Finding the Silver Lining: Here’s How COVID-19 Has Benefited Businesses
Reinventing the Idea of Remote Collaboration
19 April 2021 Matt Griffin
Here’s how we incorporate a larger team vision with individual contributions.
The wise philosopher Aristotle once said, “The whole is greater than the sum of its parts.” This means that combining parts to form a much larger something gives each of those parts a different quality. As a whole, those parts become inherently more valuable, much like a lone pianist, saxophonist, and drummer teaming up to form a complete jazz ensemble.
Despite sounding cliche, Aristotle’s insight has become our own mantra during the pandemic. This phrase aptly defines the modern concept of synergy in creative agencies. And in a post-COVID world, finding a new norm for how we work together may require refocusing on the value of team collaboration.
Overcoming the Productivity Fallacy
Remote work and collaboration are not mutually exclusive. Today’s plethora of remote tools makes it easy to stay connected to fellow coworkers, almost as though they are working right beside us. What’s more, 85% of Australians say they are equally or more productive when working from home compared to the office.
However, what isn’t as clear is what employees are referring to as productivity. It’s likely they are talking about the work they think they are employed to do—work they can do by themselves without interruption. For developers, this might be writing code. For designers, this is using Sketch or Photoshop. For producers or project managers, it could be writing statements of work.
While this type of work is incredibly valuable, it is probably only half of the work that actually needs to be done.
With even the most mundane roles, there is a huge component that is creative problem-solving. To fulfil this component, we need to be able to connect, collaborate, and inspire. The best way to do this is by having others around you. This is the “special sauce” in a business. It’s what sets you apart and differentiates you in any competitive landscape. It’s this level of smartness, not your outputs, that defines your creative problem-solving capabilities.
At Deepend, this creative problem-solving component makes up about 50% of the work we do. It’s a valuable, essential part of our productivity. And while employees may be more productive when working from home, that productivity only applies to 50% of the work they do.
Can Synergy Be Achieved Remotely?
The pandemic has irrevocably changed how we work, specifically because where we work has changed. One of the key challenges for business leaders is finding the right balance between remote working and collaborative problem-solving.
During COVID, our office closed, and the team quickly adapted to the situation. We touched base daily for check-ins and connected to a virtual studio to maintain a team connection. It was great, novel, and—for the most part—got the job done. We became overnight Miro and Zoom experts and found ways to collaborate and connect like never before. We knew that not solving our clients’ problems during this time was not an option. But remote work was simply a means to an end, not an ideal permanent solution.
Now, as work life returns to “normal” as COVID conditions improve, most of the team frequents the office 3+ days a week. It quickly became obvious that the interactions we have in person vs. online are very different. The connections we make at work are far deeper, more collaborative, and definitely more constructive.
Striking a Balance of Productive and Effective
Looking at the remote work landscape today, we face an interesting conundrum: What is the perfect balance of uninterrupted “flow time” a person can get at home and the creative problem-solving collaboration one gets working together in a close, physical environment?
Working from home offers benefits for everyone, individuals and businesses alike: flexible hours, reduced travel, focused communication, and agile thinking are a few that come to mind. These benefits align to foster a highly focused “flow” state of mind—a concept coined by legendary psychologist Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi. If you’ve ever been “in the zone” while working from home, you were likely experiencing the optimal state of flow, conducive to productivity and true happiness. But maximising these benefits to their full potential requires pulling together a collective consciousness in the physical world, too.
In-office collaboration plays a huge role in any business. It’s important for building trust and relationships between coworkers. It’s essential for creating a company culture that ignites creativity and good problem-solving.
From a business owner’s perspective, we don’t employ individuals—we create teams. So as business leaders, we are regrouping, restructuring, and testing the waters at Deepend. We continue to support the team members to work at home and be accountable for their own autonomy (Accountable Autonomy being one of our team values).
Yet equally important is re-entering the office to strengthen our bonds and be Collectively Conscious (another team value). We are an ensemble that truly values positive collaboration and the collective harnessing of our individual strengths for a greater united outcome. It’s about driving the behaviour that makes the company and the work we do for clients truly greater than the sum of its parts.