The current crisis has thrust rapid adaptation upon businesses as they quickly shift teams from offices to remote workstations. But perhaps no sector endured a culture shock as much as creative businesses that heavily rely upon workforce collaboration.
The patron saint of creative businesses, Steve Jobs, famously observed:
“Creativity comes from spontaneous meetings, from random discussions. You run into someone, you ask what they’re doing, you say ‘wow,’ and soon you’re cooking up all sorts of ideas.”
So how do we foster such creative cooking in an era where we are working miles apart? Necessity is the mother of invention. There are several online platforms that support collaborative projects, keep your team focused, and efficiently manage business, even when working from afar.
Let’s examine some of the best tech tools to help your creative company thrive under current conditions and beyond.
Tech tools for business operations
Creative companies may consider themselves dream factories running on inspiration and imagination, but management knows business is fueled by traditional currency. Shifting to a remote workforce has not only impacted collaborative processes, but it also made financial operations increasingly difficult.
Tracking time, billing clients, logging payments, and general accounting all become more complicated without a centralized physical department. Fortunately there are many tools for these problems, too.
Simpler tasks like tracking billable time and monitoring productivity can be accomplished with unobtrusive background apps, but broader tasks like payment processing or accounting require powerful-but-intuitive software that comes with features such as unlimited bank and card connections, regular data backups, PCI-level 1 certification to ensure customer financial data is kept encrypted.
Tech tools for collaboration
Perhaps the greatest challenge for creative companies working in remote conditions is the shift in collaboration. Brainstorming, whiteboards, meeting rooms, and ping-pong tables comprise a circulatory system for the life’s blood of creativity. So how can these dynamics be replicated when employees are all stuck in their homes?
There’s no virtual environment that can precisely mimic the in-office experience. But platforms aimed at enabling better messaging, video conferencing, project management, and creative cooperation can supply the next-best thing.
Now that our cubicles are no longer adjacent, team members depend upon online communications to convey quick thoughts and questions.
Rather than relying on clunky company email threads, most teams have turned to alternatives, specifically in the form Google Hangouts, WhatsApp, and Slack.
These tools are essentially multi-channel chat rooms for your team, but their versatility also makes them much more. With targeted notifications, adjustable privacy settings and the ability to easily share media or files, these platforms make team communication practically seamless.
Equal to maintaining communication between your team members is ensuring quality communication with your customers and clients. Keeping customers happy will now require customer service software such as cloud-based help desks.
Pro tip: Any help desk services you use should not only promote attentive communication but should also do so securely through protected by SSL encryption.
There are times on team projects when text alone is not enough. Messaging tools are fine for sharing information. But recapturing the electric vibe of office meetings requires a show of hands (and faces) that only comes through live video conferencing.
For years we’ve chatted with family-and-friends on Skype, FaceTime and Hangout, but the pandemic has put a premium on more functional professional connections like Microsoft’s enhanced Teams and the meteoric rise of Zoom.
The organizational nature of project management lends itself well to technology solutions. Google Workspace incorporates some excellent tools for sharing files and tracking project progression, while services like AirTable, Trello and Asana are well-suited for more data-centric enterprises.
If your projects are less about shuffling assignments and more about artists contributing to each task, there are tech tools that can help you too.
There are platforms for brainstorming stage like Miro where team members can contribute to the same virtual whiteboard, map progress, and scope out designs.
While creative teams are busy producing digital assets in various formats from locations around the globe, it falls on managers to track all the pieces for deployment across campaigns.
Protecting company data
One of the lesser known impacts of the pandemic has been the substantial increase of cyberattacks targeting small businesses. Cybercrime has become a significant problem to the point that most organizations now fall victim to a cyberattack at least once on average every year.
This is why it’s crucial to ensure that all data or communications set between team members are kept encrypted. Arguably the most efficient way to accomplish this is via a virtual private network, or VPN.
VPNs supply the end-to-end encryption necessary to protect your company’s work. Make sure to get VPN accounts for all employees, and mandate its use for when employees are handling company data.
Tech tools for team maintenance
Preserving operations during a global pandemic is about more than perpetuating the workflow. It also requires tending to the personal needs and mental health of your team. Many creatives have freelance experience working from home, but others are accustomed to office life. Make sure your team has guidance on setting up a home workspace and establishing a healthy work routine.
Maintaining morale is also critical to keeping employees engaged, productive and happy. Be creative with some of the tools we’ve already cited. You can devote Slack channels to blowing off steam with humorous content, dedicate Zoom spaces as “virtual break rooms”, or turn evening video conferences into happy hours.
Online activities outside the company technosphere can also build camaraderie: digital escape rooms, Internet scavenger hunts, or even taking creative workshop classes are all pursuits that can pay off with better relationships and collaboration.
The quick shift to remote working impacted every industry, but forced remote work may be most disruptive to creative companies, which rely upon collaboration by their very nature.
Thankfully creatives are able to access a bevy of tech tools to bring them back together virtually. This has their firms to not only survive but thrive. It’s long been said that creatives work best with their heads in the ‘clouds.’ These days, that’s true not only figuratively, but technologically.
Learn more about managing working remote in Amy Landio’s NEW class Master Work (From Home) / Life Balance.