The Balancing Act: What the past two years can teach us about creative, work and life balance
In response to a survey shared with our audience earlier this year, our new series, The Balancing Act, investigates the ways in which the past two years have altered the creative industry – and where we may be heading next.
It won’t be news to anyone reading this article that the events of the past two years have dramatically altered our day-to-day lives. Since those first murmurings of Covid-19’s spread in the early months of 2020, change – whether we wanted it or not, whether it was positive or not – has seeped into various aspects of how our time is spent. And while parts of the world are gradually returning to a sense of normalcy, this doesn’t necessarily mean the life-altering circumstances we’ve lived through should be parked to one side.
In fact, when it comes to the working world and specifically the creative industry, perhaps now is a time to take stock. This is exactly what we’ll be exploring this week in a new Extra Nice-supported editorial series, The Balancing Act. Keen to view these changes from a variety of angles, we’ll be touching on the ways the pandemic has significantly adjusted the structure of work, how we’ll be collaborating together in future, who we want to work for, as well as evaluate how creative work can bring us fulfilment.
For this series to reflect the way our readers are feeling currently, The Balancing Act has been informed by a survey shared with our audience earlier this year. Thanks to the hundreds of respondents who shared their insight, we’ve developed five key areas to touch upon which piqued interest the most. Beyond sharing the key takeaways of the survey on a variety of subjects, we’ve invited a host of creatives to share their thoughts on the matter, either by penning personal essays, or taking part in round-table discussions.
To begin the week, we’ll consider how a reduction in working hours may offer a solution to a lack of fulfilment the creative industry appears to be experiencing. The four-day working week has been tested across the globe on a country-wide scale and by individual companies. It’s clearly an idea that has caught our respondents attention, with 95 per cent wanting to adopt this new structure. Yet, when logistics are discussed, concerns begin to appear, as you’ll find in Mitchel White’s article detailing how his agency, the Manchester-based Reward, have shifted into a four-day week.
We’ll then be diving into the concept of “The Great Resignation”. Reacting to the rise of individuals resigning from their jobs since the beginning of 2021, our survey revealed that 78 per cent of creative industry respondents felt the pandemic has altered the enjoyment they once gained from work. This sentiment resonates with filmmaker Jessi Gutch, who recently resigned from her role at the British Red Cross to pursue her dream as an independent filmmaker. Jessi has shared an emotionally inspiring essay on the decisions which led to this leap of creative faith.
Next we’ll explore how the process of working-from-home has upended the idea that individuals may need to live in major cities for creative opportunities. With 83 per cent of our survey’s respondents working remotely since March 2020, the majority revealed they felt it would be unnecessary for creatives to live in these locations in future. One creative who mirrors this shift is Akhila Krishnan, a multi disciplinary designer and director who recently switched her long term home of London for the seaside town of Hastings. An eye-opening account of the feelings brought up when letting go of hopes of owning a home in the city, Akhila’s words highlight how such a move may be the release some of us need.
Moving into the future of creative work, we’ll be hosting an open conversation on works on chain, and specifically NFTs. Since NFTs’ significant emergence into the cultural space over the past few years, many in our industry have found it difficult to know how to react or understand such developments, let alone implement them into their own practice. In turn, it’s perhaps created an instant aversion to creating work in this space, with only 36 per cent of our respondents interested in the growing popularity of digital art, and even fewer (23 per cent) saying they would actually create an NFT themselves.
Therefore to assess the current climate of digital art and increasing digital spaces, we’ve invited two designers, David Rudnick and Trevor Jackson – who both create work inside and out of this space – to share their thoughts on the matter. An open-ended conversation given how emergent such a space is, over the course of an in-depth Q&A the pair share their valid concerns and overall excitement for the future this area may create for visual media.
To round up our series we’ll then investigate a topic made prominent by our survey’s results: creative burnout. When investigating how respondents first developed their craft, 58 per cent said their original route was through a hobby, but 42 per cent admitted that their enthusiasm has waned with career progression. And, aside from the decrease in joy our work once brought, we’re also working more. 57 per cent of our respondents said their workload has increased during the pandemic, and 74 per cent of those working overtime don’t receive extra payment either. It’s an alarming set of statistics to behold, and so to explore where this may have originated from, and where we may head next, designer and art director HeeJae Kim shares his personal experience of burnout during the pandemic.
This past week marked two years since the majority of our industry first headed into lockdown; where working from home was just for two weeks, rather than two years. It’s been a period of heartbreak, endless confusion, difficulty, and of course such a shift is going to be mirrored in our industry. This week we hope to share with you sentiments, thoughts or ideas that perhaps echo your own feelings, and head back to work with a sense of the creative, work and life balance you’d like to achieve.
The Balancing Act
The Balancing Act is an Extra Nice-supported editorial series by It’s Nice That investigating how our industry has altered since the first wave of Covid-19 in early 2020. Developed from a survey shared with our readers, the resulting pieces are a reflection of the way the creative industry was feeling two years later.
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About the Author
Lucy (she/her) joined It’s Nice That as a staff writer in July 2016 after graduating from Chelsea College of Art. In January 2019 she was made deputy editor and in November 2021, became a senior editor predominantly working on It’s Nice That's partnerships. Feel free to get in contact with Lucy about creative projects for the site or potential partnerships.