The losses and gains of WFH

As lockdown begins to slowly lift, companies are considering how our working life will adapt. Here, James Britton, group managing director at Stink Studios in London, examines how our enforced WFH period may create permanent change, and what might be lost along the way

In just a few short months, the era of working from a studio — the almost universal standard for the creative class — has been thrown into question. Reports of increased productivity during the enforced lockdown have given larger corporations reason to consider making permanent WFH a longer term strategy, reducing their exposure to eye-watering rents in the big cities, and benefiting from the lower overheads required to support a distributed workforce.

There’s obvious upside for many employees too, with potential for greater flexibility in the working day, particularly those who have long commutes. But how might this longer term shift affect the studio environment and the creative process? What happens when the shared space for creativity moves from between four walls of a studio to four sides of a screen?

Stink Studios’ differentiator for clients has always been coming up with ideas that use technology in new and interesting ways, and then bringing those ideas to life. To maintain that deep expertise in how things actually get made, it’s essential that team members from all disciplines are involved in all stages of the creative process.

As cloud computing has matured, so have the real-time collaboration features of many creative tools. Remote workflows have become even more essential for remote teams. Whether developing interactive walkthroughs in Figma, discussing collaborative whiteboards in Miro, or handing off assets in Zeplin, the collaborative space online has already meant that most modern companies have been able to adapt quickly to a remote set-up during the pandemic .

However there’s still plenty of challenges as things develop. Meetings over video, by virtue of being booked online, feel even more rigid. The discussions that take place in the moments before or after a meeting are often the most valuable in terms of human connection. We’ve definitely seen increased burden on producers too. How best to support, coordinate and motivate a team that they can’t see across the room? There’s also less room for spontaneity, glancing across at another’s screen and seeing something unexpected — the alchemy of a designer sitting next to a developer, a motion designer sitting next to a copywriter — it’s important these things aren’t lost to remote working.