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Has Working From Home Increased or Decreased Innovation: 24 Insights

We asked 24 fellow remote working pros across different industries about their experiences. It’s been over a year since the Covid-19 pandemic forced many of us to explore the home office environment for the first time in our lives. To uncover how this unprecedented time has had an impact on innovation so far, we gathered opinions of remote working team members and leaders. To increase innovation you can create online vision board.

We found that the majority considers remote working to help increase innovation adding that different processes have to be put in place to ensure a solid foundation for smooth virtual collaboration. The natural exchange between colleagues you get in an office environment isn’t the same online but can be replicated through the use of technology and regular check-ins.

Virtual communication might never be the same as face-to-face interaction, but virtual brainstorming sessions and more time to focus in a calm home office foster creativity. Our experts also flagged that we have to use the surplus amount of time and flexibility of working remotely wisely to preparing moodboard.

Radial pie chart of 24 remote working responses

Keep a Clear Line of Communication Open at All Times

It can be challenging for some to feel connected to their team when working from home. Regular virtual check-ins can help with that and are crucial for effective collaboration.

There are a few things you can do to break the ice and communicate clearly:

  • Be proactive about connecting and share a bit about yourself to establish trust and create more natural conversations. You might have similar hobbies to your new remote working colleagues, which is always a good starting point for a genuine exchange.
  • Understand the individual needs of fellow team members and be open to seeing things from different perspectives. Practice active listening instead of multitasking during a meeting. Focus on the person on the other side of the screen as you would in a face-to-face conversation.
  • Make sure you also communicate expectations for tasks and goals clearly. To keep the conversation among colleagues flowing smoothly and increase innovation, provide multiple tools to your teams. Every team can then choose the platform for collaboration that best suits them.

Remote working response headshots of Marieta Karapetyan, Tannah Cantrell and Carla Andre-Brown

Marieta Karapetyan, Search Engine Specialist at The Crowdfunding Formula talks about the importance of communication when working remotely:

“Working from home has a lot of benefits, including increased innovation. 

Remote work is becoming more and more popular with the workforce. One of the most important aspects to consider when working remotely is communication. Communication is one critical element of remote work innovation, and leadership is the other.

- Communication should be professional to maintain a productive level of responsibility in your team or organization 

- Leadership can help guide and motivate others.

But at the same time, during uncertain times, businesses tend to spend less money and take fewer risks in order to protect themselves. However, researchers also attribute the current innovation deficit partially to difficulty with collaboration that often comes with working remotely.”

Tannah Cantrell, Digital Marketing Executive at Twine finds that remote working has led her and her team to explore how they can stay connected virtually:

“With the handful of benefits that working from home brings - including uninterrupted workflow, shorter meetings, and a greater connection to my work, to name a few - there is also the increase in innovation. 

Virtual teams are having to find new ways of making sure their business jumps through the many digital hoops. A core aspect of teams brainstorming for innovation is interconnectivity - something that working from home has allowed me to explore even further with my team.”

Carla Andre-Brown, Content Marketer at Mailbird says that technology helps her to stay connected with her team for regular brainstorming sessions:

“In my own experience, working from home has given me the ability to get up and take a break when I hit writer's block. It's also taught me to have more autonomy over my tasks, so I find that all of that flexibility has helped me to take the time to create a unique idea. 

But nothing I do on my own is nearly as strong as when I've bounced ideas around with the team. That being said, I don't find it challenging to connect with people from home. With Mailbird we're integrated with Slack, video conferencing tools, and messenger apps, so conversations and brainstorming sessions are running on a very consistent basis. 

So does innovation increase? Yes, but it still takes a village.“

Manage Your Time Effectively to Increase Your Focus

Working from home means fewer interruptions than in an office environment. It’s usually a quieter environment and employees feel less pressure, which can result in increased productivity. Particularly introverted team members can be more motivated and willing to try out new ideas in a virtual environment and from the comfort of their home.

