Lessons from lockdown

Author: David Coupland, Strategy Director


And just like that, it’s over. 106 days. 106 days of Google hangouts and virtual drinks, and “can everyone see my screen?”. Greater Sydney is finally able to celebrate the easing of restrictions, and the beginning of the roadmap back to ‘normal’.

But before that happens I wanted to take some time to reflect, and to consider what it taught me about work, teamwork, creativity, and some of the things that I will be committing to keeping in my life.

1. The beauty of a boring routine

Before lockdown I hadn’t realised the impact of my routine on my creative thinking. In fact my routine was always something I had resented. But after a couple of weeks in lockdown I noticed that I was becoming creatively anxious, and I couldn’t understand why.

I was fixating on ideas, spending hours thinking on the insights and research, rolling them in my mind, only for an idea not to come. It felt counter intuitive to be spending more time thinking, only to be generating less. And then I realised, there was no auto-pilot in my days. Everything was actively minded: I was thinking of new walks to do, new food to cook, new TV shows to watch, new activities to try, all to make lockdown interesting, and I wasn’t giving my mind a chance to go through the motions.

I wasn’t giving my mind a chance to be mindful.

To combat this, I developed a new ‘commute’. Everyday I would do the same walk before work, and then again after. It was only 10 minutes but saved me countless hours fretting. In this post-lockdown world, I am committing to embracing routine, as I now know creativity needs a mundane place to breed.

2. Workshops reimagined

The mistake we made when we first started running workshops online was that we were trying to run an in-person workshop, but online, however in doing so, we were thinking about it all wrong. We were ignoring the opportunities online workshops presented: namely, the untapped potential of introverted thinking, the benefit and freedom that comes with isolation, and the chance to use technology to facilitate a whole new type of workshop.

This realisation was significant, and we spent a couple of weeks redesigning our methods and workshops to make them more effective and meaningful. We introduced individual-design thinking activities, mixed-group formats, mixed-media and mixed-channel exercises.

Moving forward we will be offering more and more online workshops, giving us greater flexibility when time or distance isn’t on our side.

3. You don’t always have to give the green light

Working remotely requires a greater level of trust from everyone at the agency, from all levels. You all have to trust that when you log off from your morning call that everyone actually does the work they promised. And, in the beginning, it was tempting to want to follow up and check in regularly with how something was progressing.

However, we didn’t want it to erode the trust that we pride ourselves on as an agency. So we decided to let our teams know early on that, as far as we were concerned, the green light on Slack doesn’t mean you are working, and it being off doesn’t mean you‘re not. We all need time away from our screens, and time offline. As a result, we saw team members really stepping up, and the accountability across the agency reach new levels.

I think it’s a good reminder to us all, that if we can’t trust people to deliver on their word, are they really the right culture fit? After all, clients and agency team alike, we all want to work with interesting people who deliver on their promises.

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