How to Foster Innovation in a Remote Team

How to Foster Innovation in a Remote Team

With Covid-19 far from over, working from home on top of not being able to see loved ones or take a much needed relaxing trip abroad can leave us all feeling a bit fatigued. With a dip in motivation for many, it’s difficult to imagine a working culture which fosters innovation alongside continuing to produce the expected output. With the undeniable benefits to working for and running an innovative company, Covid-19 shouldn’t be a barrier to continual evolution. Whether you want to adopt a more forward-thinking approach for in-house processes or for your client work, we have compiled some ideas on how to actively foster innovation in your team.

Create space for all ideas

First of all, it’s crucial to create a culture where new ideas are welcome. With the more conventional team members, you may need to be patient and gradually show them the benefits of changing the status quo. For the more passive members of your team who are known to stick strictly to their job descriptions, there may need to be an incentive to reward them for thinking outside the box. They may not become advocates for change overnight, but in due time, it’s important that teammates encourage each other as well as receiving encouragement from the top.

If you manage a team, remind them that new ideas are always welcome, and your ‘virtual door’ is always open if they want to run anything by you. Being open to all sorts of mediums will speak to the various different types of thinkers in your team too. You never know, that next great idea could come in the form of a voice note, an email or even a 50 page Google doc.   

Even if you don’t manage a team, you can always be that helpful colleague who acts as a sounding board for any ideas-in-progress. In all instances, no one should feel that their idea is bad – all ideas should be given a chance. Giving someone some unexpected airtime to take a risk may give them the boost they need to come up with something really robust in the future.

Encourage flexibility

One of the major advantages of remote working is not being tied down to a rigid 9-5 schedule. This creates more space for a morning run, a lunch-time swim or even an 11am yoga session. With more opportunity to exercise and introduce mindfulness into the working day, you’ll be surprised at how much sharper you’ll feel, and you may even see your team’s productivity go up over time. With more opportunities for screen breaks and to mix up the structure of the working day, people will work when they feel most inspired, which can only be a positive thing for innovation. If you’re a decision-maker, consider offering scheduled ‘free time’ for side-projects and training. Naturally, this won’t be possible for all companies, but if you can afford it, it’s definitely worth trialling. Companies like Google offer structured free time to encourage employees to refresh their thinking when they feel bogged down by work.

Make sure tools are fit for purpose

It’s key to remind yourself that just because you’ve always used something, you can always make a change. There is little stopping you from adding some new tools into the rotation, or culling the ones which actually aren’t helpful for the team’s day to day. Switching to slightly more costly tools has the potential to automate manual admin tasks, and leave a lot more room for the more creative and strategic tasks. Adopting the right tools can be innovative in itself, as they can allow teams to work smarter and more efficiently. This allows them to carry out tasks which weren’t even possible before.

It’s important to assess which tools you use regardless, as remote working comes with different challenges which require a different toolkit.

Don’t be afraid to be non-traditional

Depending on the field you work in, there is definitely something to be said about taking a step away from the desk from time to time. New strategies can be sketched out, thought about on a walk or even when you’re making a hot drink. Being chained to your desk for 8 hours a day can do very little for initiating new ways of working. If socially distanced meetings are an option for your team, why not have a meeting while walking? A change of scenery and more visual stimulation can do wonders, so what’s the worst that can happen from just giving it a go?

Think Openly about Communication

It can be incredibly rewarding to take stock of how you communicate with your individual colleagues and team in any instance of remote working. You don’t need us to tell you how dependent teams have become on video calls. While video conferencing tools have allowed face to face conversations to exist in some shape or form, they aren’t always the answer. With internet buffering issues and screens making it hard to read physical cues, video calls can be an awkward place to voice ideas and it can be an unnatural place to have a meaningful conversation about change. It’s important not to turn to video call at every given opportunity and take a step back. Ask whether a video call is even needed? Can you just pick up the phone or write a quick email? By bombarding a team with video call after video call, you’re not making the most of the opportunities presented to us by remote working. Don’t feel like every meeting which would have taken place in the office needs to be replaced by a video one.

Don’t forget to take action
It’s all well and good creating a space for ideas and having brainstorming sessions with your senior management team, but the key component to progressing is proper planning. Putting a practical timeline together for how you implement these new ideas internally or for your clients so you can actually move you forward and allow you to work differently.