Virtual interruptions are easier to manage than colleagues coming over to your desk and interrupting your workflow. Choose designated times to check your emails or messages on communication platforms throughout the day. This way, you can establish your focus time and become more efficient.

Remote work gives you more thinking time and more autonomy over your own work. It gives you a chance to focus on each task without interruptions and provides you with the calm atmosphere you need to be more productive. 

Combined with flexible working hours, employees can choose their most productive times of the day and start earlier or later. Flexibility is particularly effective when your colleagues are spread out across different timezones. Letting employees manage working hours like this can also improve retention, as they appreciate the flexibility to help them with childcare needs and improving their work-life balance.

Remote working response headshots of Chris Makara, Ryan Prior and Vlad Shvets

Chris Makara, Senior Digital Marketing Analyst at Insperity says that remote work provides more time to focus and fewer interruptions, which increases productivity: 

“Yes, definitely. Well, at least it does for me. I know others have struggled since working from home has become more prevalent recently, but that's not the case for me. 

By working from home, it allows me a little more freedom with trying something new that I might not have tried if I was in an office. It's a less stressful situation with fewer interruptions. 

This allows for a longer period of focus and execution which often leads to increased innovation and efficiency.”

Ryan Prior, SEO Growth Strategist at Skale reflects that you have to be prepared to spend some time and energy to create the right conditions for increased innovation:

“I think it can, depending on the circumstance, but remote working doesn't innately increase innovation every time.

Working remotely can provide the opportunity for increased focus and 'deep work' time. That's not always the case though. On the flip side, you can also find increased procrastination, overworking, more time spent on Zoom, etc.

If the conditions are right, I believe that home working can lead to increased innovation. You simply have to allocate time and energy to 'get in the zone', think, and iterate.”

Vlad Shvets, Growth Manager at Paperform tells us that if we manage our time well working from home, we can become more focused without the distractions of an office environment:

“Focus. People working from home, provided they manage their work and time well, can easily become hyper-focused on solving specific problems, which in turn breeds innovation. 

Oftentimes, the same isn't possible in a busy and crowded office environment where communication and interruptions are endemic.”

Set up a Dedicated Work Space to Be More Productive

Remote working gives you more independence and responsibility for creating a healthy work environment. Organize a dedicated space as your office in your home to set clear boundaries between work and free time. Communicate these boundaries with the rest of your household to prevent distractions.

Some people with young children or small apartments might have difficulties with creating their own space. It can be tricky but it’s not impossible. Establishing new routines and companies offering childcare benefits as well as flexible hours can help. 

Use the time you’d spend on commutes wisely to exercise with your kids in the morning and spend more quality time in the evenings. Stick to a definitive finishing time and don’t be tempted to work overtime. Make a point of logging off and leaving your work area as you would an office.

For infants you can make a safe play area part of your office environment, so you can keep an eye on them at all times. Let your manager and colleagues know about times you’re available for conference calls according to a schedule you can agree on with your family. 

Remote working response headshots of Maria Camilleri, Yash Chawlani and Ryan Amen

Maria Camilleri, SEO Growth Manager at Organic Growth Marketing is confident that remote working helped her to work smarter and use her time more efficiently:

“Being innovative is not something you can pinpoint but a sum of many actions and habits you create over time. Being in the right work environment helps foster that creation and productivity we all look for in our careers.

Since transitioning to working from home over a year ago with Organic Growth Marketing, I'm confident in my innovation trajectory and equipped to think about reaching our goals by not working harder but smarter. 

Working from home gives you the tools to strive for the right work/life balance that works for you. When you no longer have to stress about the constraints of an 8-5 desk job, you can instead focus on better time management and creating new processes for better results. 

