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Is WFH the Enemy of Creativity?

October 30, 2023

Working from home definitely has its advantages. But as soon as we got the “all clear” to resume working in the office, I was the first one to vote for the hybrid model. Zoom is great for many things, but when it comes to brainstorming creative ideas, I strongly believe concepting in-person whenever possible is the way to go.

Case in point: I’d recently been brainstorming with one of my creative teams via Zoom on a naming/branding project. The writer was in New York and the art director was in Boston. We had some ideas but weren’t in love with any of them. Time was running out. The art director and I had to be in NYC for meetings, so we set aside time to concept together with the copywriter in person. After 90 minutes, we had a few more ideas but still no winner. So, we did what most creatives would do: We hit the bar.

Sipping our drinks loosened us up and we began riffing off of each other’s ideas. One of the names the AD suggested led me to google an image on my phone that I hoped would inspire other ideas based on hers. The CW leaned over and saw the image I was looking at, which gave her an idea for a name. When she blurted it out, the three of us locked eyes. YESSS! We had our winner.

In this case, I honestly don’t believe we would’ve gotten there had we not been together in person. In real life, the creative process unfolded organically but had I searched the image while on Zoom, the copywriter never would have seen it. Also, virtual cocktail parties of the COVID era never quite had the same effect as throwing a few back together IRL. Just sayin’.

So, my suggestion to creatives? Whenever possible, concept and collaborate in person—even if it means going into the agency on a WFH day. It could mean the difference between landing on a good idea and a great one. But if you can’t meet in person, here are three tips to make the most of your virtual brainstorms:

  1. Turn on your camera. This seems obvious, but a lot of people don’t do it. I know, I know, it can be annoying. But when concepting, seeing each other’s facial expressions and reactions is important. You want the experience to be as close to real life as possible and you wouldn’t sit in a room brainstorming with blindfolds on. The only time I turn my camera off is when I’m eating—nobody wants to see that. And let’s face it, when we turn that camera off, we all tend to multi-task. (Come on, admit it.)
  2. Sharing is caring. When you’re on camera from the neck up, there’s a lot your partner can’t see. If you like to go pantsless, that’s a good thing (for everyone). But when concepting, the limited view can work against you. So, get your screen share on. We’ve all used this feature to share work, but I don’t think it’s utilized enough during brainstorming. If you’re googling something on your own to help your thought process, share your screen. Or just tell your partner what you’re looking at—even if it seems unimportant or isn’t working. It might prompt them to think of something else or lead to another direction. Describing your actions out loud may seem weird at first, but you’ll get used to it.
  3. Embrace the awkward silence. When concepting IRL, most of us hit points where neither person has anything to say because we are thinking. It’s a natural (and necessary) part of the process. But on Zoom, there is often pressure to fill the silence because it seems awkward to be on camera and saying nothing. That silence is important—it gives you and your partner the time and space to think. So, take the advice of The Beatles and let it be.

POSTED BY: Chris Edwards

Chris Edwards