Creativity, are you IN or OUT? Shaking it all about when it comes to working in studio, at home or away.

By James Maxwell on Thursday, 26 May 2022

As Heidi Klum once said, in the world of creative, one minute you’re in, the next you’re out… of the office, at home. (I’m paraphrasing, but you get the point.)

In, out, or away. That’s the new world of working. So what does it mean for creativity, for enjoyment, for satisfaction, for planning work, and ultimately for clients.

There have been hundreds of blogs, articles, complaints, videos, angry tweets by more some grumpy industry heads on the topic generally. But I’m interested specifically in creative. (Luckily, my role allows me to solely focus on this …)

My view? It’s kinda boring, but it’s all to do with balance.

I LOVE working from home. But any bubbly enthusiastic energy I’m meant to impart to the wider team comes across as a little unhinged through a screen. I mean it normally is anyway, but through a screen it’s worse.

While the world was burning (isn’t it still?) all the little mini-TS tower satellite offices around the country were absolutely brilliant. Originality, energy, and innovation was abundant.

Unsurprisingly though, the area that truly blew up was craft – the ability to focus, to pay attention to detail, to access high end skill for a job and a client. Why was that?

Anecdotally, our team believed it was because they could focus for more hours, at their pace, in their space without interruption. From account people or fellow creatives.

But rather than me just tell you my thoughts, I spoke to a range of creatives, account experts, planners, strategists, managers, and clients.

Hybrid has brought a formalisation to the presentation of ideas, rather than the less structured conversation around the studio wall.

Paul Vosloo, Head of Brand Design

Remote working has added a new pressure on me that I never felt before, the pressure to find top quality GIF content.

Corin Long, Head of Video

Things I never thought I’d say, coming into the office for me is like a holiday. I need to feel the ‘buzz’ and reconnect with myself and others. I just don’t get that when I’m sat working next to a pile of washing and toys.

Jess Williams, Creative Services Director

*Being at home is amazing for multi-tasking – hang your washing on the clothes horse while the kettle boils. Very efficient, you get to keep your head down, no distractions, and you get to think. But it makes you disappear into your own shell (not good). Mostly though I think it’s good to go into work, so you appreciate working from home or the office.*

Spencer Davies, Head of Integrated Design

Hybrid has meant it's very easy on all sides to fall into the trap of thinking that anything written down is gospel that must be obeyed but most of the time it's just part of an ongoing conversation that's now taking place in person, over the phone, on zoom, via email, through a Teams chat.

Tim Glister, Creative Director

I dislike working from home as my current situation means I work in the bedroom next to the laundry and find it more like living in the office. Plus I love the change of scenery (commute included) and I love seeing the team. I love just being around people and soaking up the vibe. I certainly WOULDN’T want to come in every day. I try to avoid two days in a row as I don’t see my son on the days I come in.

You can’t replicate working together in the same room. No Way.

Paul Hunt, Senior Designer

Without creativity there’s no content worthy of attention, and without content there is no PR. So creativity has always been at the heart of what we do. Virtual working didn't change that, and we found new ways to create ideas together in an online environment. Both internally and with clients, the buzz of a face to face brainstorm can't be beaten.

Jo Preston, PR Director

Nearly all the best campaigns I've worked on have all included a spark of spontaneity. An off-the-cuff remark, a few strokes of the pen on a half-formed idea. But you can't plan them, you can't book a slot for them - you really have to be in the room when it happens.

Jim Poulter, Client Services Director

Creativity isn't developed through conformity, but through inspiration and collaboration and while technology can support the collaboration, it can also often deaden the moments of inspiration and nuance that you get when people are in the same space.

David McCann, Head of Planning

*Sometimes I worry that if I’m not visibly doing something – like typing, reading, whatever – people will think I’m slacking. Which is a bit of a problem when you’re in the ideation phase of a project.I need that no-judgment staring-into-space time to let ideas pop into my head. * But the office is so important for my mental health too. Not just for getting my head down, but also letting in those bits of spontaneity you get from seeing other people that keep my life (and, fingers crossed, my work) feeling full.

Sophie Mullen, Copywriter

Home sweet office! I love working in my comfort zone, feeling more creative and focused!

I value remote work and its flexibility because it allows us to focus on work and life without wasting our time on commuting. This saves time and gives way to better productivity as we don't need to travel to the office.

But I miss the connection between myself and my colleagues. It's best to meet people face to face and connect on a personal level.

Michela Comisso, Senior Designer

I think Covid-times have shown the power of trust in teams. With an established relationship with clients, together we were able to get to solutions and creative smoothly.

Looking forward creatively, there is one thing I can’t wait to revert back to, pre-covid days. Accidental conversations, cross-pollination of ideas and relaxed bouncing around of ideas for direction directly with creative from the get-go on projects. In my experience it always makes the work better. There is a reason why Google used to design offices for ‘casual collisions’ after all. In the reality of hybrid working, I’d still like to find a better way to do that remotely too.

Natasja Gilchrist, Strategy Director

So, what’s the outtake? Balance my dear boy. Balance.

As in any upheaval or revolution, we find ourselves swinging wildly from one extreme to the other. And make no doubt about it, five days a week, traveling 2-3 hours a day to come into a confined space to deliver brilliant original ideas and crafted beauty, now looks extreme. As does never seeing someone in the flesh who you work so closely with. I don’t think any good comes out of pure transactional creative relationships.

It's all possible one way or the other, but why would you want it to be. As ECD, my main focus is always people. I know you thought I would say the creative… but if one produces the other, then you focus on the source.

After all, when the illustrious Kathy Bates wanted to direct, she asked a brilliant friend how he managed to work, direct, and get the best out of the ’talent’. His answer: ”Love them. Just love them”.

And if the people, the creatives, the thinkers and crafters, find a balance that they love, then that is the future we are heading towards.

And to those who bemoan the fact it ’used to be different’. Yes. But I prefer the old adage:

“Don’t look back. You’re not going that way”.