Working from home for me means I can dedicate the hours I need to complete my day-to-day tasks and carve out time for the things in my life that are equally important. In short, working from home has increased my innovation and has given me back time, which I can put towards new work ideas and strategies.“

Yash Chawlani, Owner at Merlin Marketing reflects that working from home fosters innovative thinking: 

“The Corona Pandemic locked everyone inside, offices were shut down and people had to work from home. This change in the status quo gave birth to a new discussion. There was a divide in people’s opinion of whether the change was beneficial for businesses or not. Does working from home boost innovation? The short answer is yes.

Many people will argue against this saying people don’t work as hard from home and are frequently distracted by things happening around them. However, innovation does not work in that way. Innovation isn't some task that needs to be worked on hard to be completed. Innovation is a new idea that solves an unsolved problem or offers a better solution than the existing one.

Innovations solve real-life problems and life doesn’t get any more real than life at home. Let’s face it, the corporate environment is quite monotonous, it lacks the dynamics that inspire innovation. The only innovation that a corporate environment can inspire is limited to corporate working.

So, yes, working from home will boost innovation. Two or more generations are interacting at home. Plenty of real-life cross-generational problems can inspire one to innovate and change the status quo by coming up with a better solution.”

Ryan Amen, Director of Client Success at Nifty Marketing says that giving people the ability to choose the setting they work best in can increase innovation:

“Not in and of itself. However, I do believe that putting someone in the environment they thrive and work at their best DOES lead to increased innovation. 

So I don't believe the answer is as straightforward as yes or no. For some people, working in the office leads to increased innovation, and working from home would diminish it. I believe giving people the option to work in their own personal best setting is the key to increasing innovation. For some people, that is working from home and for others, it's the office. It comes down to providing the ability to allow employees to find out where they work the best and letting them continue to work in that environment.”

Boost Your Creativity with Structure

It’s difficult to know what’s needed to be creative, but feeling comfortable and confident is a good foundation to spark ideas. Many people feel more confident within their own four walls than they do in an office environment. 

Working remotely gives you the flexibility to find out what’s the best structure for you to be more efficient. Using structure to increase creativity might sound counterintuitive at first, but finding a routine that works for you helps with finding time to reflect and kickstart your imagination. 

If flexible hours are an option for you, consider starting earlier or later. Flexible working hours can improve motivation and well-being, as you feel more energized by working on your own terms and when you’re at your best.

Don’t forget to take breaks to let your mind wander. If you’re struggling with this, try scheduling breaks throughout the day or using a time management system like the Pomodoro Technique.

Remote working response headshots of Judith Martin, Maria Mladenovska and Maria Grønlund

Judith Martin, Digital Marketing Intern at Clever Ads says that remote working stimulates creative thinking skills:

“Working from home gives you more flexibility and autonomy, so this can help you to increase your creative thinking skills and be more stimulated for innovation. When an innovative idea comes to your mind, it can catch you at the office, at home, or anywhere.” 

Maria Mladenovska, Content Manager at DigitalNovas says that the home environment fosters confidence and motivation, which fuels innovation:

“Working from home can be a rewarding way to increase creativity. 

When you think about creative work, it is important that your motivation comes from within; feeling comfortable and confident are two of the key ingredients for starting something new. 

When thinking about creating something, make sure to be excited by what's being created rather than having a deadline or expectations from others pushing you forward. Feeling good will help fuel any awesome ideas you have so they come out at top speed!”

Graphic Designer Maria Grønlund tells us that structure is the key to get more time to think and build a home working environment for creativity to thrive in:

“In my experience, innovation requires an environment where you can immerse yourself in solving the task without too many distractions. Working remotely is an opportunity to work more concentrated and focused without being distracted by disturbances, chatter, and the meetings you’ll often experience working at an office space.

Furthermore, it’s difficult to calculate precisely how long it takes to solve a task that requires an innovative outcome. This is a process where working remote in solitude definitely is a bonus, where you’re able to manage how you schedule your work day. 

A structured, routine-based work environment with little room for spontaneity or contemplation, can’t facilitate the same space for creativity to thrive in.”

