[vc_row][vc_column width=”1/1″][vc_column_text]Though some may resist it, creative employees need structure to thrive. It’s easy to think of copywriters, video editors and graphic designers as eclectic, free-spirited people who just need tools and a prompt, if that, to get their work done. They’re the outside-the-box thinkers who never clean up their rooms and don’t let things like rules get in the way of their next big idea.
In a recent podcast appearance, one of the most successful creative minds of the last century, Jerry Seinfeld, shared his beliefs on truly harnessing creative gifts to make something unique. “The brain is so easy to master. You just have to confine it,” Seinfeld explains. In the podcast, he breaks down the many ways that he creates the right parameters for his brain so that he doesn’t toil or loaf away aimlessly.
In the office, many creative employees got the structure they needed simply by having to arrive at a certain time and work for specified lengths, along with the reduced temptation to goof off while their boss and coworkers could see them. While working from home, these employees may be missing the outside scheduling and social accountability that comes from being in the office.
Managers may need new skills to be able to inspire organization remotely. These tips can help them bring order to the creative department’s WFH environment by implementing constraints that encourage organization without forcing it. A little bit will go a long way in helping people with creative abilities to deliver when they need to.
1. Distractions are inevitable, but not all distractions are equal.
No matter what employees might tell themselves, it’s impossible to stay completely focused on work for two full hours, much less eight or ten. With that in mind, managers can spur employees not to fear or hate distractions but, instead, to try to handle them mindfully. When the situation allows it, planning breaks in the action ahead of time can reduce the total number of distractions that they experience throughout the day. Even more importantly, it can make those distractions shorter and less disruptive to their overall workflow and focus.
Let managers know that they can encourage mindful distractions by setting more short-term goals and deadlines. For projects that take a lot of creative direction, they might ask the creative minds to send what they come up with after forty-five minutes. The shorter duration eliminates many of the non-urgent, unplanned distractions that can derail an entire day, but it’s long enough, in most cases, that it doesn’t feel like micromanagement.
2. Get boring to get going.
Creative employees have a lot to gain from knowing that it’s okay (and even beneficial!) to do nothing for a stretch — but doing nothing is not the same as goofing off. Using short, planned times of controlled boredom can help thoughtful minds lock in with the focus they need.
Instruct managers that, when they notice that an employee is in a rut with a project, they could try telling the employee to set a timer for three minutes. In those three minutes, the only thing they can do is stare at a blank wall; there’s no phone, no working, no coffee and no talking until the timer goes off. By the end of those three minutes, the employee will be able to laser in for the next fifteen, which is just enough to get momentum with a challenging project.
3. Artificial pressure might have real downsides.
Driven, goal-oriented people often feel a drive each day to outperform the day before. While the ambition is admirable, they often end up working too hard on low-priority items and don’t have enough mental energy left over for the more important and demanding tasks. Direct managers to temper their employees’ drive with an understanding of the broader work cycle, because that will make everyone more productive, successful and happier in the long run.
Remind managers not to put hard deadlines on tedious tasks during slow periods just so they can say their employees are still busy. While letting bad habits develop isn’t optimal either, keep managers aware of the possibility of creative burnout and the ways that they can balance consistent effort with healthy and realistic expectations for effort.
By teaching managers to encourage strong habits and structures for their creative employees, especially while working from home, using these three strategies, you set those employees up for long-term success.
Interested in more ways to manage creative employees? Tribe can help.