How to stay creative in a hybrid working environment

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The pandemic was a sudden shock to the way we worked. Overnight, almost all of us had to rely on screens and cameras rather than sitting in a room to collaborate. But what happens now that we’re in the office some of the time seeing some colleagues, while others remain consigned to a box on our screens?

And what’s the impact of all that on creativity? Creativity is something an effective, successful agency thrives from. As with all agencies, here at Eulogy we’ve had to adapt quickly and find the answers to the challenges and opportunities posed by hybrid working.

Here’s what we’ve learned so far.

Being together isn’t essential

What a relief, right? Despite the stories of doom around how creativity only thrives when we’re in each other’s company, it’s certainly possible to keep being creative no matter where we are.

Like with all good creative processes, planning is key. While creativity can of course be an individual adventure (and sometimes needs to be), if you’re planning a collaborative session, where are your colleagues going to be? How do you ensure everyone has a voice? How’s the session going to be structured?

One of our secret weapons has been Miro – in essence, a digital whiteboard. It quickly transformed the way we held creative sessions during lockdown, and it continues to play a vital role in the hybrid world. It’s no wonder the likes of HubSpot’s Vice President of marketing, Kieran Flanagan, uses it for his own remote brainstorms. Kieran says it’s the closest he’s gotten to the in-person experience since the pandemic began.

Using Miro, we’re able to design the outline for a creative session and, much like in real life, everyone can contribute simultaneously, talking about their ideas but also recording them on screen for others to see, build on, and riff off.

But the best fully-fledged ideas don’t often come from brainstorms. These sessions have a part to play in the creative process, but smaller groups or even individuals are most likely to unlock those breakthrough moments where a spark can transform into something meaningful and original.

Ultimately, that often comes down to time and space – something hybrid working affords us better than the pre-pandemic world of work. We’ll come onto more about that shortly.

Collaborative creativity can thrive

Interestingly, the hybrid way of working has enabled more interactions with clients when it comes to creativity. We’re more easily able to organise group sessions to brainstorm, test ideas or gather feedback. Before, these may have been in person or huddled around a phone.

In true hybrid fashion, we’ve found the happy medium. The speed of the phone, with the interactivity of an in-person session. We’re increasingly finding that a collaborative approach to briefs is working better than ever.

From defining the brief through an open discussion to tissue sessions and joint creative sessions, the pandemic has resulted in more collaboration during the creative process. This is helping speed up the process of landing the right ideas against briefs and, in turn, educating teams that are usually further from the creative process on the amount of work and process that goes into that.

Finding maker’s time is essential

Listening to Rory Sutherland and John Cleese at the recent Nudgestock event (held virtually of course) led to an interesting discussion around maker’s schedule versus manager’s schedule. Stemming from an essay written by Paul Charles back in 2009, they made the point that a manager is able to split their day by the hour with the ability to switch hours around to maximise interactions. However, the scheduling of meetings throws a maker – it changes the mode in which they’re working and can be a blocker to getting something started or having the time to develop thoughts fully.

The move to a virtual workplace exacerbated this issue further. The need to engage with colleagues via video call several times a day has led to the well documented ‘Zoom fatigue’.

As we move into the next phase of work, the key is to become cognisant of how a Zoom-led way of working really favours the manager’s schedule over that of the maker. To allow creativity to thrive, the people tasked with coming up with ideas need the time and space to breathe, commit time to a brief and avoid interruption. Ultimately, this is something that remote working should allow more of, so long as the trust to get the job done and work on different schedules is respected.

Sort your tech out

Now is the time to invest. It’d be a fascinating insight to see someone like Zoom, Monday or Slack do a story on the cost to the economy of the words “You’re on mute” from the past 18 months.

Now, there’s a PR idea for you.

But seriously, now is the time. We know that this way of working is here to stay, so don’t let outdated, poorly performing tech get in the way. Get cameras and speakers for every meeting room, invest in the likes of Slack and Miro, upgrade your team’s laptops (written as I type on my brand-new MacBook) and let the creativity flow.

It’s still early days for hybrid working, but for us it’s far from the death of collaboration and creativity that some predicted. Whilst much of the above has focused in on the virtual elements of hybrid working, it’s worth stressing that the move to hybrid also lets us, on occasion, run creative sessions the old-fashioned way. In-person, surrounded by other creative minds. It’s time to be thankful that both options are on the table.

  • Kevan Barber,
    Creative Lead