How can creatives keep their heads during Coronavirus?

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How can creatives keep their heads during Coronavirus?

Working from home is a new reality for many of us, and it brings a fresh set of challenges – particularly in the context of the Covid-19 pandemic. Gone are the familiar bus routes and coffee shops that form part of our daily routines, replaced by the prospect of staying indoors for the foreseeable future. Even for well-seasoned work-from-homers, like copywriter Ellen Ling, the future feels intimidating.
“I’m a bit daunted,” she told CR. “Even though I’m used to working from home, and I’m lucky that I have a clear set up, I’m daunted at having my flexibility and options removed, because now I don’t have a choice but to be on my tod.”
In the past, Ling – who’s also the founder of Blag Blog – says she mixed up days spent at various creative agencies with time working from home, but like many other creatives in the UK she’s now facing an extended period behind closed doors. There’s no shortage of places to turn to for advice on working from home, and while some of these words of wisdom still ring true – getting up and getting dressed, not working from bed, and making sure to get some exercise – there are others that don’t fit into the current Coronavirus context.
“Normally if I needed a break I’d go to the gym, or work in a coffee shop for a change of scene,” says Ling. “All those things you put in place to make sure you’re changing up your working environment are now potentially off the menu. So there are lots of things that I’m thinking of how to recreate. For example, going outside and popping to the shops is a simple thing that you’d normally do in your working week that’s now become loaded. You have to think about how that affects you.”
Definitely limit yourself to what you actually need to know, because we’ve all got crazy WhatsApp groups going on, and however many different social media channels on top of TV
But while leaving the house has become fraught with worry for many, Ling says digital alternatives are springing up instead. The work from home community has grown enormously overnight, meaning more people than ever understand the situation and the isolation that can come with it. “I’ve got Google Hangouts set up with different pockets of friends,” says Ling. “We’re making sure that if we can’t see each other physically, we recreate what we’d have in our ideal working scenarios. If that’s about chatting with people and making a cup of tea, then how can you still do that digitally. Even though it’s early days, those things are starting to emerge which is really nice.”
And if dealing with the inevitable cabin fever and blurring boundaries between work and life wasn’t challenging enough, there’s the anxiety-inducing presence of a pandemic. To alleviate some of the feelings of panic that come with that, Ling suggests taking a strategic step back.
“I think we all need to check out of hysteria hotel,” she told CR. “One of my friends was saying he’s limited himself to just ten minutes on news of the day, to get the essential information he needs. Stick to news you trust. Avoid The Sun. If it’s getting a bit too much, ask one of your friends that you trust to tell you what’s going on, rather than opening that spiral where you read one thing, and then another. Definitely limit yourself to what you actually need to know, because we’ve all got crazy WhatsApp groups going on, and however many different social media channels on top of TV. It’s inescapable. It’s in every single inbox and feed you’re subscribed to. So that only adds to the narrative of ‘everything’s going wrong’ – and actually at the moment I’m really lucky. I can obviously only live in the moment, but I’ve got work to do, and I’m going to get on with it.”
She also suggests people consider their online personas, and how that stokes the fire of everyone else’s anxiety. You might be tempted to Instagram pics of ransacked Tesco shelves, but it’s worth asking yourself if it’s actually helpful right now. As Ling says, “It’s a really important time to consider our online existence, especially as we’re going to be online much more.”
Pre-pandemic we would moan about certain things, but we’re all very lucky we can bring our laptops home and do our jobs
If you’re still struggling to stay off Twitter, Ling suggests staying focused by setting a productivity timer – something she swears by herself. Giving yourself 20 minutes or half an hour to do one specific task can help prevent your mind from meandering to other things, such as doom-laden social media feeds. At the end you can have a break, make a cup of tea, and reset the timer. Doing this at the start of the day, says Ling, can really help push yourself into a good rhythm, and prevents working-from-homers from spending hours trying to do too many things at once, and achieving little.
Many freelance creatives will also be worried about the prospect of falling ill, and being unable to claim sick pay. At the time of writing this, a petition to include self employed people in statutory sick pay during Coronavirus has reached over half a million signatures, which seems to offer some hope that the pandemic is opening up much-needed conversations about the support freelancers receive.
“There’s big conversations around how exposed freelancers are, particularly in the creative industry because we’re so made up of creative consultants or limited businesses,” says Ling. “Knowing that there’s a cushion there would be a really good thing, and seeing how many people are signing that petition and getting behind that initiative feels really supportive.”
And while the narrative around Coronavirus is creating worry for many, there is a tentative silver lining. Ling says it’s forcing the creative industry out of its bubble, and helping it engage with the reality of life for the rest of the world. “A lot of the time you’re talking with people that completely understand the same reference points,” she says. “When it’s a pandemic you’re talking to people you went to school with, and your mates from home, and people from a massive cross section. You’re understanding the working world in a much broader sense, which is a really amazing thing to come from this.”
She also believes the mass move to working from home is forcing organisations to reconsider ‘archaic’ ideas about how and where people do their jobs. It’s unlikely the entire industry is going to embrace WFH wholeheartedly, but it is helping studios and agencies understand that people don’t need to be sat at their desk from 9 to 5 to get work done.
“I’m starting to really appreciate how lucky we actually are,” she adds. “Pre-pandemic we would moan about certain things, but we’re all very lucky we can bring our laptops home and do our jobs. I get that shot of realism when I talk to friends who work in the court system, or for the NHS, and it’s a very different ballgame. We’re really lucky in the sense that we can sit on our laptops and talk to our mates on Google Hangouts.”
The post How can creatives keep their heads during Coronavirus? appeared first on Creative Review.

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