Rebecca Bezzina
Dec 13, 2022

Hybrid working has led to distributed creativity – how do you make it successful?

R/GA London's senior vice president, managing director writes that change takes time as we have muscle memory of a now outdated working culture.

Hybrid working has led to distributed creativity – how do you make it successful?

I was recently in our East London office on a Friday with our head of strategy, Fern Miller. But it felt more like two girls in our own apartment – as opposed to us being two colleagues in an office. Fern has recently joined the leadership team and we're using this time together to get to know each other off Zoom, collaborate and build a critical foundation that everyone needs when they join a new company. But on this Friday, we were the only ones there.

We now live in the age of distributed creativity – or creativity at scale. We know that hybrid working allows businesses to access talent from all over the world. I believe that employees should have the flexibility to determine the work environment that allows them to deliver the best work for themselves and their clients. And through technology, our industry can collaborate, communicate, and effectively tackle client challenges in this uncertain world.

But how can businesses codify what successful remote working looks like?

Talent comes first

Creating a healthy hybrid team requires different skills to the ones needed when leading from an office. Empathy, trust, and collaboration are the cornerstones of any successful hybrid working model. Insight and data also must be factored into the equation — but the human needs are the priority.

I did an exit interview recently with someone moving on. What stood out above everything was how much they had valued being part of an inclusive culture, one where everyone is truly encouraged to be themselves. It's sad to see them leave but we felt a sense of pride. Talent is our industry's currency so it's critical that agencies invest time and energy into creating a working environment which makes people feel involved and included — wherever and whoever they are.

Company and kindness

Effective modern leadership is built on kindness. To create a positive working environment for talent, you need three things: psychological safety, growth opportunities to learn and effective communication. The healthier the balance between these forces, the easier retaining talent becomes.

We must appreciate the lives of our people outside of work. What are their interests, pressures and demands? Do they have responsibilities of care? Do they play for a sports team? Charity work? Side hustles? Are they learning a new skill or language?

Understanding these extra-curricular interests and pressures means we can help our people balance their lives and achieve their goals. At R/GA, we offer our staff individual coaching sessions to help plan and grow and through technology we can provide platforms for talent to talk about their side hustles, interests, and world views.

These sorts of support structures help maintain the culture of the company. Culture is something you must invest in regularly, especially with a distributed creative workforce. The key thing above everything is being able to listen - and it's the superpower. Leaders and agencies that invest in listening and act with empathy are best set to succeed.

Collaboration is a shared mindset

Collaboration is also critical in how you partner with clients. The pandemic was a great leveller. Suddenly, clients were in their bedrooms and kitchens with their kids running around. I think having some of those traditional agency/ client barriers broken down has been great for openness and collaboration. Covid-19 taught us all that the best client relationships are when we're in it together. I don't believe it's any coincidence that we've done some of our best work in this shared collaborative mindset.

Operating System is the invisible glue to hold it together

Distributed creativity is powerful but for it to work you need an Operating System (OS) which supports talent and the business. You need the right tech stack to empower, encourage and enhance daily collaboration. You need central systems to manage talent globally and resourcing across markets. These constantly need adjusting as the world, people and business develops. There are tools out there that can bridge the distribution, everything from Slack to Miro, so it's about finding what works for you and your teams, and constantly listening in to evolve your approach in bringing virtual and physical teams together most effectively in one space.

Ultimately, connections and human relationships trump everything. Being able to offer employees genuine flexibility and managing workplace interactions more intentionally will allow agencies to build and foster culture while hybrid, and grow a strong sense of belonging.
Leaders need to take a more systematic approach to how we all work.

This means establishing an understanding of the full employee experience journey, from onboarding to the daily workflow. All of this is supported by a collaborative mindset, flexible environment, and the right technology. But the most decisive factor is the ability to listen and adapt constantly. We have muscle memory of a now outdated working culture, so change takes time. But creativity at scale – achieving high quality work whilst growing a happy team – is possible.

Rebecca Bezzina is senior vice president, managing director at R/GA London

Campaign UK

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