Better together?

 

There is unlikely to be any series of events that impacts the working life of those in the creative industries as significantly as those attributed to the Coronavirus pandemic.

As the entire world continues to get to grips with the legacy of COVID-19 and its devastating effects, so too those looking to regain a sense of normality in their work-life search for a level of routine and consistency that has been missing for almost 18 months.

With the backdrop of the announcement from the Office of National Statistics last month that there are “early signs” of improvement in the jobs market after a punishing 2020, there is room for cautious optimism that things may just be getting back to whatever normal may be.

But as we approach what we all hope will be the end of this challenging chapter, it’s worth thinking: Does everything need to go back to how it was? Much has changed with not only how we work but where we work – principally the ability and at times necessity to work from home. As creative businesses and industries once again open their doors and offices draft back in personnel, is there actually an argument for the arrangement of working from home to continue?

Here are some potential positives that have come from staying within our own walls to get work done.

The commute… Research carried out prior to the Pandemic indicated that the average commuter’s journey in the UK two and from work was around an hour, which represents a significant chunk of any working day. Theoretically saving yourself ten hours’ a week isn’t to be sniffed at, and that’s without factoring in the inevitability of traffic and delays. Replacing that with a saunter across the landing or up the stairs in the morning is good for the environment, too, however you travel.

Less stress… Even the most enjoyable jobs and the most jovial of workplaces are powerless to eliminate absolutely any and all stress from our working lives. The fact is, the pressure of meetings, presentations, pitches and the productivity (or otherwise!) of others has an impact on how we operate. That’s dialled down significantly if we can approach many of those things from the comfort of our own home, and steering clear of time bandits around the office is an added bonus to say the least.

Savings… The financial benefit to those working from home as opposed to leaving the house on a daily basis to do so isn’t necessarily one that screams out at you as huge, but it’s there. Quite apart from the saving on fuel or transport, there are the many other temptations that present themselves from being busily out and about that you wouldn’t be confronted with otherwise. Working lunches, morning coffees on the go, the ice-cream van that frequents our little industrial estate? It all adds up.

Of course, little in life is problem free, so while there are advantages aplenty of not working from the office regularly, there are also other factors to consider.

Here’s the flipside of the coin, and it’s probably the side we are landing on: 

Structure…The informality and physical relaxed nature of working from home brings with it a level of comfort that doesn’t always lend itself to discipline. Whilst there is little wrong with being able to head downstairs for a snack or to pop the kettle on more times than you would in your shared office, it can also lead a lack of the kind of structure you would get in a workplace environment if that comfort eases itself into a malaise. Being in situ, away from your pyjamas and in work on time can at least act as a motivator to stay task orientated.

Contact time… Perhaps the biggest pitfall of working from home in the creative industry is the lack of time around our likeminded colleagues. Yes, there’s the endless schedule of Zoom calls or Teams meetings, but there’s little that can substitute for bouncing off those around you when it comes to thinking outside the box and workshopping an idea that otherwise you just can’t seem to get going.

As a team at Alchemy, we work far better when we are throwing around ideas (some good, some bad) and working across such a range of clients, it’s important to keep everyone in the loop with what’s going on. In fact, this is often where impromptu ideas are sparked, which lead to some of our best ideas.

There’s also plenty to be said for the communal scoffing of pizza on a Friday afternoon (what, us?) that you just can’t replicate with Dominos for one.

Technology… No matter what the creative business, there is in 2021 a greater reliance on technology thanks to the Pandemic. Being at home may not represent an issue for those working for, say, a powerhouse in the connectivity field, but for many of us it is a case of being left to the mercy of residential WiFi. Sure enough, when you’ve an hour to hit that deadline, there’s no life in your router and a three week wait on a call-out for repairs.

Also, some of us are still a bit old fashioned and love scribbling in a notebook and sticking brand concepts and ideas on the wall. Creative ideation is far harder when you are hiding behind a computer screen.

What do others think…

Fellow agency friends Big Reach also agree. Carl Lane, Lead Marketing Manager tells us;

“I think the biggest difficulty our team has faced whilst remote working is losing those 30 second conversations for quick, creative collaboration. When we all sat next to each other, you could ask for an opinion on a social media design or a piece of copy and within 30 seconds have four different opinions and a new creative direction. Those same conversations can now last 5-10 minutes as you type out your question, wait for it to be seen and responded to, asking for clarification, wait for the inevitable “Shall we call?”, then spend half the call catching up because this is the first significant communication you’ve had all day.

As a team, we try not to schedule too much client work on the day we’re all in the office so that we can have those smaller creative conversations.”

Much like Big Reach, a few of us here in the office do work from home occasionally, but it’s true – those ad-hoc creative conversations are pretty valuable when it comes to account management. 

To reflect, perhaps as with many things it is important to have a balance of the good to ensure it doesn’t become the bad. Working from home is arguably a time saver and a money saver, too, but there’s a lot to be said for tossing ideas around across a desk than via a patchy broadband connection courtesy of a Zoom call, for which you’ve not bothered to find any trousers.

Creatively, we work better together – that’s one normal we are really enjoying having back here at Alchemy. 

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