Empower Your Team

It can be tough to build relationships with colleagues via videoconferencing and instant messaging apps. It’s harder to get chatting about non-work-related topics that would come up naturally during conversations over lunch or at the coffee dock. 

That doesn’t mean that it’s impossible to connect online but it does take more effort. Regular meetings, social catch-ups, and training to create a solid foundation for teamwork are needed for a remote working environment.

Provide training to all team members to combat any challenges like feeling isolated and educate everyone on potential impacts on mental health offering techniques and points of contact to help. 

Take preventative measures, so employees feel empowered to speak about any issues openly to boost employee morale. This way, you create a work environment everyone can thrive in and is happy to be part of your team.

Remote working response headshots of Alex Souchoroukof, Mariia Kovalenko and Katheriin Liibert

Alex Souchoroukof, Marketing Copywriter at Moosend talks about varying team dynamics:

"The cost of a remote working workforce is a loss of a sense of purpose, which at work is primarily driven through solid relationships and seeing how your tasks impact others. Both of these are easier to achieve when individuals work together in the same office. 

However, the shift to distributed working is also offering opportunities for various people to flourish. In regular office work, the more outgoing and confident employees typically take the lead, whereas the more introverts stay in the darkness.

To battle this with Moosend, we have weekly video conferencing meetings among team members, compensating for any negative effects on innovation. Brainstorming through a monitor is not ideal, but we have accomplished a pretty successful journey so far, and everyone in the team enjoys the process."

Mariia Kovalenko, Content Writer and Editor at Digital Marketers World says that we have to improve remote collaboration to work together more effectively:

“It’s hard to tell, but I'm leaning towards yes. Some experience a sudden spike in motivation to invent when transferred to the home office, while others plunge into the creativity drought. 

If we turn to research, we won’t find a definitive answer as well. For instance, the Boston Consulting Group and Microsoft survey revealed that while 82% of managers were satisfied with the performance of their employees, they also complained about losing the spirit of innovation.

If performance is still satisfactory, but innovation has “left the chat”, what’s the reason?

Here’s the thing. Innovation is all about cooperation and close teamwork. And let’s admit - we still haven’t figured it out, even though there’s no shortage of collaboration tools. 

Of course, we can attribute the innovation drought to other factors such as professional burnout, the pandemic, etc. But the core issue we need to address lies in remote collaboration difficulties. Once we have that optimized, we’ll solve the innovation problem and many other issues as well. But I'm optimistic and I think we are on the right track.”

Katheriin Liibert, Head of Marketing at Outfunnel tells us that it’s the company’s responsibility to create the right environment for teamwork and innovation:

“There's no limit to where or how innovation happens. For some, the office environment does not inspire creativity, whereas others come up with their best innovations when bouncing ideas off each other next to the water cooler. 

The best way to support innovative ideas in your team is to figure out what works best for your team and make sure your company policies support that.”

Encourage a Collaborative Work Environment

Establishing the well-oiled machinery of a collaborative work environment can be tricky as team members can feel disconnected or struggle with distractions at home. It can be more challenging to replicate the natural connection between team members that you get in an office environment.

However, your team can rise to this challenge by implementing a few strategies that foster virtual collaboration. Start the day with clear communication about who’s working on what and what their needs are in a daily morning meeting. 

Any subsequent meeting should have a clear agenda to move things forward. Take notes and write down action items that you can send out to everyone after the meeting. This makes it easy for everyone to review tasks and be clear on expectations.

To add to this transparent work environment, encourage openness about how team members are feeling. Collaboration only works based on relationships that are built on honesty and trust. 

Particularly in a remote work setting, we need to be reminded that we’re all human and that we all have permission to show that. After all, creativity and innovation spring from how comfortable we feel to share our ideas.

Remote working response headshots of Andre Oentoro, Jessica Ulloa and Alina Moskalova

Andre Oentoro, CEO and Founder of Breadnbeyond is convinced that technology can bridge the gap between face-to-face and virtual interaction to drive innovation:

“Yes. Although working from home limits employees to have face-to-face interactions for creating social ties and reciprocal trust -- which are essential for innovation, technology can help bridge this gap. All those AI-powered management tools, collaboration tools, or communication tools help virtual remote teams maintain their productivity and do a better job of working together.

