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Insights from RGD Members on how they're envisioning a return to the office, and what the future of work in the design industry might look like.
Missed Part 1, Part 2, Part 3 or Part 4 of our series? It covers ways you and your team can stay connected while working remotely; tips for boosting your and your team's morale; ways to separate your professional and personal life while working from home and how to maintain your physical and mental health while physical distancing.
We hope this series provides you with inspiration and support!
5. How is your team envisioning the return to your workplace? How do you think the pandemic will influence the way the design industry operates?
We're quite caught up in our day-to-day and don't see a return to working in the office anytime soon. We envision that there will be half the staff allowed back on the floor and limited access to the different areas to keep the amount of exposure to others to a minimum when that time comes. Other than a delay of accessing files through VPN, there's not much we can't do at home. We're actually more connected than ever before with daily touch base calls which includes chit chat about how our night or weekend was and other non-work related talk. Even chatting throughout the day on Google chat and/or hopping on a Google hangout with cameras on (no matter the state of your hair!) has become the norm. Workfront and weekly status calls with our internal business partners have been a huge bonus for us to keep all the work moving well. I think working from home will become part of our foreseeable future so making it work and enjoying the perks (dog under desk) is what we have to do!
— Wendy Millard RGD, RGD Past President and Director of Design Services at Empire Life
At The Works, we’ve canvassed the teams using a MailChimp survey and have been collecting results. A return to workplace will be challenging and will require planning and preparation that is still to be determined. Our recommendation is to work remotely for as long as possible. We’ve built really good systems internally for communication and our clients have been receiving the quality work and service they deserve, regardless of where we are doing business. Our ‘plan” at this stage is to stay the course, continue to look at ways to improve our offering and keep monitoring the government's guidance and direction. Remote work is common in our industry – clients are not always in your backyard; the concerns we face revolve around hands-on collaboration; mentoring and training young designers; whiteboarding in brainstorm sessions; art direction in photography/videography and designing with spaces/places in mind, as examples. These are items that we are being challenged with and will find solutions to. The design industry has always evolved with the world’s changes – today is no different.
— Nelson Silva, Creative Director at The Works Design Communications
We’re going to be taking any return to the office slowly and carefully. We’re able to work remotely quite successfully so there’s no rush to head back in until we’re in a much better place for public health. Often home can be a better, less distracting environment for creative thinking. When we do go back in, it will be primarily for occasional in-person collaboration and planning.
— Nancy Mullin, Graphic Design Manager at BDO
The company has recently completed a survey to see who would even want to consider returning to work. We’re targeting a 50% max occupancy when we do return and wanted to understand who is really wanting to go back and who doesn’t. Personally I could go back if necessary, but like many of my colleagues, seem to have adapted quite well to the situation. The thing I miss the most about the workplace is working side by side, solving problems with others. If only half of them are there, and we need to maintain the social distance, then the draw simply isn’t there for me yet. I think this situation has taught many of us that we can work this way — it’s not always comfortable but it has as much upside as down in relation to work style specifically.
The thing I’m really interested in is the need for travel for work. I was on a plane 3-4 times a month before this happened and I can’t see that returning for at least a year or more even when the borders do open back up. We’ve been maintaining a steady work volume so it will be interesting to see how business travel is affected once the ability to meet face to face is back.
— Mark Roberts RGD, VP Creative at Davis Agency
Before the COVID-19 pandemic, our team was already working remotely, so we didn't have to adjust our working habits. However, we were in the midst of moving some of our team (myself included) into an office space in Waterloo. I had been really looking forward to moving into the office space — working from home is not my favourite.
Once it is deemed okay to be working in close proximity again, I think my team will leave it up to individual members how they would like to proceed. We haven't spoken about it yet, but we will most likely have a discussion with the team members who are supposed to be working in the office to decide what the best course of action is for everyone to remain safe and healthy, and for keeping their families safe and healthy, too. I think many people are going to have anxiety around being in close proximity with other people for a long time. My team is very open about mental health and is supportive of measures that we may need to take to be healthy and feel safe at our workplace.
A big part of how the design industry operates revolves around communication -- with our team members, our clients, and our industry partners. Most of this communication happens in-person. The pandemic has changed that, rather abruptly. Luckily, we can still communicate and get our work done from home and in isolation. I find calls more productive than office meetings -- one person takes the speaking lead, and my team has a taking-turns system for how we comment on what is being said so people aren't talking over one another. We can easily share our screens so people can follow along visually. But when it comes to client relationships, I do prefer in-person meetings so I can pick up on things like facial expressions, body language, tone of voice, and ultimately get to know the client's personality. I can get most of this in a video call, but if a screen is being shared, or the internet connection is spotty, video sharing is normally turned off. In this case, I think we have to ask more questions, and listen very carefully to the answers.
— Ceri Higgs Provisional RGD, Graphic Designer at Techboomers.com
We’re not going to even consider going back in the office until kids go back to school, and/or we have a childcare arrangement that we feel comfortable with. We’ve been lucky to be able to continue to operate well from home, as technology has really allowed for that. Eventually, when we do go back to the office, it’s likely going to involve a lot of physical distancing, hand washing, having masks available, and keeping the workspace wiped down.
I think there’s going to be a lot more people working from home, rather than in an actual office. There will be less in-person meetings and more virtual ones. I think the industry is going to be adopting a more flexible style of working, with people having a different work/life balance.
— Sarah Prouse RGD, VP Creative Possibilities at Fusion Design Group
Thank you to everyone who contributed their thoughts to this article series!