It seems as though each week another survey is published sharing results of what we think the “new normal” workplace will be like. Many of the findings suggest that attitudes about remote work are leaning toward a post-pandemic future with a lot more flexibility; yet few corporations are prepared to completely abandon the office space they once occupied.
As a result, many companies are heading toward a hybrid workplace where employees rotate in and out of offices that are configured as shared spaces. In fact, powerhouses like Google are looking at models where the majority of employees will spend about three days in the office and two days “wherever they work best;” the remainder of the employees will move to full-time remote positions. In an effort to allow for even more flexibility, their personnel will be able to temporarily work from a location other than their main office for up to four weeks per year. How’s that for adaptability and agility?
So how does this impact creative collaboration?
As the creative lead in our strategic consultancy, I have personally had the unique experience of co-creating with all types of models and have witnessed this recent shift toward the remote hybrid. My team and I have been challenged to create engaging ideation experiences for folks across the globe located in various office formations. It is my goal to ensure that everyone has a role in the ideation process and feels that their solutions are equally heard. When I need to boost collaboration among creative teams, I often encourage them to create virtual boards where they share ideas and files easily with each other. I also set aside time for weekly innovation labs where the team uses design thinking tools and frameworks to participate in person or remotely to co-create together.
However, the remote hybrid model can quickly become complicated, as this fragmented work week transforms a company’s culture and the way in which the work gets done. Specifically, we need to consider activities like innovating, collaborating on new projects, coaching employees to success, and onboarding new hires. It is critical that we secure the right technology (i.e., video conferencing, chat platforms, brainstorming tools) and gain alignment on cultural mandatories (i.e., keeping video cameras on, with full attention and participation required). Relying so heavily on technology will result in devising creative solutions to combat the fatigue of endless video meetings.
Consider these suggestions that we have seen used in hybrid environments:
- Utilize breakout rooms to create smaller collaboration pods that come back together to share ideas as a whole group
- Establish virtual “office hours”– leave an opening in your calendar where teammates can come to you with questions
- Include a note as part of your email signature that informs people that your hours may be different than others; it provides some clarification that you might be working on a unique schedule and that you will respond to requests accordingly
- Propose video-free days – to eliminate on-camera fatigue, give yourself one day each week that is free of video chats (unless urgent, of course)
- Develop guidelines for communication channels – make sure that your team is aligned on the preferred methods of communications (i.e., chat platforms for quick questions, emails for attachments and longer directives)
Ensuring collaboration among hybrid teams
If you plan to continue collaborating to co-create solutions when half your team is in the same room and the other half is on a video call, you will need to reimagine how to design for the best hybrid experience. That will require conceiving of creative solutions to make sure everyone can contribute—not just those that are “in the room.” This is the perfect opportunity to put design thinking frameworks into practice, by setting up exercises that allow teams to converge and diverge at various points along the process.
At ENTRADA, we understand that innovation requires creative collaboration, so we design for the best human experience, whether that be live or remote—or a combination of both! We ensure that our workshops are customized to meet the needs of the group, so that everyone has a voice and is able to contribute equally. In fact, many of our clients have recently told us that they prefer our digital collaboration sessions to traditional live workshops. They shared that they find our sessions to be “more engaging” and a “great way to capture brainstormed solutions in one easy-to-access space.”
The right technology and cultural alignment can transform remote and hybrid employees into a cohesive, collaborative team. To learn more about how we are creating remote design thinking workshops for our healthcare clients, drop me a note at firstname.lastname@example.org