Back to the future
As we return to the office, Creative Director Greg Bryant asks whether we can take anything from lockdown to improve how we work?
So, now that we’re on the cusp of being able to return to our traditional workspaces and offices, I find myself wondering if it will ever go back to how it was, or even if it should.
Lockdown has seen all of us have to adapt and change the way we work, especially when we’re collaborating on projects with other team members. At first it felt clumsy and slow, then we started to get used to it and embraced it a little. Then it became normal: it’s just how we work. Our bedrooms, kitchens, living rooms, cupboards have become our offices. Things have changed. My daughter’s bedroom is my office: it’s covered with things stuck on the walls and sheets of idea notes stuck up everywhere. You see, I still need to maintain my way of processing work. My creative journey needs to follow a similar path, it needs to have similar checkpoints.
I really didn’t want to start a creative thought process by sitting down at a machine. I still wanted to cover walls in ideas and inspiration, I still wanted to just sit staring at it. That’s how my brain works. If my thought process at the beginning of a project is too structured, then it becomes too restricted. I need the thinking space to allow my brain to go on strange journeys and down twisting paths to see if there are ideas there. So, it’s been really important to me to work in the same way, even if it’s been in a different setting.
So how will things look when we do eventually get back into our offices? I think we’re all going to need to go through that adjustment period again. It will be a different way of working. Our days will feel tighter as we go back to having regular conversations with colleagues as we pass their desks (at a distance). And that’s important: we need to get back to talking face-to-face with people. I know I do. As a creative it sparks ideas in my brain, a phrase someone uses in a conversation about last night’s TV can turn a cog in a different direction and open up new areas of creative thought and ideas. I need it. It’s all part of my creative process. As creatives we’re always looking for inspiration, wherever we go. So to have that restricted, as it has been, can make it more difficult to crack a brief. Trying to get inspiration from the same four walls, sat in front of the same machine is tough. I know that often, as a creative, it can look like I’m not doing anything, purely because I’m either walking around having conversations with people, or I’m sat on a sofa somewhere in the office looking like I’m just staring into space. But rest assured, for me, that’s how I come up with ideas. I’ll watch, listen, talk and get inspired by the buzz around me.
I really hope that some of the things we’ve been able to do in lockdown remain part of our working lives. I’ve made more of a point of getting out and walking around when I’m working on an idea, trying to get inspiration from different places as I can’t get it from people, purely as we’re not allowed to get together. It’s important that people are still able to do that. I’ve made a point of still trying to replicate what I do in the office, moving around, changing my environment, going to a different room to work on a different project. Just by doing that, it changes my mindset and therefore sparks different thoughts and ideas. I’m lucky that even in ‘normal’ times, I can get up from my desk, leave the office and walk around the block to try to crack an idea that’s buzzing around my head. My colleagues know that when I do that, I’m trying to crack something, I’m not just going for a walk! When everybody, from every industry, returns, I think employers will be much more open to this too: they’ve had to trust people working at home and I think that freedom will continue into the workplace when we return – people will be able to do things like get up and walk around outside for a few minutes to think without feeling guilty about it.
Ultimately things have changed – they might never be the same, but they will become normal again. We’ll adapt as we did going into lockdown and we’ll all perform just as well as we always have done. We’ll work differently because of it, but different is good. Try to maintain the things that have worked for you throughout lockdown and use them to be better. I know I certainly will.