As a creative duo, we have more or less sat next to each other for nearly 20 years – working for the likes of Hakuhodo, VCCP, Forever Beta and George & Dragon and currently as creative directors at Five by Five Global.
When lockdown began, our creative and working lives changed dramatically. However, the work done by Five by Five and others in the industry over the past few months has shown that it is possible for creative teams to work from home. In fact, we believe it will even set a precedent for creative working to change in the future.
THE CHALLENGES OF WORKING FROM HOME
As creatives, we’re very much social people and we love sharing stuff. We love discussing things and airing our views and our ideas. While we’re usually able to turn around and talk to each other, we now can’t, and this has been difficult to get used to. Most creatives would agree that one of the best parts of the creative process is getting the brief and spitballing and sharing and doing ‘what ifs’. That’s hard when the spontaneity is lost.
Then there are the distractions. Working from home has been a challenge for whole swathes of previous happy office-dwellers. Children just don’t care that you’re in a Zoom meeting and by now, we’ve probably all seen a head of department trying to conduct a conference call with a child on their shoulders.
But in all seriousness, this lack of differentiation between life and work can be a strain – you’re trying to still be professional and do the job, but at the same time, there are all these other things like making lunch and homeschooling. It’s the kind of constant struggle that doesn’t always sit well with the creative process.
THE ADVANTAGES FOR CREATIVE TEAMS
While we are used to going for long walks in Soho and batting ideas around over coffee, this process is no longer an option. However, we’ve rapidly learned to adapt to a world of FaceTime, Zoom calls and Google Hangouts.
To stay constantly connected, we use the visual collaboration app Mural, which allows people to pin notes and share ideas and this way we’re still having lots of interaction – in fact, we’re probably seeing more of each other.
We are also working much faster, because we have to. There’s so much more immediacy in everything. Usually we have a couple of days to get to grips with a brief, but now we’re on it all so much quicker.
This has also meant that we’ve needed to be more agile. For example, we’re working on a series of idents and Covid-19 restrictions have meant that some of the luxuries we might have taken for granted – from casting to production meetings, reccies and attending shoots – are out of the window.
The idea that working remotely means a lack of collaboration isn’t bearing true – at least not for us
We certainly never imagined we’d be able to do most if not all of these things via Zoom, but it is possible – as some of the great work other agencies are putting out has shown. We’ve pulled together as a team: everyone has been more focused on the job at hand and turned around some tight deadlines. At the same time, our clients are being even more understanding in terms of limitations during these testing times.
The idea that working remotely means a lack of collaboration isn’t bearing true – at least not for us. You might see people in passing or while making coffee when you’re working in an office but, at least in our experience, you don’t always get to speak to the agency as a whole. Now we have had about 40-50 people on one call, which has really given the agency a cohesion we maybe didn’t have before.
Our clients are much more integral to the process
Lockdown has also been a great opportunity to see more of our clients, however much of an oxymoron this sounds. In the past we might have fired over emails and waited for a response, now we’re jumping on hangouts immediately instead. This has allowed the creative-client relationship to be stronger. And our clients are much more integral to the process. We’re all in the same situation, so there’s a lot more empathy and understanding.
Perhaps our biggest change in collaboration, however, can be seen with our international agencies. We’ve always been able to collaborate and work with different offices at different times or hand over at the end of the day, but we’re doing this so much more now. There’s a constant evolution of work and this has definitely improved our relationship with our sister agencies.
A NEW WAY OF WORKING
So will all this affect how the industry works in future? There is going to be a strange transition period, that’s for sure. Some people haven’t seen another soul in person for weeks and we’re all going to have to learn to get used to each other again.
It’s certainly demonstrated that we all don’t need to be in the same place to do great work. We believe we can all use working virtually to our advantage from now on and we think we’ll find ourselves working from different places a lot more than before.
Most creative agencies these days have some sort of policy of how many days you can work from home. Of course, nothing beats real life and being around people but at the same time, we never imagined how much we’d be able to get done remotely.
The creative world is going to have to be more understanding of home obligations
We also think that the creative world is going to have to be more understanding of home obligations. Certainly at Five By Five, everyone has stepped up. People are getting their work done and have been really responsible. Before, asking to leave a meeting early might have been frowned upon but now, it’s clear that people are starting to relax their views on work and life balance.
Many people have been loving the fact they’re spending more time with their families. However, we also know that some people, who might have been staring at the same four walls for the last however many weeks, can’t wait to get back to the office.
What we do know is that we definitely don’t have to spend five days in an office any more. And what’s important is that agencies work towards an office culture that works best for everyone on this spectrum. Ultimately, what matters most, when work starts to go back to (the new) normal, is people. And our hope is that our people have the security they need to be in the right headspace to work creatively.
Ravi Beeharry and Andy Mancuso are creative directors at Five by Five Global, a creative marketing agency with teams in London, Southampton, Sydney and Los Angeles; fivebyfiveglobal.com