The economic and social benefits of innovation are well documented, as are methods for encouraging innovation. Many of these traditional methods focus on structured in-person ideation and clear communication between leadership and employees. But what happens to innovation when your team transitions to remote work? It is possible to encourage remote innovation and continue to reap the benefits of your team’s creative problem solving.
Adapt your existing culture of innovation.
Your team likely leaned on strategic practices and processes to encourage innovation while working in person. Remote work is not a good reason to throw these tactics away. Instead, adapt them to fit your current situation. While communication and collaboration are more difficult while working remotely, leaders can be intentional about replicating them for employees at home. Just as important as shifting how you encourage innovation is altering how you measure it. Adapt your KPIs for innovation as well so that you can understand the best ways to encourage remote work innovation.
Replicate face-to-face collaboration.
Face-to-face conversations and collaborations are an important part of the ideation and innovation processes. This can be difficult to replicate while working remotely. Businesses of all sizes should invest both time and money in a good video conferencing platform. When everyone uses the same service, some of the technological challenges of collaborating over video begin to subside. You can also plan virtual replicas of in-person collaborative events, such as codeathons, to encourage creative conversations.
Take advantage of remote work’s unique benefits.
Working at the office may limit your team’s ability to take a walk midday, swap their keyboard for pen and paper, or work with people outside their team. Even if these practices are allowed in the office, your team may feel uncomfortable doing them. At home, employees may be more willing to try brainstorming while walking the dog, sketching their ideas, or collaborating with people they normally wouldn’t interact with.
Manage employees’ anxiety.
Stress, anxiety, or depression can make it hard to focus on even mundane work—let alone tasks that require creative thinking. Letting your team know it’s okay to feel scared or anxious due to the mental and physical threat of COVID, as well as abrupt changes in routine, makes it easier to overcome these roadblocks to innovation. Consider accommodations, such as flexible schedules and uninterrupted work time without meetings, to help your team adapt to the current situation.