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collaboration

Report: How collaboration and creativity are suffering in the wake of COVID-19

Research from Lucid reveals a need for better tools to support virtual collaboration, ideation and creative thinking.

The coronavirus pandemic has dramatically accelerated a trend towards dispersed workforces that has been gaining momentum for some time. There is little doubt that remote teams will become a permanent feature of the business landscape in the future. This survey explores the attitudes held by managers and knowledge workers about three important aspects of this new normal: productivity, collaboration, and creative thinking. One clear conclusion that can be drawn is that new tools are needed to drive improvements, particularly in the area of virtual collaboration.

Key findings

Productivity

Productivity was by far the most important concern of C-suite managers, 90% of whom rated it as one of their top three concerns related to employees working from home. It’s a valid point. In fact, 43% of the C-suite indicated that their company was forced to delay major launches, campaigns, or initiatives as a result of employees working from home and collaborating virtually. Productivity was also cited as one of the top three concerns by 78% of lower level management. 

Employees, however, reported different concerns. Only 52% of remote workers said that productivity had suffered the most while working from home and 40% said that working from home actually made them more productive. In contrast, 75% cited collaboration as having suffered the most, rather than productivity. 

Key takeaway: Employee productivity is management’s top concern, but employees say that team collaboration has suffered more.

Collaboration

Collaboration is a clear area of focus in distributed workforces. As noted previously, a full 75% of remote employees who expressed concerns about working from home ranked team collaboration as the aspect of their work that’s suffered the most. Another big concern was the lack of casual moments among employees for spontaneous brainstorming or strategizing. Employees reported being most excited about in-person collaboration with teammates upon returning to a physical office.

One of the most telling indicators of collaboration’s importance is the fact that nearly 1 in 5 (17%) remote workers report meeting with their colleagues in person against company protocol over the past few months. Interestingly, the C-suite who should be setting an example for their organizations are the worst offenders (43%). The biggest reason for doing so was to collaborate on a project together. Of those remote workers who met with colleagues, roughly 1 in 4 (23%) said that virtual meetings weren’t adequate because they lacked a shared visual collaboration space.

Key takeaway: Employees identify collaborating in person as one of the most important activities that teams engage in, so important that some were willing to break company rules to do it. 

Creativity 

Brainstorming and the processes of creative ideation have definitely suffered in the eyes of remote workers, with nearly 1 in 4 (22%) saying that working from home has hurt their creativity and 1 in 4 managers (26%) agreeing.

Both groups lay the blame on the isolation that can sometimes occur in a distributed workforce. Of the remote workers who felt less creative while working from home, 46% cited less face time with their team as a reason, 44% said they felt like they were working in a bubble and didn’t know what their colleagues were doing, and 40% said it was harder to collaborate with their team on calls. On the management side, nearly 1 in 4 (22%) said the drop-off in creativity was because they no longer had access to the visual brainstorming as a team that fosters creative ideas.

Key takeaway: Under the sometimes isolated conditions in a dispersed workforce, creativity suffers.

Solutions

With remote employees saying collaboration has suffered, it is apparent that there is a need for better communication platforms. Less than half (41%) of remote workers said that current cloud platforms helped them and their teammates maintain collaboration and innovation while working from home. In fact, 37% said that the constant notifications from collaboration tools actually disrupted their ability to be creative. 

One feature that is essential to better collaboration is visual communication. 29% of remote workers said that having a shared visual collaborative space to share ideas is one of the top three most important elements for a productive brainstorming meeting, while 28% of managers who feel less creative while working from home said that visual brainstorming as a team helped generate creative ideas. In fact, 27% of remote workers cited drawing as one of their most preferred communication formats to express an idea to someone else. A resounding 93% of those who have a virtual whiteboarding tool said that it was effective in helping communicate in a remote work situation. 

Virtual whiteboarding offers a solution to another frequently expressed frustration associated with remote collaboration: loss of input. 83% of remote workers said that they’ve experienced coming up with a great idea in a team brainstorm that never got any follow-up and 70% said their idea didn’t even make it into the notes and got lost in next steps. Virtual whiteboards save these ideas so they are never lost in the brainstorm vacuum. 

Key takeaway: Current collaboration platforms have not been successful in filling the void created by the lack of common meeting spaces with whiteboards to enable visual communication. Virtual whiteboards have been very successful in this regard, providing more than just a place for teams to jot down ideas, but a central place for teams to ideate, create, and act on ideas. Virtual whiteboards expand on the functionalities of physical whiteboards to create a truly unique brainstorming experience, regardless of teams’ physical locations. Some of these functions include an infinite canvas, labeled collaborator cursors, quick sticky notes, revision history, live chat and comments, voting, and the ability to tag others. 

Key statistics

Productivity and collaboration

  • Among managers who've had concerns with employees WFH, 86% rank productivity as their top concern with a distributed workforce. 
  • Among remote employees who’ve had concerns with working from home, 75% say team collaboration is the aspect of their work that’s suffered the most.
  • When it comes to returning to the office, 37% of remote workers are most excited to collaborate with their team together in person again.
  • 33% of remote workers cite fewer casual moments for spontaneous brainstorming or strategizing among employees as the biggest negative effect of employees working from home.
  • 46% of remote workers feel less creative while working from home due to not getting as much face time with their team.
  • 17% of remote workers have met with their colleagues in person against company protocol over the past few months.
    • 23% of those workers said virtual meetings weren’t adequate because they needed a shared visual collaboration space.

Creative thinking and brainstorming

  • 42% of managers said the office environment promotes creativity with whiteboards and casual gathering areas.
  • 28% of managers said visual brainstorming as a team helps promote creative ideation.
  • 26% of managers said that remote work has made their teams less creative.
    • 22% of those managers identified the lack of visual brainstorming as a cause.
  • 44% of remote workers admitted to being distracted during virtual brainstorming sessions for about 25% of the meeting.
  • 25% of remote workers admitted to spending at least half of a typical virtual brainstorm meeting distracted.
    • 24% of managers admitted to spending about half of a typical brainstorm meeting distracted.

To help alleviate the issues this research reveals, Lucid has launched Lucidspark, a cloud-based virtual whiteboard where teams can work together creatively in real time, regardless of location. With Lucidspark, teams can ideate and share ideas, create and collaborate seamlessly, and build shared consensus to actually put ideas into action. For more information about Lucidspark, visit www.lucidspark.com

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 Lucid

Lucid is the only visual collaboration suite that helps teams see and build the future from idea to reality. Its products, Lucidchart and Lucidspark, provide users with an end-to-end experience that helps teams truly see and build the future, by enabling collaboration and clear communication. Lucidspark is a virtual whiteboard application for freeform ideation, group brainstorming, and real-time collaboration across teams. Lucidchart is an intelligent diagramming application for understanding the people, processes, and systems that drive business forward.

Lucid products are utilized in over 180 countries by more than 30 million users, including customers like Google, GE, NBC Universal and Johnson & Johnson and 99% of the Fortune 500. Lucid's partners include industry leaders such as Google, Atlassian, Amazon Web Services, Salesforce and Microsoft. Since the Utah-based company's founding in 2010, it has received numerous awards for its product, business, and workplace culture. For more information, visit lucid.co.

See how Lucidspark can help you share ideas, collaborate seamlessly, and put ideas into action.

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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.