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Why Flexibility Is the Future for Creatives

The Influencers 844 Add to collection

INFLUENCER: Hannah Melanson, senior copywriter at Digitas Australia gives her thoughts on freedom in the work place and its benefits for ad industry workers

Why Flexibility Is the Future for Creatives

I’ll be the first to admit that my working arrangement is a unicorn.

After two years in the Digitas Sydney office, my partner’s self-started wine business grew too big for our Surry Hills flat. And while I was certain that would mean I’d have to bid my much-loved job farewell, one simple question changed it all:

“Do you think the company would consider a remote working arrangement?”

It was a lightbulb moment for my manager – and a no brainer for me. After all, I’m the kind of writer who produces my best work before sunrise and I’d always relished the rare moments of calm in the office. For me, the prospect of working from home full-time ticked all the boxes.

But would it be in the best interest of the company?

After more than a year as Digitas’ prototype of remote working, I’m pleased to say the answer is a resounding yes. And while navigating the shift from office employee to flexible worker hasn’t always been easy, there are a number of reasons it’s been worth the effort.

Retaining key team members 

If tradition had dictated Digitas’ decision, I would have been out of a job and our creative team would have been down a copywriter – despite the desire of both sides to continue the relationship. But the company’s willingness to challenge the confines of geography meant we weren’t restricted to the status quo. One year later, our cross-region creative team is still kicking goals – just with 800 kilometres between us. 

Reconnecting passion and performance 

I didn’t seek out a remote working arrangement as an antidote to the stresses that can come with an office setting – but rediscovering both passion and purpose in my work has been an unexpected side effect of flexibility. In being entrusted with the keys to my own work-life integration, I no longer feel the need to protect my personal time from the creep of overtime. And, more importantly, I no longer confine my creativity to the 9-5. The upshot? I’ve been more productive than ever, delivered more work while feeling more balanced and have formed even stronger bonds with my colleagues in the process. 

Reclaiming the daily commute

Before leaving Sydney, I spent 100 minutes per day walking to and from the office, totalling more than eight hours – or a full working day – of dead time every week. Over the course of a typical work year, that amounted to nearly 50 eight-hour work days being spent in transit. Today, my saved time is my secret weapon. Not only do I have more freedom to support my team in critical moments, but the time I no longer spend on my daily commute goes back into the business in the form of annual leave and sick leave I seldom have the need – or the desire – to use. 

Replacing perceptions with KPIs

By replacing presenteeism with measurable KPIs, I’m judged solely for the work I produce rather than the amount of time I spend behind my desk. And while there’s a constant temptation to overcompensate, I’ve been able to achieve better results in shorter timeframes without breaking a sweat. Why? Because work doesn’t always happen at work – especially when you’re a writer. Whether I blame it on the coffee breaks, the quick brainstorms or the constant stop-start of an office setting, when it comes to productivity, nothing compares to the periods of deep focus I’m able to achieve from home. 

Recognising the pitfalls


Of course, not all parts of my job are made easier by being remote. 

Short WIPs and stand ups can turn into full scale productions, lacklustre Wi-Fi connections can derail a whole day and the missing jingle of the drinks trolley is enough to trigger professional FOMO. And while I’m still getting used to having my face frozen on colleagues’ screens on a regular basis, we all agree it’s been a small price to pay to keep our tight-knit team intact. 

The other risk of remote working is the impact on culture. As much as I’ve had to work harder to weave surface elements of our culture into my day-to-day – a Slack chat here, a Friday night wine there – the overall cultural impact has been hugely positive. As Digitas’ Head of Copy, Lauren Pomphrey, says:

“Flexibility is becoming increasingly important when it comes to attracting and retaining top talent. At Digitas, we’re actively working on shifting perceptions of flexible working in our industry. Showing face doesn’t equal great work or inspire great culture. What does, is allowing individuals the space they need to bring their best, while instilling a sense of trust and autonomy in our people.”

Redefining how we work

So, is flexibility the future for creatives?

Yes – but flexibility is about far more than rebranding the ‘work-life balance’. 

It isn’t about the promise of beer fridges, ping pong tables or pub lunches, nor is it about having entire teams work from the Cloud. Flexibility is about enabling employees to identify their best ways of working, then following through with the tools and trust they need to perform. 

Put simply, flexibility is about creating a culture of options. And while it may not yet be the norm in the creative industry, Digitas’ strides towards a blended workforce are proof that unicorns really do exist – you just have to know where to look. 



Hannah Melanson is a senior copywriter at Digitas Australia.

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Digitas APAC, Thu, 08 Nov 2018 06:22:18 GMT