Ask a creative what it’s like at a new agency and the answer is usually ‘same shit, different place’. But then a virus turned the world upside down and everything changed. A week or so after lockdown, I started a new job as a senior creative at AML Group. With working from home now the new normal, would it be a case of different shit, same place?
As I add the finishing touches to my newly assembled office desk, a grim thought enters my mind. What if my hiring is reversed between now and Wednesday? With my wife already furloughed, I start to worry. Then I hear an unexpected knock at the door. It’s Tim, my new MD, who’s just driven 20 miles to drop off my new laptop. What a legend. Panic over.
Wednesday (April 1st)
I leave the house for an early walk and pretend I’m commuting to work. Back at home, I introduce myself to my new AML colleagues. With 26 webcams pointed at me, I feel very self-conscious and wonder if it’s all a big April Fool’s joke. But then reality kicks in, I’m being briefed on a pitch.
Nothing about this is normal yet something does feel familiar. I’m sitting opposite an art director (Ross, my new CD), and we’re ping-ponging pitch ideas across our desks on Microsoft Teams, just like a real creative team would in an office. I get a feeling this could work.
I take my usual unusual morning commute and have to stop for a minute. My head is spinning as my brain races to catch up. I try a mindfulness technique and take a few deep breaths. Later that day we have a breakthrough and a big idea for the pitch. I already know I’m working the weekend before Ross even asks.
Spend the whole weekend working through a list of pitch deliverables with the boss. I discover he’s great company and an excellent art director. We work well together and swap a few war stories.
Slept badly, which is normal for me on a pitch. It’s hard to switch off when your brain goes into hyperdrive. Reading the news isn’t helping either. I’m aware of the extra anxiety starting a new job brings in the middle of the apocalypse. Feel like I’m going to struggle today, but it turns out okay. Our pitch concepts are largely approved and I write a nice script for the mood film.
Script is approved and I ping it over to AML’s film specialist. Later that evening a rough edit comes back. It isn’t what I was expecting and I go to bed worried.
I give feedback on pitch film and it’s clear we have different views. I feel frustrated as I can’t just walk over to the other side of the office for a chat. I have to accept I have little control over some things, working from home – it is what it is. Later on, a finished edit is shared and everyone in the pitch team likes it. That’s handy as the pitch is tomorrow.
I join a Teams call mid-morning and everyone’s buzzing. AML’s first Zoom pitch has gone down a storm and confidence levels are high. I feel like I made a strong contribution and a win would be a dream start. Even better, it’s the Easter holidays tomorrow and we’re knocking off early.
After my first two weeks WFH, I’m feeling good but mentally fatigued. I’m not sure I know what normal is any more.
Welcome to the new normal.