During the pandemic, we've been forced to adopt a lot of new habits, fast. But will work life return to normal after lockdown? Will Zoom meetings replace travelling to see clients? Will Slack take over from water cooler moments?
We spoke with a range of creative agencies on how they've adapted their activities during the crisis, what they've experimented with, and what habits they expect to continue into a post-lockdown world.
1. Looking out for each other
"One thing I've noticed is the empathy people have towards each other," says Rob Coke, founder and client director at Studio Output. "Being apart has made us realise what we take for granted. In some ways, it's made us more sociable, whether sharing articles and links to wellbeing apps, or recipes and tip-offs about where to buy flour. There's a real sense that the team is looking out for each other, which I hope we'll keep."
"It's brought us closer to clients too," he continues. "Everyone's been thrown into this situation together, and they seem less guarded because of it. There's a warmth to conversations that perhaps wasn't there before. It feels like a lot of people see this as an opportunity to shift their relationship with work, particularly those with long commutes and families at home."
2. Culture building activities
"We're looking forward to returning to our studio spaces in London and Leeds, and making the most of them," says Lottie Maddison, marketing and development Manager at StormBrands. "Not having access to your day-to-day studio is a sharp indicator for the essential things that make a productive office.
"Being back together in a shared creative atmosphere with reminders of our achievements hanging on the wall, and the familiar sound of creative buzz in the background will be brilliant," she enthuses. "It's not just the internal spaces we miss; we can't wait to return to the neighbourhoods StormBrands call home. Culture building activities have always been a deliberate part of our agency, and that's something we can't wait to return to."
3. Fewer flights
"This experience has certainly had its downsides," says Orlaith Wood, senior writer at Reed Words. "But we've proven that working from home is perfectly possible. I expect many of us will have to get used to this being the norm for a good while yet."
Her studio typically holds a lot of face-to-face meetings and workshops with clients, she adds, so they've made good use of video conferencing instead. "We've even launched a series of free online webinars, which has allowed us to reach out to clients we'd lost touch with and generally share our expertise with more people than ever before.
"One of the things I hope becomes the 'new normal' is that the industry will reconsider the need for long-haul flights for meetings that could have easily been video calls," she adds. "That's one benefit – for the planet – that could come from the crisis."
4. Office cake
"As a studio, we've had to work more intuitively and flexibly, as it's much less easy to bounce ideas off each other so spontaneously," says Charlie Smith, creative director at Charlie Smith Design. "I always thought not working in the same room would make it very difficult to work collaboratively, but we've adapted and are managing it quite well."
That said, she's very much looking forward to a return to the physical office. "While you can still have banter on a Zoom call, it certainly isn't the same," she says. "I look forward to the chat not being about what's on Netflix, and rather hearing about everyone is actually going out and doing and seeing again. Unfortunately, Zoom can't replace celebrating team birthdays with a homemade cake either; something we've all missed!"
5. Better mental health
"Without a doubt, we're craving real face-to-face interaction, but working remotely has shown we can be a more flexible agency and productivity is on the up too," says Mark Davis, co-founder and creative director at me&dave. "We'd all hold our hands up and say briefings sometimes went a little wonky back in the studio, but now we're briefing like a boss. We're respecting each other's time more and making better use of it with Zoom meetings for project collaboration and Slack for quick responses that cut through the more cumbersome nature of calls.
"This situation has naturally put a greater focus on wellbeing and consideration for everyone's mental health which is a good thing," he adds. "We're eating healthier lunches and making sure we step away from our desks for a midday walk. That unique me&dave culture of banding together and genuinely caring about who we work with and what we're striving for has only become stronger."
6. A new mindset
"The level of communication, support and empathy across the agency has been incredibly powerful," says Lisa Mitchelmore, head of people and culture at Ragged Edge. "I've observed relationships strengthen and solidarity within teams and individuals deepen. The Covid-19 crisis and working remotely has provided us with an opportunity to reset and restore, avoid the everyday bustle of London life and replace it with considered 'check-in' time for not only ourselves but each other. We'll make sure to take this mindset back to the studio with us."