4 Tips to Empower the Creative Process for Remote Teams

By Alli Axelsen

Remote work continues to gain popularity and remains a necessity for the modern workplace. But how do you continue fostering top-notch work from afar? Stellar creative teams — like the award-winning bunch at Matter — thrive on an environment that’s part serendipity and part calculation. Similarly, designing a workflow that supports creatives who don’t share an office can be a tango. To help home-based creatives find the balance they need to craft stunning work, they must be given time to collaborate with the team, communicate their ideas and manage requests. At Matter, we have a few tried and true practices for making this balancing act a little more effortless across our (currently remote) teams.

  • Connect and collaborate: Gather internal groups with an aim to accomplish specific tasks in a targeted way.
  • Balance structured and unstructured time: Prioritize unstructured time for independent work and foster that flow state.
  • Organize and systematize: Tools of the trade make all the difference when you’re using them in place of in-person interactions.
  • Listen and learn: spend time fostering relationships and building skills across teams. 

Connect and collaborate

To meet or not to meet? That is the question. Many of us are going to too many meetings, and while chatting over Teams or Slack can feel like the most efficient way to achieve clarity or make progress on a task, creative projects aren’t always about the most direct path to clarity. Sometimes, to move forward in an interesting way, you have to go through the trenches, get in the weeds. Some meetings are vital to the creative process. 

A virtual face-to-face kindles comradery and allows critical pain points to rise to the surface. Set an agenda and state a goal. From brainstorms and working sessions to kick-offs and briefings, it’s important that everyone in the room is using the time reserved for the group in a unified way. Focusing on specific topics doesn’t have to be prescriptive. For example, an agenda item could be “discuss the options for the project” or “iterate on some themes.” It’s also helpful to attach a time block to each topic to ensure the meeting will accommodate all pieces of the puzzle. A little structure takes some pressure off the meeting host, allowing them to participate, and also allows more introverted teammates to pipe in. Discussing challenges and opportunities in real time gives energy to ideas that would fall flat over instant messenger. So, to answer the question: Take the meeting but give it some structure and squeeze that time to the last drop.

Balance structured and unstructured time

There is also great value in unstructured time. Remember walking up to your neighbor’s desk with a fresh cup of coffee just to say hello and accidentally starting a project-related side conversation? It’s good to be friendly with your teammates and it’s great to foster organic (sometimes but not always) project-related small talk. Banter can manifest into actionable ideas. 

Listen and learn

With remote work, it’s a little more challenging to find these moments, so we make a point to create them. At Matter, we foster creativity and productivity by getting together to learn, engage in our community and just chat! From educational series like Matter U to extra curriculars like March Madness brackets, we’re always looking for ways to convene tangential activities to the necessary, important work we do. Meetings are structured, the pressure is on and sometimes all we need is a perspective shift in the form of a relaxed conversation to deliver on a pressing task.

Organize and systematize

Perhaps the most counter-intuitive way creative teams are empowered to produce great work is being diligent with documentation. Our teams make use of naming conventions and cloud-based file structures, creative briefs and project action requests, digital whiteboards and meeting recordings, all in the name of working smart and working hard. We move fast and dive deep – using documentation to ensure value translates in our high-speed, iterative environment. Documentation tools and organizational systems create bandwidth. When implemented in non-distracting ways, these tools make space for teams to engage in problem solving, iteration and discussion rather than trudging through the process of capturing ideas. 

Setting the stage for stand-up creative work is an art in itself. With the right balance of structured and unstructured time, meaningful, personal engagement and some carefully constructed documentation systems, creative teams can do what they do best: create – from anywhere.