In our prior advertising world, projects hurdled at top speeds. With deadlines to meet, coworkers had no time to make small-talk over the archetypal ‘water cooler’ while rushing onto the next project.
Many creative shops have global teams, which made the transition from this kind of controlled chaos to a remote work environment all the more tricky. And for many, they had to be shifted in one weekend.
Now that we’re over two months into working from home, isolation has completely changed our working practice. The desire for human connection--which we used to take for granted in our busy work lives--has grown exponentially.
From my perspective, however, the virtual connections we’ve since forged have brought us closer in more ways than we expected.
It’s up to us as an industry to remember this difficult time for the glimpses into the personal lives of our colleagues, through the small windows of Zoom backgrounds and casual conversations, and treat each other with that added dose of empathy when we--eventually--return to our physical offices. Those connections will do more than make us better people; they’ll make us more collaborative, in-sync and able to produce greater, more creative results for our clients as a whole.
Our company is one of many organizations working across multiple time-zones. We’ve had to balance routines, meetings, presentations and happy hours across LA, Chicago, Austin, NYC, Sydney and Melbourne. But that doesn’t mean we didn’t pick up on a fresh sense of connection, despite having to keep in touch with around 80% of our colleagues over video anyway. Our sound designers, composers and producers found connection in virtual collaboration--they saw a growth in human connection and bonding with their clients and internal teams.
Why would that be? With everyone video conferencing from their homes, it seems that work and personal lives are more blended than ever before. Not just in terms of conversation topics--we can assume those without having to spell it out here--but in the raw honesty behind those topics. I’ve seen openness to their personal lives out of office, from coworkers and clients who wouldn’t usually let down their guard in person. Not to mention the more humorous signs of a blended work-life balance: the interrupting pet, or child, or spouse/partner/roommate. The insights into personalities provided by creative Zoom backgrounds, or comments on one another’s interior design skills has opened the door and invited us into their lives outside of work.
These are all well and good, but I foresee--and fear--a future where we return (thankfully!) and lose insight into the ways each of us are multi-faceted, and that we are people with lives beyond the work our hectic industry demands. I’m not saying each of us hasn’t made some friends and close connections at industry gatherings over the years, but the kinds of connections I’ve personally made virtually, with both clients and coworkers, I would never have made at slightly more formal meetings and networking events. At those, with a polite smile on nearly everyone’s face, it takes longer to burrow past the facade and get to know the true feelings and opinions of the people we meet. Those insights, though, are the most valuable for future connections and, ultimately, future partnerships.
When I return to “business as usual” I won’t forget these glimpses of people being their authentic selves, because I also believe that authenticity has always been the strongest gateway to creative collaboration. We can utilize what we’ve learned about each other in this difficult time to strengthen our bonds in the workplace as we emerge into the ‘new normal’. The gateway to the best results for our clients has always been understanding them to the fullest. I believe we’ve been granted an unforeseen opportunity to understand them in new ways, as people, and that carrying this knowledge to future projects will only help us find the same wavelength and create stronger work with greater impact than ever before.
So, embrace the video conference vulnerability. When we come back to our desks, hopefully sooner rather than later, we’ll return with a fresh appreciation for who we are as people and move forward as an industry, together.