Remote work is popular with workers. But in some cases, it could be cutting down on creativity.
One recent study found pairs working in person came up with more ideas than pairs working remotely.
It may be connected to our sightlines.
People working in the same space can let their gaze wander.
People working in a remote team are more likely to focus on the screen and less likely to read each other's eye contact.
Remote pairs also reported it was harder to figure out whose turn it was to speak.
"Sometimes we forget how important the environment is," said Rick Smith, a creativity expert, and professor at Johns Hopkins University's Carey Business School. "When it comes to being creative, we need to think a little differently about how we go about creating that environment."
Smith suggested several ideas to boost creativity while working remotely.
- Try a phone call instead of a Zoom call, so your vision isn't focused on a screen full of squares.
- Take your laptop to a more comfortable space in your home. If you can, take it outside.
- Break up the boxes on your next Zoom call. Use a digital whiteboard, a video, or anything that makes the meeting feel less like a Zoom meeting.
"Think about innovative spaces that companies have traditionally created," Smith said. "These innovation centers are filled with external stimulation. Whiteboards, fun things, toys. We need to think even harder when we're confined to a digital environment. We need to think even harder about what we can do to create that stimulation."
Some companies are already implementing this research as they design hybrid jobs.
Brainstorming and other creative activities are scheduled for in-person days.
Paperwork, and other self-contained tasks, are accomplished on work-from-home days.