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visual collaboration

What's really suffering while working remotely? Collaboration and creativity

Posted by: Jennifer Jackson

When COVID-19 forced many of us to work from our kitchen tables, the top concern on everyone’s mind was: “How do we stay productive while working from home?”  

Working from home has presented challenges that many of us haven’t faced before, things like having no designated office space, balancing family and work in the same space, struggling with internet issues, and even having to learn new technology. But while we were concerned with maintaining the same level of output, we may have overlooked vital pieces of the productivity puzzle: collaboration and creativity. 

Decline in workforce collaboration trends

We surveyed 1,000 employees and managers across the United States to explore their most pressing workplace concerns in the current environment. While over 90% of C-suite executives rated productivity as their biggest concern, a staggering 75% of employees responded that collaboration is actually what’s suffered the most since transitioning to working from home. 

And it makes sense, doesn’t it? We can no longer gather around a whiteboard for impromptu brainstorming sessions or chat around the coffee machine. Every interaction is now scheduled on our calendars and we no longer have as many moments of serendipitous collaboration.  

While it might seem obvious, many teams don’t realize that a decline in casual collaboration has a profound impact on how we work, especially on our creativity and productivity. Since remote work is here to stay, teams need a long-term solution to this problem. Visual collaboration is the key to maintaining creativity and productivity.  

The power of collaboration on creativity

Creativity affects everyone at the organization, not just people in traditionally creative roles like design. For example, engineers find innovative ways to fix bugs, and operations managers develop unique ways to improve processes and make them faster. Both teams need to use creativity to not only get the job done but do it well. 

Since the shift to remote work, employees say they are less creative. Many express that they are most creative when talking with colleagues, which is more difficult when our offices are separated. 

The top three responses for decreased creativity highlighted by our survey research are all linked to decreased collaboration: 

  • 33% of employees cite fewer casual moments for spontaneous brainstorming.
  • 44% feel like they are working in a bubble, unaware of their colleagues' work. 
  • 40% feel it’s harder to collaborate with their team on call.

collaboration trends

Even leadership has noticed a decline in creativity – 1 in 4 managers report that their teams are less creative after moving to remote work. 

Collaboration and communication are the core of a successful, creative brainstorming session. Even while in the office, getting everyone to participate and engage during a brainstorming session was challenging. In a remote setting, these problems are exacerbated. Brainstorming via video chat can be overwhelming; our study found 26% of employees find it hard to jump in and participate.

And according to our research, teams hold an average of 3-5 brainstorming meetings a month. Each of these meetings is roughly 30 minutes long. Since transitioning to remote work, over 44% of employees have admitted to being distracted for at least 10 minutes during their brainstorming meetings—that’s one-third of every brainstorming session wasted. That equates to one wasted brainstorming meeting a month. 

In other words, we need a new and creative solution to improve collaboration. 

When collaboration suffers, so does creativity. This means that many organizations are missing out on innovative ideas and solutions during a time when creativity is needed to stay ahead of the competition. 

The need for collaboration, creativity, and productivity for an effective team environment

A 2017 study from the Institute for Corporate Productivity highlights that a collaborative environment leads to increased productivity and creativity. When there is a breakdown between collaboration, creativity, and productivity, all three suffer. It’s like trying to finish a puzzle when important pieces are missing. 

When this happens it can have a significant impact on the organization and since transitioning to remote work many businesses have felt that impact. For example, 43% of C-suite executives responded that their company had to delay major launches, campaigns, or initiatives as a result of working remotely. These delays can set the organization back or cause them to lose an edge over the competition, both of which can result in loss of revenue. 

One thing is clear: it’s time to figure out new ways to help collaboration and creativity thrive not only in a remote environment, but when we return to the office. We can’t continue to do something the way it’s always been done if it wasn’t working in the first place. 

The key is visual collaboration

It’s time to think outside the box to enhance collaboration whether you're dispersed or in the same room. Virtual whiteboards are critical to achieving this goal. 

In the past, we relied on physical whiteboards to brainstorm and ideate in small and large groups. You could add your ideas to the whiteboard, jot down feedback from others in the room, and toss some sticky notes on the board to organize and reorganize thoughts. The challenge for remote teams has been recreating this creative ideation atmosphere when you no longer have a shared physical whiteboard.  

This is where virtual whiteboards come in. Our research shows that 93% of remote workers find that having a virtual whiteboard improves visual team collaboration and communication. 

visual collaboration

But you need more than just a digital space to jot down ideas– you need a visual collaboration tool that not only brings the whiteboard online, but solves the collaboration problems that were broken in the first place. That was exactly our goal when we designed Lucidspark. 

Lucidspark gives you a virtual whiteboard to foster collaboration and bring everyone together regardless of their location. Even if you can’t lean across the table to ask a quick question you can tag teammates using @mentions to leave feedback in context and notify the right people to get input quickly. Between chat threads and our Zapps integration with Zoom (releasing in December 2020), you can have conversations in real time, during a conference call, and asynchronously. Voting functionality helps you hone in on the best ideas and timers keep meetings moving forward. 

With the right virtual whiteboard it’s easy to capture and organize ideas in one central location. Ideas are never lost in the pages of a notebook, accidentally tossed in the trash, or forgotten because they were never written down. For the 83% of remote employees who reported coming up with a great idea in a team brainstorm that never had any follow-through, this ability to track and record ideas is game changing. 

With a visual collaboration tool, teammates are given the freedom to communicate in the way that works best for them and the situation at hand. For example, 27% of employees cite drawing as their preferred form of communication. The ability to use a freehand drawing tool on a virtual whiteboard allows them to express their ideas quickly and effectively. 

While productivity is essential to remote work, collaboration and creativity are just as critical if teams are going to develop the innovative solutions that move organizations forward. But without the right tools, remote collaboration and creativity often suffer. Now’s the time to take advantage of visual collaboration tools like Lucidspark to reimagine the possibilities of remote collaboration, productivity, and creativity. 

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About the research

Lucid conducted this research using an online survey prepared by Method Research and distributed by Dynata among 1,000 full-time employed adults in the US who work a traditional desk job from home at least three days a week. The sample included 300 in a management role. Respondents came from enterprise and mid-sized businesses nationwide in all major industry segments. They were equally divided between male and female, and included Boomers, Millennials and Gen X. Data was collected from September 9 - 17, 2020.  

About the author

Jennifer Jackson

Jennifer Jackson graduated with her MA from the University of Utah, where she majored in communication and digital media. Jennifer works as a content marketing specialist. When she’s not writing, you’ll find her playing board games, reading, or bingeing TV while drinking copious amounts of iced coffee.

Follow these tips to improve your remote team collaboration.

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About Lucidspark

Lucidspark is a virtual whiteboard that helps you and your team collaborate to bring the best ideas to light. It comes packed with all of the sticky notes, freehand drawing tools, and infinite canvas space you need to capture that next big idea. And it’s built for collaboration. Think of it like a sandbox where your team can bounce ideas around and innovate together in real time.

Brought to you by the makers of Lucidchart, trusted by 25 million users worldwide, including 99% of the Fortune 500.

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