After spending the past year working from home, creatives have had a year like never before.
In the past, agencies have put in effort to keep creative departments engaged, organizing ping pong tournaments, happy hours and museum visits. But that has been more difficult on Zoom or Google Hangouts. Brainstorms are now virtual, coffee breaks remote and the vibrant atmosphere of the office has been replaced by isolation.
At a time when we’re all glued to the screen, how are creative people doing?
It turns out, not all bad. For some, the pandemic has been an excuse to finally chase entrepreneurial dreams. One associate creative director I spoke with said he was relieved to be out of the grind of agency life.
“I was relieved to be out of a job that was making me miserable,” he said. “I didn’t have the heart to say no to a great paycheck, but the pandemic pushed me out, and I’m grateful for it. I launched a start-up. I know I’ll never go back to being a full-time agency creative.”
For others, like senior art director-turned-freelancer Hillary Young, the pandemic is a catalyst to reconsider career paths.
“This time away has forced me to consider if I ever want to go back to a[n office],” she said. “On-site, it’s easy to get caught up in company bureaucracy. These past months have forced me to examine what’s important in life, and it’s not title or status.”
Those who have remained at agencies have found they are surprisingly productive at home. German creative agency Pahnke, for example, won four major clients through lockdown while pitching remotely, said digital creative director Roberto Luciani.
The cultural piece hasn’t been too difficult either, despite being remote, he added.
“I got hired in the midst of quarantine, and have only once met a few members of my team,” he said. “Yet I feel like I've been here for years.”
John Long, global head of creative at The Economist, told me that while his team is missing random in-person run-ins, he’s been surprised at how good art and copy teams adjusted to working remotely. “I'll never again ask a team to come into the office on a Sunday,” he added.
While we’ll eventually get back in person to have those moments of creativity, we’ll be back with many new learnings. Most of us will have a new sense of appreciation for being “present” in a room.
And some might even miss the shortest commutes of their careers.