With hybrid workplaces fast becoming the norm, corporations, marketing firms, and advertising agencies are wondering how to adapt and maintain creativity within a new type of professional environment.

Before the pandemic, teams could connect over projects by going out for drinks, playing ping-pong, or brainstorming over takeout. Now, there are times we assign creative teams who barely know one another outside of a Zoom call. As a result, some of the interpersonal connection that bonds creative teams gets lost.

Additionally, agencies are concerned about Zoom calls hindering creativity. Typical brainstorm sessions with tactical objects like doodle pads, Post-Its, and markers have been replaced by digital tools like Miro and Teams. As you can imagine (and probably understand from firsthand experience by now), a bit of the magic can get lost in this process when trying to connect partially in person and with a remote team.

Agencies need to find ways to inspire innovation and individuality in hybrid workplaces. By facilitating choices of venues for connections and team-building, agencies can tap into their teams’ creativity for better cohesion and more enlightened work.

Creating Equity of Opportunity to Connect

Inspiring teams virtually can be a challenge, but it starts with building strong connections so that people can be themselves and trust each other with their ideas. Trust starts with making one connection at a time. Consider identifying smaller teams that can collaborate virtually on their time before launching larger calls that include other team members. This way, even though teams aren’t making organic connections in person, they still connect authentically online.

I was once late to a call that I was supposed to be leading with other team members who had never worked together. By the time I joined the call, however, they were fast friends, talking about random topics that had nothing to do with work. This is how connections begin. While this type of spontaneity doesn’t always happen in a virtual environment, it was enlightening.

The circumstance that opened that genuine conversation could not be scheduled or contrived. You can’t predict when spontaneity happens.

For example, I opened up a Zoom space for anyone to drop in and have a chat, just like if I were next to the coffee machine or watercooler at work. Unfortunately, my team saw it as another meeting, and it felt forced. It is the role of leaders to provide the opportunity for teams to make connections in their own time and space.

Making Time for Creativity

As we’ve learned over the past year or two, it’s easy to get burned out on virtual meetings and brainstorming sessions. People need time actually to work. Creatives are navigating a world of remote work while at a much more expedited pace redefining brands and building new strategies.

This is incredibly difficult by itself, but the world has introduced a whole new set of stressors. The outside world has permeated our workflow, making creative work even more stressful. Unlike administrative tasks like timesheets and emails, creating quality work requires the mental headspace and an abundance of time to bring fresh perspectives to an assignment or to even answer a question.

When people are in back-to-back meetings and have zero time to think through new ideas, they run out of energy. Building in deadlines that allow for ideation, collaboration, and refinement across disciplines will keep creative teams energized and potentially over-deliver from the original ask.

Prioritizing Connection Leads to Creativity

As we’ve quickly learned about remote work, there is no set formula or algorithm. We are all learning and sharing as we go. Still, there are specific things you can do to set your team up for success in remote collaboration. It all starts with genuine connections with individuals. Here are a few strategies to consider:

1. Check Your Energy

How you show up when entering a space is important, especially in a hybrid environment. Your words and behaviors matter, so take a breath and check your energy before you hop on a call or connect with a team member. Be sure to do everything you can to really exist in the moment, as active listening and patience help facilitate better communication.

2. Take Ownership of a Flexible Schedule

As a result of hybrid work, we have more time in our workdays. On days you are not commuting to the office, you can repurpose that time for whatever else you need (client brainstorming, quiet meditation, or stress-relieving exercise, to name a few ideas). Learn to gauge which times of the day you are most innovative or productive and build your own schedule. Don’t neglect your emotional wellness; you can take care of your inner creative by building in mindful moments as well.

3. Set Realistic Expectations

Everyone works differently, so it’s crucial to consider other people’s circumstances and schedules. Recognize that people may connect and collaborate in different ways and what works for some people may not for others. Stay flexible, and if something isn’t working, pivot and try something else. Trial-and-error requires patience, so give everyone the space and grace to figure out what works for themselves and the collective group.

4. Build In Time to Work

Allotting time to focus outside of meetings empowers teams because it gives them the headspace to think. Sometimes you need blank space to organize your thoughts and process them before easing into your creative flow. The time you spend thinking things through will pay off as you develop and execute projects with your team.

As we’ve all learned throughout the pandemic, remote work can be a challenge for creative professionals. And as we have seen with the Great Resignation, cultivating a culture of creativity and empathy is more important than ever. With the right scheduling and acknowledgment of individuals’ needs, however, it’s possible to foster meaningful connections with your team.

If your office has embraced a hybrid work environment, take extra time to foster interpersonal relationships. Over time, the rewards will be evident, and you’ll continue to nurture a creative, innovative, and cohesive team.