Fatality. That was the mood at Color, a 50-person creative agency, when the pandemic closed its offices in Seattle and Los Angeles. “Among the many business fears that COVID brought,” says Elie Goral, executive creative director, “the concept of needing to isolate our creative energy was one of the most terrifying.
The creative idea is that frenzied spark that happens when a group of people are together ”. A “tight knit culture” traditionally helped colleagues share abstract ideas and feedback. He was concerned about the impact of telecommuting “without the ability to socialize.”
The coronavirus (covid-19) forced organizations to innovate, from LVMH redistributing production lines to make hand sanitizers, to musicians performing for online audiences and restaurants turning into grocery stores. However, with much of Europe and North America now facing new lockdowns, there is a growing fear that months of virtual work will start to take a toll on employee creativity.
Nicholas Bloom, an economics professor at Stanford University, says that among CEOs who came to discuss their research on the home office and productivity, “creativity is the biggest problem.” In a recent survey of 145,000 workers worldwide by Leesman, it was revealed that 28% of people who work from home said they were unable to collaborate on creative work while at home.
And with the possibility that the office will only be a center of occasional activity rather than a full-time location for the foreseeable future, managers face a growing problem. These concerns were expressed by Andy Haldane, chief economist at the Bank of England, in a speech last year. “Exposure to new and different experiences is a critical source of the creative spark,” he said.
“The home office can deprive us of many of these creative basic ingredients.” Missing ingredients Creativity is important not only for the results of a company, but also for the workers. As technology takes over repetitive tasks, it is the human capacity for creativity that will be in demand in the future.
Aspects of work such as medical development and scientific research provide clear benchmarks for measuring creativity. However, creativity in the workplace is more difficult to measure. Stephen Garrett, founder of Character 7, an independent UK production house, sums up one of the challenges of measuring creativity in a pandemic.
“I don’t remember last year and I think that the collaborations in which I participated are less creative than before. But I don’t know what I have missed ”. The move from the office to the home made it more difficult to hold creative discussions at a distance, says Chris Hirst, global CEO of the French advertising and communications group Havas Creative.
“Problem solving requires an element of friction, it requires disagreements without fights. Much of how we deal with a conflict with someone is about how they say things, their body language. We are able to moderate our words through a combination of our actions and our words.
That doesn’t happen on a screen ”. Some technological tools can interfere with brainstorming. Abigail Sellen, deputy lab director at Microsoft Research Cambridge UK, says that digital technologies can make us think about the tools we are using rather than the ideas we are generating.
We recommend: Do you do home office? They launch digital card to pay for electricity, water, telephone and internet Domestic distractions Workers who also deal with homeschooling will be well aware of the impact of disruptions on their concentration. Alf Rehn, professor of innovation, design and management at the University of Southern Denmark, describes children as “terrorists of creativity.”
One glimmer of hope that she suggests to parents is that dealing with issues outside of their routine work could inspire new ideas. Organizations and workers found positive aspects in the experience of working from home. Melanie Collins, chief people officer for cloud storage and collaborative platform Dropbox, says the experience reinforced the value of working from home.
“Loneliness could be one of the biggest advantages of a distributed model.” In recent years, office design has focused on creating collaborative spaces where people can come together to discuss ideas and have casual conversations. Managers can recall lucky discoveries from the office with pink glasses, says Lynda Gratton, a professor at London Business School.
“A young man would never run into a CEO in an office, let’s not pretend.” However, she sees merit in creating an environment for weak ties from casual acquaintances to connect online. “The nature of weak links is that you can have a lot more of them.” His consultancy recently oversaw a massive virtual debate on behalf of Ericsson, the telecommunications group.
An estimated 17,000 employees participated over 72 hours, making 28,000 comments. Supervisors distilled the conversation in real time, then analyzed the data, mapped out topics, and made recommendations. Professor Gratton says the facilitators were key in giving employees “a lot of confidence”.
Last year, Dropbox brought its annual global Hack Week event online for the first time. Employees were encouraged to take a week out of their daily jobs to design projects. Virtual sessions resulted in greater collaboration across departments and on more projects than ever. Dropbox employees created 29% more demos than in previous years, including some that the company is rolling out.
Collins says that “the dissolution of the location-based collaboration allowed more diverse ideas to emerge.” We recommend: For home office, 34% of companies in Mexico will reduce physical space Technological advantage In the end, it was the virtual tools that transformed Color’s mood from doom to optimism.
With Microsoft Teams, Goral says, they soon realized that proximity wasn’t as important as they thought. “The ability for multiple people to interact with the same screen using Share Content was huge for our creative teams.” In the long term, technology will adapt to foster creativity, says Sean Rintel, principal investigator at Microsoft.
Through the use of augmented or virtual reality headsets, “the physical-digital gap will be closed and both remote meetings and future hybrid meetings will improve”. As companies plan for a post-covid future, most envision a hybrid work pattern – a mix of office and home work.
Ashley Goldsmith, chief people officer at Workday, a software company, sees the office of the future “more like a ‘hub’ where employees can meet with colleagues to collaborate.” Creativity will be something to consider in determining how employees spend their days: group problem solving at the office versus the seamless focus at home.
It is very easy to blame the home office for work problems and the office has become a talisman. Rehn says, “We love it when we don’t have it anymore. For years we complained about coming to the office every day, now that we get rid of it, we complain. There is room for creativity in any job, there is innovation, but we must not fool ourselves.
Modern corporations are built on routines, processes that do not lead to creativity ”. Nikil Saval, author of Cubed: The Secret Story of the Workplace , suspects that managers complain about declining creativity as “a way to hide control: people think offices are needed to make sure people are online. “
In the same way, that open offices are “justified as an exercise in creativity. But it is mainly because they are cheaper ”. Forging the conditions for creativity to flourish has long been debated by managers and academics. Rehn says: “Creativity is a delicate balance between generating an idea and working on it, a balance of working together and alone.”
If creativity suffers in the home office experiment, presenting the office as a solution may be too simplistic. Stress from job losses, heavy workloads, and social constraints amid a global pandemic will also hamper creativity. “Nobody says this was easy,” says the professor.