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90% of the creative industry is working from home

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Being one of the world's largest creative communities, Creativepool is in a unique position to understand how the creative industry is struggling in self-isolation for the Coronavirus lockdown.

We had the power to make a difference by asking about the impact of the lockdown on businesses, employees and freelancers across our community. We created two surveys and launched them last week – one for full-time employees and freelancers, one for agencies, marketers and business leaders. Both included a section for unemployed creatives.

This is one of a series of articles which will look at the impact of COVID-19 on the creative industries. This article will examine the effects of the lockdown on business productivity and team dynamics, and how these were influenced by remote working. Here is what we found out.

Remote working

It emerged from our survey that 88.5% of creatives are currently working from home [Graph 1]. Most businesses in the industry are following their government’s instructions and have decided to stay home as a result.

The shift of the current economical landscape to homeworking has also caused serious consequences in terms of business productivity, and team dynamics have been affected in different ways, as we will see further below.

Only 4% are working as usual, still going to the office every day, while other responses suggest that there is less work and some teams are adopting shifts to go to the office in turns.

88.5% of creatives are working from home


Graph 1

Here are some comments from our respondents:

"Working from home just means more coordination required to make sure we're animating the correct shots and have all the assets required. We're still extremely busy, not sure if this is due to the fact that live action has completely stopped and animation has taken its place? Welsh government seem to be trying to fill the gaps of the UK government in terms of funding and grants, we've not received anything as of yet. As with all businesses its not the time right now it's in weeks or months that this will show up on cash flows and we'll see lots of businesses, agencies and studios folding no doubt."

Director, Production Agency, United Kingdom

"Over the years, we've fine-tuned our process, and regardless of our team being spread out across three different countries, we can do the work remotely because that's the way we're built. Our agency is financially stable and still fully operational. We will adapt, and hone in on silver lining here.
The COVID pandemic has actually shown me as an agency owner all the inefficiencies we had in place. We were able to step back and get a better understanding of our processes and how we can make them more efficient. Also, this global situation allowed us to identify and create new streams of revenue. Specifically for us, it gave us the ability to work on our own internal products which we have been planning to release for the creative community. We've also been consulting our current clients on adapting some of our processes to better help them manage their new work-from-home lifestyle. Together we will weather this storm."

Founder & Creative Director, Branding Agency, United States

Business Productivity

When we asked how each business is adapting to the lockdown [Graph 2], it was reassuring to learn that most of the industry has all of the original staff working from home (71.6%). 11.6% have furloughed some or most of their staff, and only 8.8% have ceased operations due to lack of work. It was sadly expected that these agencies would mostly be in the production and event industries, which have seen the most projects put on hold until further notice and have been therefore forced to cease operations.

Less than 1 in 10 organisations are still doing business as usual.


Graph 2

Because most of the industry has been shifting towards the domestic environment, not all projects are now viable as a result. 45.2% of the industry has experienced considerably less clients so far [Graph 3]. Overall, 65% of the industry has way less work than usual.

It is also safe to assume that most projects have been put on hold while we wait out the pandemic, which is already showing serious consequences on business productivity. 50.7% of the industry is moderately-to-considerably less productive due to the pandemic [Graph 4]. Only one in ten businesses are still as productive as they have always been.

65% of the industry has less clients


Graph 3

Little more than 1 in 10 businesses are still as productive as usual


Graph 4

Here are some comments from our respondents:

"We have strong ties with the Czech advertising industry, and the whole industry is waiting. We all have less jobs. We will see what that will be in a couple of months..."

Director, Commercial Illustration Agency, Czech Republic

"My company (35 people) has fired its CCO and 5 more people, and asked for a voluntary reduction of 30% of the salary (with no reduction of time) to everyone who earns more than the minimun legal salary. In a country in which it is allowed to make temporary reductions of salary by reducing temporarily working hours, the partners might be taking advantage of the situation."

Chief Creative Officer, Advertising Agency, Spain

Are teams drifting apart?

Perhaps surprisingly, the lockdown is having varying effects on creative teams around the world and it is unclear whether it's helping teams drift apart or not. While some teams feel more apart (25.3%), a slightly smaller portion of creatives has stated that their teams are bonding more (22%). In the same way, one in ten teams is more relaxed working from home (11.5%), while 16.1% of teams feel more stressed [Graph 5].

On the other hand, team dynamics have not been affected in 20.7% of cases; this demonstrates that teams that were stronger before are still forging ahead now, seemingly unscathed by the pandemic and its short-term consequences.

The lockdown has had varying effects on creative teams around the world


Graph 5

Here are a few comments from our respondents on teamwork and team dynamics:

"We are aware that the business will be impacted considerably. But we feel we will manage to tide over this phase by minimising expenses & staying sharp on delivering work at hand and whatever new work comes our way. Our team has been made aware of the challenges we may have ahead. It helps that we are a debt free company."

Co-founder & Director, Design Agency, India

"As a small studio we are a tight knit team and we are finding it hard to keep that creative continuity. Working from home is good coz it's safe, the real challenge will be having a valuable compelling offering when we get back to fully productive work after lockdown. That is my target now."

Creative Director, Web & Graphic Design Agency, New Zealand

Mental Health

Unfortunately, this work situation has not had a positive impact on the mental health of creatives. Over half of the creative industry (55,9%) is experiencing much higher levels of stress than before [Graph 6], with only 5.1% of creatives reporting that their level of stress hasn’t changed “at all”.

Over half of the industry has much higher levels of stress than before the lockdown started


Graph 6

As predictable as it was, it is still a crippling blow on creatives and businesses across the industry – whose problems, sadly, do not end here at all.

People are more worried about their jobs than ever. When asked about their feelings on the matter, 19,9% of creatives in our community have responded that they are very worried about their jobs, and only 13.1% of the surveyed creatives are not at all worried about their current work situation [Graph 7].

7 in 10 creatives are at least moderately worried about their job right now


Graph 7

If we were to sum percentages on the higher end of the scale, 7 in 10 creatives are at least moderately worried about their job right now.

This climate of uncertainty will likely have consequences on the mental health of creatives, and it is now more important than ever to stay connected and seek help if needed, in whatever way possible.

With most agencies stating they won't survive for more than 6 months without or with less workit is clear that the job market is currently shrinking for the creative industries,  and our survey has confirmed that assumption as well. If global isolation goes on for too long, the creative industries may have to face an unprecedented crisis which will extend beyond the end of the lockdown.

And the shift to remote working sadly means that some industries were already impacted more than others. It is the case of production agencies, as CallaCrew managing director Janice Bowden commented.

"Nobody planned for this and many of the crew don't have any reserves. It's desperate."

"The film industry has reached a standstill. Nothing happening, the crew are not working and we are therefore not earning as we work on a commission basis. Nobody planned for this and many of the crew don't have any reserves. It's desperate. We keep getting info regarding Government subsidies being offered, but have yet to establish how this is claimed. We are concerned that it will take many months to get back to normal, if we ever do. Many think the film industry will never be the same."

Managing Director, Production Agency, United Kingdom

"We are a design studio in Beirut that is already affected by the countries situation and Corona sort off escalated the stress levels and financial losses. So we are trying to make it under all stressful levels."

General Manager, Branding Agency, Lebanon

Creativepool's Coronavirus Survey Report

Here are some useful links to published articles:

Header image: Gary Bird.


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