The creative industry, like many others, is going to be changed by Covid-19, but we should see this as an opportunity, not a roadblock.
We have the chance to pause and ask ourselves if the accepted approach is the right one. Below, I’ve outlined five ways working practices might alter post-remote working.
1) How to manage creative workload
I lead the US creative side of things at WPP brand agency Superunion. Shortly after my team went remote, we implemented a ‘shits and giggles’ check-in at the beginning of each day, to get a bird’s eye view of the workload for the day.
Shortly after my team went remote, we implemented a ‘shits and giggles’ check-in.
I borrowed a framework from my son’s first grade class: They do a ‘traffic light’ assessment each morning to gauge how they’re feeling using the colours green, orange or red. For my team’s purposes, red means we need to individually look at how we can support that person, either mentally or with their workload. Orange means they’re at capacity and need to be in the zone with their current work. Green, meanwhile, means they’re open and available to collaborate.
Having this daily status update gives a deeper understanding of how people work and how we need to manage workloads more sensitively than perhaps pre-Covid. In this system, everyone is able to maximise the timing of their creative flow.
2) How to create work
The biggest change many companies have faced since going remote has been moving the creative work space online. At Superunion, we may have hesitated doing this before, but now we’re seeing enough advantages to continue beyond our current need to work remotely. The main advantage is the increased collaboration. We are currently working on a 100ftx100ft crit wall - an unlimited virtual area where everything lives in one space, allowing creative teams to work alongside each other seamlessly.
Going forward, I think agencies will see creatives push the limits of what software can do.
This method has fostered a sense of shared ownership over the work, a method which we will continue in our studio well after we return. Working alongside each other in this way has enabled us to see the real time contributions made by the whole team, from designers to copy writers. Going forward, I think agencies will see creatives push the limits of what software such as this can do, and it will adapt and evolve with us, opening up even more possibilities to push work further than ever before.
3) The efficiency of creating work
Another huge bonus is efficiency. With everyone having access to all documents living in one place, using this method has eliminated the need for endless email chains, pulling documents, and managing version control for every element of the design process. It’s also made it so much easier to course correct. Whereas previously agencies would have to wait for a review process in the physical crit space, virtual tools allow much more rapid engagement in the development process. It has unlocked the ability for concurrent feedback on the work and it has cut the development time considerably.
Virtual tools allow much more rapid engagement in the development process.
The flip side of this, we’ve found, is the temptation for high-functioning designers to work around the clock and take back-to-back meetings all day. Creative leads need to stay aware of individual output and ensure the team is getting the space they need from the work in order to prevent burnout.
4) How to work with clients
Working virtually has the ability to evolve the internal creative techniques and presentation development of an agency. That can also be translated to how companies work with clients, or pitch new business. I believe elements of this process will remain in our post-lockdown return to the studio. Agencies like ours are able to enhance their ability to tell a story during the presentation as it breaks away from the traditional linear structure. These virtual tools can make presenting more holistic, allowing us to zero in on certain elements, before scaling back to see the full picture.
Virtual tools can make presenting more holistic, allowing us to zero in on certain elements, before scaling back to see the full picture.
Employing this method allows us to use a lens to focus and guide us in a way that may not always happen when pointing at posters on a wall. Consequently, it’s more collaborative and responsive as we can be guided by the client’s real-time reaction. What we won’t lose, however, are the ‘reveal’ moments that hold so much value, and the theatre that makes the presentation so engaging.
5) Widening the talent net
Finally, remote working has widened the net for creative talent. The days where someone has to physically be in the studio to collaborate are now gone. This way of working has obliterated any hesitancy around the ability to be productive from home, and the ability for freelance talent to contribute to work. Agencies should now feel much more comfortable sourcing talent from a broader and far reaching pool, which will ultimately diversify the industry and elevate the level of work.
Agencies should now feel much more comfortable sourcing talent from a broader and far reaching pool.
As we recover from this pandemic, it is important that we take our learnings with us and evolve as an industry, particularly focusing on how we can be more inclusive and democratise creativity both inside and outside of the office.