I remember a time when I felt like I was living at the office; when strings of late nights followed by early morning huddles and last-minute reviews blurred the lines between night and day. Fast-forward to a locked-down 2020…my home is now my office. Truth be told, I don’t mind working from home (WFH) at all. I wake up when I want, wear what I want and have my own private office. I work with my feet up on the desk while listening to classic rock. I get a homemade lunch and enjoy it with my daughter. No office politics. No rush-hour traffic jams.
But as great as this may sound, working in isolation has impacted my ability to create. It has made me realise the importance of others in the creative process and given me a new appreciation about the interaction and togetherness that is only found at the office.
We Meet When We Really, Really Need To
Some of the most creative campaigns I worked on started off as casual ‘what if’ conversations that blossomed into amazing big ideas. It’s inspiration that arrives in the right place with the right people at the right time. Nowadays, every conversation requires a phone call or virtual meeting so we only connect when it’s absolutely necessary or when we have something concrete to share. Physical distance has robbed us of the banter, spontaneity and impromptu ‘idea bouncing’ that is essential to the creative process, disturbing the way we collaborate naturally. For me, great ideas can happen anywhere but rarely do on a con-call.
One Place. One Mind
When you share a physical space like an office, you also share the mood and energy in the air. When we connect virtually, we usually do so from different environments, state of minds and routines. Person A may have just woken up while Person B is in the process of pacifying his or her child. Trying to connect on a single wavelength becomes that much harder when people are confined to different places and situations. To think together it makes more sense to be together in a place that is conducive for work.
Hello, Can You Hear Me?
Despite being able to put a man on the moon, we still can’t get four people together on a Zoom call without technical difficulties. Mics won’t unmute. Net speeds will crawl. Screens will refuse to share. Not only are such glitches frustrating, they break the entire momentum of a meeting and derail our creative trains-of-thought. It sabotages the entire thought process and prevents participants from getting into the creative zone. Even worse - at home, you can’t even get IT to save you.
No matter how advanced technology becomes, no amount of digital transformation can ever replace the importance of physical interaction that is essential for the creative process. In the office, even when we are not working per se, we are still together for a singular purpose and have our mental gears turning in the same direction (most of us, anyway).
Online, our interaction is reduced to a minimum and our concentration is teetering somewhere between work and managing what is going on at home. Physically being together matters a lot, especially when it comes to brainstorming and sharing ideas and emotions. After all, offices were made for a reason and it’s unlikely that we will be able to simulate the same environment through calls and virtual meetings.
To think together, we need to be together. When that actually happens again, however, is anyone’s guess.
Taimur Tajik is a Creative Consultant.