Revamping your design process to thrive with a remote team.

The wholesale shift to remote work in 2020 upended traditional design processes. Creative teams scrambled to keep the workflow going, adopting new methods and tools on the fly. They made it work — but only by holding things together with duct tape.

Continued uncertainty and intense work demands have prevented creative team leaders from solidifying new design processes. They’re left playing catch-up rather than truly leading as the world changes around them.


And it is changing. Remote and hybrid work arrangements are the future. A recent study by Harvard Business School researchers suggests that 16% of US workers will continue to work from home long after the pandemic resolves, representing a massive, permanent shift to remote work.


Creative leaders must take time to design opportunities for greater creativity, productivity, and market leadership in this new context. Adapting to the new realities of remote and hybrid work can empower teams to innovate, rather than feeling lost in the shuffle of the digital work shift.

4 areas of attention for leading remote creative teams.

All-remote and hybrid teams work differently, and a creative team’s design process should shift accordingly. Regardless of the team’s particular setup, creative leads should cultivate a design process that leans into the advantages of remote and hybrid work, including greater flexibility, opportunities for creativity, and new methods of communication.


Here are four areas creative leads should keep in mind when designing new processes for remote creative work.


1. People

“People on a creative team will have a lot of requests made to them, and a lot of people pulling them in different directions,” says Brian Barrus, creative director at The Stoke Group, a digital marketing and creative agency. “How do you create a workflow that puts people first and keeps them happy and creative?”


Creative leaders must prioritize protecting their team from the demands coming their way from various corners of their organization. Relief from that pressure is one major thing creatives need to excel in their jobs.


“People on a creative team will have a lot of requests made to them, and a lot of people pulling them in different directions.”

Brian Barrus

Creative director, The Stoke Group

Creatives’ need for protection exists whether they’re in the office or working remotely, but it can be particularly acute in remote-work settings — where leaders aren’t as attuned to employees’ daily realities.


Leaders can help employees protect their time for creative work by encouraging them to think critically about meetings. For many, meetings have increased in the remote-work context, along with a lack of ongoing informal communication. Leaders can coach their workers to be discerning in who they invite to meetings and in which invites they accept.


2. Process

Creative teams usually have processes for intake, review, and approvals that can easily translate to a remote situation. The bigger challenge is the ideation phase of a project. In a remote setting, it can be difficult to replicate the informal brainstorming teams used to rely on.


Video meetings unintentionally promote a level of formality that isn’t as conducive to free-wheeling conversation. Creative leads can proactively design ways for video-meeting attendees to relax. You can do this by using various prompts or exercises during meetings, as well as by cultivating a general informal culture that is conducive to unselfconscious riffing among colleagues when appropriate.


3. Communication

Remote work changes the nature of communication. In-office workers can easily turn to their colleagues to seek clarification on a given task, but that’s more difficult to do in a remote setup. Clear, concise, and complete creative briefs can help teams convey essential ideas efficiently and accurately. When stakeholders submit a vague or incomplete brief, you’ll be doing everyone a favor if you insist that they provide more information before you kick off the project.


At times, leaders should try to cultivate an informal environment. It’s good to remember that not every interaction needs a specific purpose. Teams benefit when leaders call or message employees just to ask, "What's going on today? What things are you worried about?"


“Try as best you can to just replicate a more casual, informal setting, even if it's on Zoom,” says Barrus. “You'll be able to tell if people are stressed out, or if they're having issues. If you don't, then the alternative is you don't hear it, and you don't learn about stuff until it becomes a big problem."


4. Creative tools

Creative teams can be successful remotely by using the same tools they use in person. Options like Slack and Zoom are great for real-time communication. But according to the 2021 Digital Trends Experience Index from Econsultancy and Adobe, easy messaging is only a baseline need for creative teams to work well together remotely. They also need the right tools to support their creative work."


“Often the most important work happens when individuals unplug from the always-on conversation to focus on analysis, writing, and strategy,” the report states. “The tools to support engagement throughout asynchronous work may have the most profound effects on productivity." For example, the built-in collaboration tools in Adobe Creative Cloud help teams work as one."


Redefining productivity.

Working remotely brings challenges, but it also has its benefits. Part of the upside is that it’s pushing people to rethink the meaning of “productivity.”


In office environments, productivity is too often measured by things like length of workdays or whether employees look busy. When teams are remote, leaders must focus more on factors that really matter: Is the team reaching its goals? Are people meeting their deadlines? Are they delivering high-quality work?


When creative leaders apply this perspective to productivity, it opens up more space for team members to work autonomously and creatively — whether they’re collaborating in an in-person, hybrid, or remote setting.

Adobe can help.

Adobe Creative Cloud for teams gives you the world’s best creative apps and services in a single, secure, integrated platform. With 20+ desktop and mobile apps, Creative Cloud Libraries for keeping assets in sync across apps and devices, and 1TB of storage per user, this complete creativity solution is designed to support your business at every stage of growth. Plus, you can count on simplified license management and total control over your software to help your team stay focused on creating great work.