Workshop

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Craft vs Collaboration - Balancing creative life in the new normal 

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You wouldn't have been too optimistic at the beginning of the pandemic, but it looks like productivity while working from home has actually increased. The workforce has found its own balance.

We do know, however, that creativity often thrives in collaboration. Just how do we balance our craft with a much needed team spirit while working remotely?

We asked Teamspirit creative director James Maxwell to share a few tips on the topic below. 

Craft VS Collaboration

The world of work has never taken a linear path. And now, many of us have found ourselves working in an unfamiliar yet incredibly familiar environment: our homes. According to Forbes, productivity has increased by 47% with WFH. But what effect has this had on the two key parts of great creativity: collaboration, and craft? 

At Teamspirit our creative studio is a diverse mix of styles, personalities and disciplines, so we asked around to find out what everyone has enjoyed about working remotely.

“I can get my head down on more intense projects.”

“There are less distractions for me as I have no kids and my partner works too.”

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“I get to focus on my own skills as I find others have become more self-proficient at home.”

“I work better by focusing for 20 minutes then resting my brain for 10 minutes. At the office, this is hard as people are milling about constantly and might find it odd to spot someone gazing off into space.” 

Cracking the craft

Crafting can be easier from home, especially if it’s particularly intense. Lots of agencies and offices suggest working from home when writing a large brochure, for example. But sometimes it’s the smallest jobs that melt your brain a little and could do with the peace and quiet of home. Working from home opens the door to more moments of clarity for some and gives them a chance to hone their skills without distraction.

I’ve loved working from home, I found myself less distracted, more focused and even relaxed. Having a bit more time to read and research creative topics (a very important part of my job if I want to push my creative in new directions) and staying aware of industry progressions helps to keep things fresh.” – Michela Comisso, Senior Art Director

This goes for all types of creatives, including art directors and designers, who find themselves suddenly without anyone breathing down their neck. In the past, they may well have been pushed in certain directions by someone hovering over their shoulder. Now they have the space to experiment their own way, without fear of being prodded over decisions they’re making.

Personally, I dreaded the thought of working from home. I thought it would be isolating and I’d become a hermit. The opposite is true – I’ve found I’ve been able to concentrate, craft and think like never before. And I don’t think this is a flash in the pan. This is the next stage of automation and will be partially permanent – your office is now your laptop, not where you physically sit.” – Spencer Davies, Head of Integrated Design

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Carry on collaborating

It's not necessarily a surprise that crafting a piece of creative work - which is often a fairly solitary pursuit – can be easier from home. But the engine of creativity is often collaboration with other people - bouncing around ideas, feeding into a creative atmosphere, and back-and-forth to help define an idea so that crafting can be efficient and effective. While there are definite positives to working remotely – especially for those looking to focus and develop their individual skills - working together can be just as important, and it simply isn’t as easy over the computer. Misconstrued emails. Broken links. Dropped calls. And even finding time to get together, as meetings overtake diaries. 

Video meetings… they have mostly gone very well. Saying that, I do miss being in a room presenting to clients for the bigger creative presentations. I think the energy is better.” – Paul Vosloo, Senior Brand Designer

But we must not get discouraged! After all, the point of all this new technology is to bring us closer together, but that only works if we work at it. Tech is just that – a collection of 1s and 0s that have been fashioned into interfaces and experiences. But it’s what we do with it that counts. That means staying connected is on us – not the programmes we use. So just a teeny bit of effort could make all the difference when working with your team remotely. The art of collaboration need not be lost.

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What can we do?

Well, the upshot of all this is that being at home can be good for craft. And yes, being at home can interrupt collaboration. But just like a challenging brief from a client, we can find solutions that work. We can adapt to the world around us. Humans have been doing this for centuries and this is no different. It’s all about finding a balance – and we can only find that together.

So, with all that in mind, we’ve come up with 10 dos and don’ts that could help us get closer to the best of both worlds:

  1. DON’T blindly accept every meeting. Can it be an email or chat? Or can we just get on with it?
  2. DO message frequently – both about the work and not. Let’s tend to our relationships and not be afraid to keep in contact.
  3. DON’T take on everything yourself. Talk to the office manager/accounts folks/others in your team. You are not alone! It’s totally okay to ask for help if your usual teammate is busy.
  4. DO reread that email/message. Tone is much harder to get from text than it is from speech.
  5. DON’T forget to have lunch. Fuelling your braincells is important for ideas and skill development so take your allotted time!
  6. DO ask questions. Everyone’s different and works in different ways so it’s good to communicate with each other about what we’d like or how things could improve. 
  7. DON’T leave things up to other colleagues. In fact, because you’re not seen as often in person it’s actually more important now to make your presence known and get involved.
  8. DO try your best. It’s a crazy world, but that’s all anyone can ever ask of you. So if you’re giving it your all, then no one can accuse you of not being a team player or a slacker.
  9. DON’T be silent. There’s nothing worse than not hearing anything at all. Even if the message you send back says you’re too stacked to work on something, people would rather know where they stand than guess what’s going on.
  10. DO talk to one another. People are busy, but we need to highlight our highs and work on our collective lows if we’re going to succeed.

And if you’re too busy to digest the list thanks to a mountain of virtual meetings, take a look at our video below instead.

Since remote working is likely to be the norm for the time being at least, we must be ready to embrace the good, address the bad, and overcome the ugly. Even if it means staring at unflattering images of ourselves on a video call.

But despite the potential limitations of working from home, it seems that many creative imaginations are thriving – which perhaps isn’t that shocking. After all, what is creativity if not turning challenges into results?

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By James Maxwell, Creative Director at Teamspirit

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