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Should we even go back to normal?

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There’s this golden rule in journalism saying that any question-based headline can inevitably be answered with a ‘No,’ and thus instantly become uninteresting.

I’m going to save you from all the mental stress: no, maybe we shouldn't go back to normal in 2021. Not the one we remember, anyway.

Do you really miss the old office?

If there’s anything at all that we learned from this Covid crisis, it is that we don’t need to physically remain in the same space to connect with others. Yes, I do miss all the occasional chats with colleagues, the podcast-infused walks that gave me the illusion of leading a healthy life, the sandwiches at Prêt and all those lunch breaks together.

But do I miss the commutes? Oh hell no.

Do I miss having to cook 5 days in advance to have my lunch ready for the week? Do I miss the late evening commutes after a long (albeit satisfying) day at work? Do I miss not being able to just lie down in my own bed for a quick unwind time in my lunch break?

Don’t get me wrong, I did love some of that too. Connecting with your teammates and colleagues over a computer screen just doesn’t work the same way, and I do miss the odd pub nights and mini-golf Fridays. My sight has gotten slightly worse due to staring at a screen for most of my day and I generally feel like I got lazier in the past year. But when you think about how much we all needed to enjoy some more free time for ourselves, be it just an extra two hours a day without the commute or a more supportive team overall, it’s hard not to think we were lying to ourselves when we thought our lives were just fine in 2019.

So let me ask you this; after a year like 2020, do you still miss the old office?

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Image credit: Inspired Films for Barclays

Do you need the old normal to come back?

Obviously we can’t all just become sloths who dread the very thought of walking out their house. It’s not pretty and, most of all, it’s not healthy. Plus, I really do miss those odd Friday nights with colleagues. It was a great time to connect over a few pints (or a glass of red, in my case) and find out about each other without having to shout “You’re muted!” every thirty seconds.

But as we step into this new 2021 and vaccines are starting to roll out, take a look at our Leaders section on the Creativepool Magazine and you’ll find out that there are a lot of contrasting views on the topic of ‘going back to normal.’ While some really do miss the office vibes, others have clearly stated they would love for the current situation to adjust into a new normal. And not just employees – senior creative leaders and employers too.

I’ve personally mentioned this a number of times, but I’ll never grow tired of repeating it; the Covid crisis has accelerated loads of changes that have been overdue for years. And in light of that, I’m certainly one of those who would rather shift to a hybrid/flexible model, with some days in the office and others working from home, rather than go back to the usual commute/9-to-5/commute back routine.

Can you live with a new normal?

Surely there are some who can’t just do that. People in events and production will still have to be on site for most of their small, medium and large projects. It’s no secret that those were the ones who were hurt the most by this pandemic crisis. Especially in production, being out and about is what makes the job exciting in the first place.

But with that said, even in productions and events, emails don’t need an office to be answered and they certainly don’t need one to be sent. Weekly meetings won’t suffer if they move to our living rooms two or three times per month, and I doubt team dynamics would be affected in any way. In fact, there’s evidence that Covid has made us emotionally closer, even while physically apart.

A hybrid workforce just makes sense in today’s society and it’s unlikely that we’ll see teams falling apart because some teammates choose to work from home more often. Now, that certainly can happen. But it doesn’t mean it will.

A hybrid workforce just makes sense in today's society

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Image credit: Martha Markovsky

The only ones I’m truly concerned about are the extroverts. I’m a proud introvert and an INFJ on the Myers-Briggs scale, which means there's no environment more ideal to me than my own space and room. But not everyone will be like I am, and in fact I seriously hope for your own sake that you are not.

I can’t even begin to fathom how much extroverts will be suffering right now. Same for those with kids or homeschooling – I most definitely don’t envy you guys. But something tells me that the new normal will envision solutions for all of these groups too, be it by giving employees a choice or by adopting ‘shifts’ in remote working patterns. Whatever it is, I’m sure employers will think it through this time, and I will be happy with whatever they choose. It is also in their best interests to save money in office spaces, after all.

The old normal may be a memory of the past, but it doesn’t mean we should just embrace remote working 24/7. If you’re comfortable with that and you have the option, please be my guest – so long as you remember to keep yourself healthy and exercised. But that hybrid model with more flexible working options… that can be a solution more likely to interest and help with every agency’s balance.

I only hope it won’t mean that I have to get my sight checked once a year from now on.


Header image: Yonita Singh
 

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