What interns in creative fields want from employers; to stay productive while online
Taking from my experience as an intern in both WFH and offline setups, I expand on an expert’s learnings about how creative agencies can continue to stay productive while being online.
Ogilvy South’s George Kovoor recently opined in an afaqs article that there are ways in which an agency can adapt to the online model, to become more productive through efficient brainstorming – something that is strictly conducted in-person, at least traditionally.
He speaks about his learnings over the past 18 pandemic-struck months, from unique ones like having the team come prepared beforehand (that is, to think individually and then deliberate), to conventional ones keeping the cameras on and giving breaks (so as to recreate the original environment).
Now, admittedly, he’s the Group Creative Director – Digital Lead at his agency, which means his perspective is that of a leader. I’m here to present mine; as a former intern in a related field.
While it is true that virtual calls, the new norm, tends to either stay didactic (one-tone monologue), or turn chaotic (total anarchy – all mics on), there are ways, beyond technical and behavioral, that can be used to achieve a balance. It’s all about the attitude, I say.
The two main insights discussed below are derived as a contrast between my time as a WFH intern in the Communications department at Impresario Handmade Restaurants during the peak of the second wave in India, and my time as an (offline) intern at Agents of Ishq, pre-Covid.
Texts and Phone Calls are JUST fine.
It’s one thing to have proper video calls with cameras on and interactions – but like the saying goes, creativity doesn’t come in a vacuum, and (just a slight extension,) it definitely doesn’t come under undue pressure. I understand traditional job-doers are used to seeing many faces a day and might find it uncomfortable to function without any such face-to-face interactions, but freshers and first timers might find such interactions highly taxing. The benefit of shifting work to the offline method is that one doesn’t need to burden themselves with the non-work related activities. We no longer have to travel, walk, or meet – we no longer need to nod, smile, or spend unnecessary times forming even small bonds with every person we encounter, as we would in a physical set-up. And not just for the new entrants, but after 18 gruesome months, even the old guard has become habituated to low levels of interpersonal interaction. It’s a good thing, if you ask me, as it alleviates the huge problem of not having enough time to oneself. I understand the insistence of “recreation” but why should we recreate what’s left behind?
My suggestion? Don’t insist on video calls. Just text; maybe give a phone call (which, sadly, the younger generations find anxiety-inducing, so maybe decide according to the audience). Video calls, however, definitely cause anxiety, and hardly lead to the creation of any bonds. Maybe start following each other on Instagram? That helps in bonding.
Time based deadlines are not “healthy”
There’s so much chatter about how in order to achieve a work-life balance, one must stop working at a certain hour, and magically switch back to their daily routine. They argue, this is how it used to be in real life, before the pandemic struck. I disagree. Everyone carried the work home with them, even if it was a portion of it. This concept of “working post work-hours” is in no way novel. What is new (and worrisome) is the concept of being assigned more work, post work-hours. The boss shouldn’t call you up at 9pm and give you additional work, but it’s absolutely fine if you want to continue working till 1am. This is because everyone should be allowed to work at their pace.
My suggestion? Turn to task-based deadlines. Don’t insist on regular updates. Ditch the whole “time-based” idea – it helps no one. It’s merely an excuse that either party can use to justify inefficiency. “I’m sorry, I don’t work past 6pm and I went grocery shopping today, so here is zero work,” or “But you work till 6pm, why can’t you do 14 more things till then now that you’re done with your tasks?” Tacky, and downright unnecessary with the changing face. Creative work doesn’t happen like this. It also takes some level of personal space.