I’ve been wondering whether working from home can elevate our creative work. Many studies have been done and most point to enhanced efficiency from people working at home rather than an office. But how does that apply to the creative work we do? Creative people join an agency to be around other people who have a creative gift. Those who have big ideas attract others who want to think big, create campaigns that get noticed and have an impact on the world in some way. Typically, creative agency work relies on teamwork, creative collaboration, work reviews and lots of meetings to imagine and sell an original idea.
During Covid our creative people wanted badly to meet, office together, work together. We all missed the office comradery, seeing each other in the kitchen, lunching together. It seemed that everyone couldn’t wait to get back in the old routine of officing. When it was time to start thinking of creative life in an office again, we did a survey to find out what our people wanted in a WFH, WFO balance. Surprisingly, we found that very few creative people wanted to return to a regular in-office schedule. In fact, the people that wanted to return to the office only wanted to office 2 days a week on average. Here is why I believe that is.
Creative people like change.
Working day after day in an office becomes monotonous. Many creative people feel the need to meet at coffee shops, restaurants or bars to brainstorm ideas. Creative people love to go on photo shoots, go on trips to see clients or work from other places, all in an effort to mix it up and get re-inspired. By working outside the office, we can focus all our concentration into the work at hand and avoid the daily obligations that drain our brains. You know what I’m talking about.
Creative people hate distractions.
There you are, hunkered down in front of your screen or sketchpad with your headphones on cracking the code on a big idea and you feel the account person hovering behind you. Someone needs a jpg. Another interruption. Thought lost. Beyond the jpgs your account person continue to ask for daily, there are many other kinds of distractions like status meetings that occur that keep you from concentrating and doing your best work in the office. These are long meetings designed to cover off on all the details and keep you from actually working on the things everyone needs from you. They usually happen in the mornings when you are most creative, and sometimes give you enough anxiety that you really cannot be creative for the rest of the day. But there are other distractions. Like job numbers and time entry. Or watering your plant, or nuking your lunch, or the watercooler, or meetings and more jpgs.
So, does working from home eliminate distractions? In some cases, creatives may have more distractions at home. Children trying to learn, or another WFH person in the home sharing your precious wifi. The Netflix series you can’t stop watching. Laundry, housework, or your new culinary hobby. Loud neighbors. WFH really doesn’t eliminate distractions, it just changes them, and in some cases can add more. Only you can eliminate distractions that keep you from your best work.
Creative people like freedom and flexibility.
There is a certain freedom from working from home. You may decide to work in your sweat pants. You may decide to reprioritize your day. You may decide to work different hours. Or go for a long walk. Certainly, freedom is a huge benefit to WFH. Establishing how and when you want to work and what meetings to accept or not is a huge benefit.
WFH is not utopia for everyone.
Everyone’s situation is different and unique. And while the tools are getting better, there is still a need to interact with people more regularly. The things I miss most are creative reviews and training opportunities. Those times when we preview the work or sketch ideas and hang them on the wall to review in person. I’ve found these to be valuable to discuss approaches and hone concepts to become more unique. By presenting our work out loud to an internal group, we consciously simplify our thoughts and allow the real idea to emerge. Many times, there is an idea that another person’s perspective will pull forward. I love to hear creative people present ideas. I love the interpretations of a creative brief. In many cases we realize flaws in the overall approach or find a springboard for a bigger idea. Such meetings help us all learn more about the brands we work on. Some of our best and biggest creative ideas were a result of asking questions in a group.
Are we losing the opportunity to train?Every creative agency is starved for creative training. Whether it be on finding your ability to think of bigger, better campaigns or to be more efficient in making the work, creative people need a variety of training opportunities and they need them often. The thing I miss in WFH is the ability to have discussions in the moment and create solutions for problems. The silver lining is that there is a ton of online training that is now both free and really very good. And we should take advantage of free training as much as we can. But the training that comes from working closely together is difficult to replace.
So does all this result in better work?
When I weigh out the options, the advantages of controlling distractions, freedom and flexibility can certainly make a case for doing better creative from home. While the office is great for comradery and culture, I believe video conferencing and new collaborative working tools give us the opportunity to work better from home. WFH opens up new options for working with new and diverse talent from all parts of the world too, not just those in close proximity. Many times finding ways to work with different creative partners can inspire us a great deal.
Overall, I believe the answer is yes, WFH can result in bigger and more thoughtful ideas if we don’t lose our drive to work with partners who can influence our work. If we find ourselves working independently and alone, we will likely get bored and the work will suffer. But if we take advantage of WFH properly, engaging new creative partners and creative directors in reviews, seeking training opportunities in our work, we can make ourselves and our work even better. It is up to us to manage to stay connected to each other in ways that benefit our working style. The WFH model is more productive and gives creatives more freedom and flexibility than in an office environment. Further, WFH doesn’t mean you have to stay home. You can always work at your favorite coffee shop or on your patio. The difference is that creatives are now in control of our freedom and flexibility. And if we work to find what inspires us, staying connected and productive, I believe our creative people can achieve anything from anywhere.