Can Working Remotely Improve Creativity? These 5 Ideas Prove It Can.

Arik Abel, Product Marketing Manager, Unified Workspace

FACT: I do not work well from home. As a stereotypical extrovert, I thrive on the energy of other people around me to keep me charged. Even just seeing other people in the act of working makes me more motivated to stay tuned in to what I’m trying to accomplish.

When I am working from home, I restlessly drift from the kitchen counter, to the couch, to the office, to the bed - working on this or that project for 30 minutes, hopping on a call while I make lunch or take the dog for a walk, writing lengthy emails with Netflix on in the background.

Sure, I’m productive and somewhat creative, but I don’t feel like I’m making an impact.

On the other hand, being in the office keeps me focused on the big picture of what my team is trying to accomplish and our impact on the greater Lenovo business. And we love being side by side to keep up the pace of collaboration and getting things done. But then again I’m head's down or intensively in teamwork mode, not thinking about how to take creative leaps and generate breakthrough ideas.

I’m productive and making an impact, but I don’t feel like I’m fulfilling my creative potential.

So here’s the problem: How do we keep the creativity and inspiration levels high when our cubicles just aren’t cutting it?

That’s when it dawned on me: working from home isn’t the only way to “work remotely”. And “working remotely” doesn’t mean that you have to work alone.

So our team is developing our own hybrid workstyle.

And we’ve started to find that 10% of time working together and out of the office is when we’re doing our most productive, creative and impactful work.

Here are 5 ways working remotely improves creativity and charge your team’s creative batteries.

#1 Regular offsite retreat

Twice a month, our team goes offsite to a local place where we can schedule a private conference room with Wi-fi, coffee and a whiteboard - along with our laptops and notebooks that’s all we need to run our own 8-hour startup style environment.

What’s it good for?

Rapid problem-solving and launching new ideas

Team alignment on how to tackle complex processes

Mind-mapping and developing project plans

Prototyping new initiatives

#2 Coffee shop crawl

This was a team-generated idea. When they know I’m working from home one day they’ll schedule a coffee shop crawl at a more convenient location than the office - start the day out at one shop and see where it takes them.

What’s it good for?

Putting in headphones and jamming away at individual work

Creating an entrepreneurial feel of back and forth throughout the day

Getting inspiration from the people, technology, and services around you

Connecting to your local community for a fresh perspective

#3 Field research

I’m currently reading Creative Confidence by Tom and David Kelley, the two brothers who run IDEO, one of the top global innovation and design firms. It’s a straightforward reminder that in order to generate breakthrough ideas you have to get out and talk to people. That can mean your current customers, your target audience, your competitor’s customers, or your internal employees or end users.

What’s it good for?

Developing new ideas for products, services or businesses

Getting a deeper understanding of the people you serve

Gaining new perspective on how to approach your work

#4 Participate in a “Camp” events or meetup group

Camp events like ProductCamp, CampIT and SocialHRCamp are typically a full business day mashup of networking, learning from peers and active group discussions. While it may seem hard to get out of the office for a full day and not doing work, especially a whole team, I’ve found that you can use events like this as a problem-solving field trip, to leverage the knowledge of your peers to accelerate your own progress. It’s hard to argue that outcome won’t pay for itself in time saved and progress made when you’re back in the office.

What it’s good for?

Getting feedback from peers on your ideas and challenges

Building a network of advisers, mentors or collaborators

Finding talent for future spots on your team

Getting exposure to cutting edge ideas from local thought leaders

#5 Go work with a partner or vendor

Partners and vendors have the unique quality of working with a lot of other companies, solving lots of different types of problems, and being forced stay on top of best practices and emerging trends. They also have the unique quality of getting paid to work for you, so they should be open to letting you come on-site to use a conference room, chat with their teams and maybe they’ll even buy you lunch! On a recent marketing project, I spent several hours a week working onsite, side by side with a vendor and iterating on a wide range of strategic and tactical ideas.

What’s it good for?

Getting exposed to current best practices

Keeping partners and vendors aligned with your goals and state of affairs

Learning from how other companies are solving problems or where they’re innovating

Seeing how other teams work together and exposure to other business cultures

So now that you’ve got some excuses to ditch the office, remember these key concepts:

Working remotely doesn’t have to mean working from home or working alone!

Pick where and how you work based on what you’re trying to achieve at work.

Be intentional about switching it up, schedule regular time out of the office with your team.