Those remote working tools exist and can replicate the creative spark and harness the collective energy that drives innovation. But, of course, it’s down to the willingness of organizations or companies whether to utilize and implement them or not.”

Jessica Ulloa, Community Manager at MyPerfectResume recommends incorporating regular meetings like virtual coffee breaks and brainstorming sessions to improve remote collaboration:

“We all know that the best ideas come from people who work in relaxed and happy environments where open discussions with their colleagues are frequent and encouraged.

Though it is challenging to replicate in-person connections in a remote setting, it's still possible to create collaborative environments even if we're working from home. A great way to spark innovation among teams is by incorporating "virtual coffee breaks" or "Group Brainstorming sessions" as part of the company's programme. 

These meetings can help strengthen our employees' bond and communication, which will inevitably increase innovation in each team.”

Alina Moskalova, Outreach Manager at Digital Olympus refers us to the agile project management approach to help with communication between team members as well as customers: 

“On the contrary, it has the opposite effect. The reality is that innovation largely depends on the level of collaboration in a team. When a team can easily get together and brainstorm ideas, that's when innovations are born. A close interaction among team members inspires them to be inventive and fosters creativity. 

That being said, it doesn't mean that you can't facilitate innovation in a remote team. What you need is to adopt an agile project management approach that puts collaboration first. With the agile approach, your employees not only rely on communication with each other but with the customer as well. Such multi-channel interactions provide your team with more sources of ideas and stimulate innovation.”

Convert More Flexibility into Better Work-Life Balance

Most businesses in the remote working space offer flexible hours that can help to meet childcare needs and give employees more independence to work when they’re most productive. This opens up the possibility to easily align your working with your personal life, which can improve employee retention and attract new talent.

The flexibility provided by the employer helps but the main responsibility for creating a better work-life balance lies with you. For this balance to work, plan your day carefully. 

Start with a non-work-related morning routine that might involve journaling or fitness-related activities. This way, you’ve started the day on your own terms with a pocket of time to yourself before you get swept away by a busy workday. 

Be sure to incorporate breaks throughout your office hours. To get away from the screen for a few minutes, choose to spend your breaks in the garden or doing quick chores like folding laundry. 

Your evening routine then starts with closing your work laptop. Better work-life balance means spending more quality time relaxing with friends and family and doing activities you enjoy.

To enable that, make a point of logging off and the end of the day and stick to your boundaries. Keep your work phone within your office space and don’t be tempted to check emails in bed and get sucked into working overtime.

Remote working response headshots of Emily Morgan, Dennis Yu and Simon Dwight Keller

Emily Morgan, Head of Outreach at Fit My Money says that remote working is transforming the way we innovate and increases diversity:

“The shift to remote working might have caused a kind of 'innovation gap' for a while, but people are adapting and transforming the way they brainstorm. Creativity doesn't depend on the place you are in, right? Great ideas come anywhere you are. 

So remote working is absolutely likely to increase innovation and can offer greater opportunities to enhance diversity as you are no longer restricted by geographical boundaries.”

Dennis Yu, Digital Marketer, Speaker, and Agency Builder talks about how he and his teams adjusted their processes to adapt to remote working: 

“I lost 12 international speaking gigs when COVID shut down the planet. And instead of meeting clients and team members in person, we had to work from home.

New situations create new opportunities.

So we learned how to set up video studios in our kitchens and spare bedrooms and adapt to a wide range of collaboration tools. I gained a couple of hours a day from transit time or putting on nice clothes. Now I have a nice shirt on top and shorts below the camera.

As CTO for multiple digital marketing agencies, I initially was disappointed with so many Zoom calls. But then we learned to make team and client collaboration fun-- to use polling, take turns sharing and creating content together.

