The New Normal for Creatives

by / Aug 18, 2021

We’re “going back.” And it’s going to be exactly the same, only different.

In many ways it feels like we never left. The pace has been relentless, with new work, new business and new hires to show for it. Now we’re talking about when and how to be together more regularly. And even though that’s reminiscent of the “before times,” it won’t be quite the same.

It’ll be new and different, and if we do it right it’ll be better.

If we actually want work to feel better than before the pandemic, we have to remember what makes us good to begin with...

There will be the obvious changes. Not every team member is physically returning to the office regularly — our creative talent now spans both coasts and a couple of states in between. We’re embracing flexibility with a new hybrid work model, we’ve changed some of our structures and workflows, we’ll be moving desks and departments around on the office floorplan. And we’ll be using our headquarters a bit differently — more functional space, less desk dependency.

But those are mostly physical differences. For me, it really comes down to how you show up. And I don’t mean virtually vs. in-person. If we actually want work to feel better than before the pandemic, we have to remember what makes us good to begin with — the very basics of creative success — and be ready to evolve each of them.

1. The ability to be yourself

We’ve gotten to know each other a little more personally over the past million months of pandemic life. I think we all agree it’s been easier to be honest and outspoken in virtual meetings, and that should stay the case. You want to be the same you you let us see through the Zoom portal, at your wit’s end while working next to a litter box in a laundry room.

Creative mentors should prioritize this and manage the environment accordingly. That means guarding against distance bias, advocating for quieter voices and making sure your processes don’t steamroll too much of anyone’s personal style.

2. Feedback

The real job of a creative is growth. Growth of self, growth of great ideas, growth of team, growth of business. And you can’t grow in a safe bubble. We’re all responsible for listening for feedback hidden in conversations with clients and managers and team members. And listening to it when it comes directly. And getting better from it.

Now we have to lean into it even more purposefully. We have to transcend nervousness and insecurities about being on a screen when others are in the room — or being in the room when the others are on the screen — by being straight with each other. Creative leaders at every level should focus on giving and receiving frank feedback because it makes team members feel seen and like their performance really matters, wherever and however they’re contributing. Nothing makes a “new normal” feel better than the “before times” like everyone believing they will get even better in this new environment.

Mx employees in a hybrid meeting

3. Process

Even creatives who don’t like structure actually like process. It’s the solid ground we move around on.

A process works if it tells people not only what to do, but also how. And now that’s going to be even more important. To combat meeting fatigue, make the meeting purpose clear. Define not just who needs to be there, but how they can contribute in order to be helpful. More cross-functional collaboration and ideation will happen virtually, and agreeing to ways of working and when to come together as a full team will be essential.

When we have great participation in the process, the process does great things for us.

What makes you excited or worried about “going back”? I’d love to hear from you on LinkedIn.

Emily Kleist

Vice President, Executive Creative Director, The Mx Group

Emily has been with The Mx Group since 2008. As executive creative director, she oversees the Mx creative department and provides strategic direction for a diverse client base. Emily leverages 15 years of experience in creative conceptualization, writing, content marketing and social media to lead award-winning comprehensive campaigns for clients in a variety of industries. She holds a B.A. in philosophy and creative writing from Gettysburg College in Gettysburg, Pennsylvania.