable to you and the organization.
Chief collaborator, nudger, tinkerer; leads the most inventive team creating well-being and sustainable living programs. Reach out if you’d like to talk about employee well-being, emotional fitness, or eco-friendly living.