Even in a forward-thinking workplace where your colleagues are constantly learning and evolving, it’s easy for employees to fall into a rut.
In face-to-face environments, it’s easy to bring people from different parts of the workforce together to inspire innovation through brainstorming and sound boarding. However, in the increasingly popular remote working landscape, the same kind of creative boost is harder to come by.
While remote workers are often more motivated, inspired, and satisfied than their in-office counterparts, they don’t have the same diverse selection of people to bounce ideas off.
The good news? There are ways that team leaders can empower their mobile and remote workforce with an extra dose of creativity.
Encourage employees to take advantage of flexibility
One of the reasons that remote working is so popular is that it allows for greater flexibility in the working world. Team members don’t have to be sitting at a desk between 9 am and 5 pm every day to accomplish things. Instead, they can enjoy the freedom of being able to build their own schedules and even choose their own working environments.
Unfortunately, in an effort to maintain proper management of their remote employees, some business leaders end up restricting the flexible nature of creative work. While telling your team members that they need to be online at certain times each day can help to give them structure, it also means that they could begin to suffer from the same creativity blocks that in-office workers get.
Remember, 69% of millennials worldwide say that they’re happier when they have flexibility in how and where they work. Happier team members are often more creative too. Encourage flexibility by:
- Allowing employees to choose their own schedules. Try not to outline every day for your employees in advance. Give them the freedom to work when they feel inspired.
- Offer scheduled free time. Companies like Google offer scheduled free time to help employees refresh their thinking when they feel bogged down by work.
- Make it possible to work anywhere. Ensure your team members can access tools on the cloud or via a smartphone so that they don’t have to stay in their home office to be productive.
Provide the right tools
Just like your standard employees, remote workers need access to the correct tools to remain productive. Before you begin hiring distributed employees, make sure that you know what kind of tools they need most.
For example, your customer service team might need access to a business phone line that they can connect to on their smartphone and a cloud CRM system. Alternatively, your marketing team might need to be able to access things like email marketing tools and content management systems from a distance.
As well as ensuring that your employees have the individual tools that they need most, think about how you can keep them collaborating with other members of the team. For instance, cloud storage systems where people can share files and documents are essential. Task management tools where people can check their progress and manage deadlines are often very useful for remote workers too.
Last but not least, remember that all your employees need training, no matter where they are located. With the help of a learning management system you can make sure they’ll be able to access learning materials and get targeted support at their moment of need.
Encourage regular communication
One of the main reasons that creativity can begin to suffer when an employee works remotely is that they end up feeling isolated. If your team member is located somewhere far away from the rest of the team, then they can’t bounce ideas off their coworkers, or look at projects from a different perspective.
As a team leader, you’ll need to make sure that you’re addressing this problem by encouraging regular communication. The good news is that communication in the digital world can include everything from quick instant messaging on tools like Slack to online coaching tools like Fingerprint for Success to in-depth mentorship programs. Make sure that you’re supporting your team by:
- Establishing a regular schedule for audio and video meetings
- Supporting regular video conferencing for face-to-face interaction
- Ensuring that someone is available for the employee to reach out to when they need help
- Allowing for constant communication through email and chat
- Keeping team members updated on news from the business
Recognize employee success
In the standard workplace environment, company leaders know that they need to recognize the achievements of their team members to keep them motivated and inspired. However, it’s easy to forget that your remote workers need the same kind of support when you don’t see them every day.
Keeping track of the progress that your employees are making, wherever they are, is a great way to ensure that you’re not ignoring their achievements. Remember, the SHRM group has found that employee recognition programs support creative thinking and business bottom lines. The Society for Human Resource Management revealed that 90% of leaders practicing employee recognition achieved superior engagement.
At the same time, recognizing the success of all your employees leads to healthier and happier workers, reduced talent churn, and improved employer branding.
Help build better workplaces
Finally, while you can’t always control the environments that your remote employees work in, you can encourage them to build more inspiring environments. A study by Mindspace found that around 33% of employees think that their workspaces are dull.
Remind your team members of what a creative workplace looks like by designing your own office correctly. This way, when your employees come to visit, they’ll get a boost of inspiration and an insight into what their own home office environment needs to look like.
You can also provide your team members with tips on how to renovate and enhance their remote environments.
The right office space – even if it’s not located in your business building – can make a huge difference to employee performance.
Overcome the creative block
Remote team members don’t have access to the same inspiration as in-office employees. However, with the tips above, you can ensure that your staff always have the creative boost they need to accomplish amazing things. Taking advantage of the benefits that remote working has to offer doesn’t have to mean giving up on creativity.
Joe is a Baltimore-based freelance writer and an ultimate techie. When he is not working his magic as a marketing consultant, this incurable tech junkie devours the news on the latest gadgets and binge-watches his favorite TV shows. Follow him on @bmorepeters