The last few weeks have brought change for all of us, in a variety of ways, especially when it comes to managing a creative team remotely. For the internal creative team at Domtar, the switch from working in a shared, highly collaborative, face-to-face environment to working from home has been a major shift. Our team includes individuals with a variety of skillsets—from graphic design, to content creation, to print production, to social strategy—that heavily rely on each other to deliver dynamic creative solutions that promote Domtar Paper.
Here are four tips I’ve learned along my journey to managing a creative team remotely. Help your creative team members stay productive without losing the interactive elements they enjoy in their day-to-day working environment with these four tips:
- Keep Communication Alive – First and foremost, it’s essential that everyone—both members of the creative team and stakeholders—make sure they’re on the same page with a project. Projects that lack communication can result in delays, missed deadlines, lack-luster end results…and more often than not, the creative team will be held accountable. In order for projects to remain engaging instead of irritating, keeping communication alive with everyone involved in a project is imperative.
Communicating with stakeholders – It’s important, in any working environment, that the goals, objectives and target audience are outlined at the beginning of a project to make the job progress move quickly and efficiently. As a creative manager, establishing project parameters and delegating responsibilities is the best way to make sure everyone is on the same page. Also, make sure your team members feel like they have a voice. If any parameters are unclear, the beginning of a project is always the best time for a creative professional to speak up and ask for clarification.
Communicating with each other – Make sure you reach out to members of your team often. In a global situation, like we’re experiencing, business priorities can shift overnight. Make sure you’re in close communication with your team, you know what they’re working on and that their priorities are in alignment with what the business needs. In this new remote working environment, we begin our days with thirty-minute videos chats to make sure we’re all on the same page.
- Encourage New Ideas and New Skills – Change often leads us to look at things from a new perspective. Encourage your team to be proactive and share ideas with both the creative team and the organization as a whole. It could be anything from discoveries on ways to work more efficiently to new ideas for a marketing promotion. Proactive ideas are always appreciated and if it leads to learning something new, that’s a bonus.
On the topic of learning something new, encourage your creative team members to check out webinars where they can learn a new skill. During this time, many conferences are going virtual. That sort of opportunity is a great way for team members to dive deep into mastering a new skill and possibly even connect with other external designers through social groups connected to the event.
- Creative Collaboration is Still Key – On any ‘normal’ work day, the creative team at Domtar works within a shared workspace where it’s easy to interact with each other and collaborate on various projects throughout the day. One of the first things I’ve noticed is once we became a remote team, everyone quickly began to work in silos. While creative collaboration is pretty much impossible via email alone, it still is possible while working remote and using various video conferencing apps. Utilizing these apps and requesting meeting attendees to connect with video instead of just calling in, leads to greater collaboration and a more satisfying conversation.
- Make Things Personal – When face-to-face engagement is no longer the default, a graphic designer’s job can begin to feel more transactional—a feeling that can pretty quickly zap the enjoyment out of work for any creative professional. In addition to the daily video group chats, I’ve also implemented weekly video check-ins with each individual on the team. This gives me the opportunity to make sure that they’re doing well from an emotional level as well as from a productivity standpoint. I also make sure to begin the one-on-one with a conversation about something outside of work—like an inquiry about their weekend, their family or a hobby they’ve picked up. Starting the conversation on a fun note is a great way to help your team retain a level of engagement that they may feel they’re now missing out on as a remote worker.
Managing a creative team to remain collaborative and productive during trying times is certainly a challenge, but it’s not impossible. Although it might require more work and engagement on behalf of the manager, leading a team of fulfilled and thriving creatives is worth every bit of effort.