INTRODUCING DELIVERING DESIGN AT A DISTANCE
23 April 2021
Almost a year and three national lockdowns later the honeymoon phase of remote working has well and truly come to an end and the real work has begun in earnest. For better or for worse, digital delivery is here to stay, so as we build back better how do we get it to work for us, rather than against us?
Back in March 2020, when the UK slipped through the first tear in the Covid continuum, many of us believed that Covid – 19, was just a blip. A significant blip, but a blip nonetheless. Definitely over by June. Absolutely certainly finito by September.
In the rush of those first days of furloughing staff, establishing a new HQ at home and downloading the entire internet to our laptops, the enforced transition to digital delivery felt difficult and disruptive.
Still, a change is as good as a rest, and in those early months of pandemic hysteria and concern for our lives and livelihoods, people were also re-discovering new energy for their work and reconnecting with their creativity.
Though stalwarts of face to face may not have appreciated the shift, there were considerable pros to our mass untethering. Immediately, commuting became a thing of the past for the vast majority. Digitisation went into hyperdrive and with impressive agility, businesses and employees in industries the world over, adapted to a host of new working methods. Suddenly, everything was online. Geography suddenly became less relevant to recruitment, liberating us to a new level of talent and allowing previously unthinkable opportunities to open up. Employers embraced the kind of extreme flexibility workers the world over have been long been calling for as the line between work life and home life blurred and the demands of home learning schedules for some and the impact of enforced isolation for others took precedent over performance and productivity. But best of all, leisurewear became appropriate workwear.
Restricted to our homes, but unshackled from tradition, our working lives and processes took on a new status. Yet under the microscopic lens of digital delivery those same working lives and processes came up short. Work time bled into leisure time, bled into work time, bled into leisure time. There was no escaping it. Colleagues were either always online all of the time, or barely online at all. If you weren’t coping with a constant onslaught of new tasks, you were chasing people up to make good on theirs, increasingly passive aggressive emails and Slack messages abound. Clients, desperate to respond to the challenges Covid posed, wanted everything twice as fast as usual, yet everything seemed to take ten times longer to progress. Processes, policies and procedures that had gone unquestioned for years, suddenly seemed unfit for purpose and the people you had always relied on, abruptly lapsed into of a coma of ineffectiveness, because how is anyone supposed to get anything done in a pandemic when there’s a baby, a three-year-old and a lagging broadband connection in the mix? And what hasn’t already been said about Zoom fatigue frankly isn’t worth saying.
Almost a year and three national lockdowns later (four, if you live in Leicester), the honeymoon phase of remote working has well and truly come to an end and the real work has begun in earnest. For better or for worse, digital delivery is here to stay, so as we build back better how do we get it to work for us, rather than against us?
Throughout 2020, designer, Jonathan Ball, and writer, Alex O’Toole, spoke to a host of global, national and local practitioners and purchasers of creative product to find out how the pandemic has impacted on their work and to gain insights into how they’ve used digital tools and experiences to de-risk the processes of commissioning, developing and launching creative products and services online. Over the next couple of months, we’ll be sharing some of these conversations with you, highlighting which tools, techniques and experiences are going to be most important to those creating, collaborating and commissioning creative services and products with the aim of helping you to identify what the new terms of engagement will be for your business to deliver design online in a socially distant future.