Recording all client and team calls allowed us to produce training from these meetings-- where team members demonstrate step by step how they do their function, which we convert into guides.

I'm excited by the new tools that let me work from the park, at my favorite restaurant, and when I want.  

It's forced us to create more processes and be more disciplined, but it is well worth it.”

Simon Dwight Keller, CEO & Founder at SDK Marketing says that the independence and flexible hours of a remote working arrangement foster creativity:

“Creative people often need some downtime to relax their thoughts and allow their big ideas to surface. Imposing a structured schedule can stifle them and put an end to their free-thinking.

Therefore, employers who offer flexible hours and allow their staff to navigate their work and personal lives on their own are reaping the rewards of loosening the reins. Remote working environments give employees the ability to move and find answers in unexpected places.

As long as they have access to the tools they need to record their thoughts and communicate with team members, they will be prepared for innovative thinking wherever they are.”

Create Your Personal Schedule

Probably one of the best perks of working remotely is the complete absence of a commute. Instead of spending one or two hours on some form of transport, you can invest the time in better morning routines and recharge time to increase efficiency and well-being.

Used wisely, the time gained can be your way into becoming more innovative, as you don’t rush through your day with tunnel vision but instead find more time to reflect. Getting rid of the commute might not be visible as a direct impact on innovation but it definitely reduces stress fostering a relaxed mind ready for brainstorming.

Set clear boundaries between work, breaks, and relaxation time to avoid distractions, overworking, and procrastination. A transparent schedule like that doesn’t only mean a better work-life balance but also fosters periods of focus, which in turn increases productivity and innovation.

Remote working response headshots of Petra Odak, Virginia Zacharaki and a business logo for Ebnu Sudarso

Petra Odak, Chief Marketing Officer at Better Proposals says that time otherwise spent on commuting to and from work can be used more efficiently when working from home:

“I think it’s a stretch to say that remote work directly increases innovation, but it definitely does help. When you work remotely, you have at least an hour a day to yourself that you would have otherwise spent commuting.

Many of us choose to spend that hour contemplating our work and finding new ways to do things more quickly and efficiently. That time is a massive resource that we can use to become more innovative, but it’s up to the individual to use it as they see fit.”

Virginia Zacharaki, SEO Project Manager at Moosend talks about how remote working enriches innovation by fostering qualities like independence, efficiency, and self-organization:

“Face-to-face communication has been proven to spark ideas that lead to innovation and breakthroughs, and remote working could actually enrich that, with qualities such as independence, efficiency, and self-organization.

After all, the basis of innovation is the diversity of thought and inclusivity. The recent advancements in technology can help anyone overcome the difficulties of missing everyday interactions at the workplace, and with the benefit of not commuting to the office, thus saving precious time, innovation can occur and prosper in solitude.”

Ebnu Sudarso, Creative Director at Milkwhale says that working remotely gives you more time to focus on and explore new ideas:

“Yes. Working from home increases innovation because it decreases a significant amount of idle time. For example, working in an office usually requires you to drive or catch a commute to the building where you work. You also need to get ready in the morning and this could take up to an hour or more.

Working from home eliminates idle time and gives you the freedom to work freely in your own space. I believe that having more time allows you to explore more ideas and become more productive — increasing innovation and efficiency.“

Remote working can increase innovation but needs a different approach to work for everyone. Clear communication, openness, and flexibility should be the foundation to build a remote working strategy. 

This sets the starting point for smooth virtual collaboration, which also depends on each individual team member and how effectively they’ve set up their home office and have structured their day for a healthy work-life balance. 

Providing training and cultivating a company culture of openness helps prevent feelings of isolation and burnout. Acknowledging and working with rather than against the differences between a remote working environment and the office creates a setting in which everyone feels comfortable and confident to share their ideas. 

Innovation increases through people and their ideas. Working remotely provides more focus time to spark creativity but for an effective remote process, every business should also offer the tools needed to empower their team.