Covid may have disrupted the way we do business but that’s not necessarily a bad thing

Marzo 1, 20214 Minuti

I am writing this from my terrace overlooking the Caribbean Sea. After a lonely, miserable Christmas, I decided to exile myself from Milan and ride out the pandemic here. I’ve discovered over the past two months that working online from a beach house in the Dominican Republic is the same as doing it from an apartment in Milan, except that it’s a lot more inspiring. If the tragedy of Covid has any silver lining, it must be that it has forced us to adopt new ways of connecting. It’s a change that could potentially lead to more efficient, sustainable ways of doing business and an improvement in our quality of life. What we once called “smart-working” has become “smarter-working” and this transformation has disrupted many long held beliefs. Flexible working had been proposed from time to time by my managers but I always rejected the idea, not seeing any benefit besides an increase in our agency’s “cool” factor. The complexity and quantity of the projects we managed and the number of people involved demanded the presence of everyone in the studio. Or so I thought. I have always believed that meeting people face-to-face was an indispensable part of doing business. As my company grew internationally, working in more than thirty countries with offices in London, Sao Paulo and Qatar, it often felt like I was spending more time in airports and hotels than I was in the office. I enjoyed the perks of elite status on all the major airlines, flying as many as 200 flights in a single year and five on a single day. I thought nothing of travelling to Kazakhstan for a three hour meeting. Those days are gone forever and looking back on them from this new perspective it seems a bit absurd. Still, all the experiences and the relationships we established over those years put us in a strong position to face this current challenge. In this new world order the “wave” may have replaced the handshake but the principles of effective communication have become more important than ever. I’ve witnessed a positive evolution in the way our agency collaborates both internally and with our clients. Smart-working has led us to become more independent and disciplined as individuals, and more streamlined and organised as a group. Distance has forced us to be more concise and explicit in how we advise our clients and present our work, and it’s some of the best work we’ve ever done. This past year has been very good to us and we’re obviously saving a lot on travel.

Even the big upgrade in IT at the end of 2019 that I thought was too expensive turned out to be very timely. What I considered impossible a short while ago has not only become possible but has become the new normal. I’ll be travelling to Milan shortly to meet with my directors and explore new strategies for the agency. It’s a great moment to rethink the future and how to face it.

Of course I’ll be doing it in person. I never really did get my head around Zoom and I think video makes me look fat, even with the tan. Let’s hope things will soon improve and that I’ll be writing the next article from my terrace overlooking Via Trivulzio.

Avatar photo

Drew Smith

An award winning designer and an expert in consumer brand management, NPD and packaging design with over twenty years of experience. Canadian by birth, he has been the Creative Director of several leading international consultancies and is a graduate of Art Center College of Design and Sheridan College, School of Visual Arts.