“We’ve come up with a ‘work from anywhere’ policy. The office won’t be a place where you go to sit at a desk with your headphones in, working and not talking to anyone. It’ll be a drop-in, hang out place.”
Rankin, the renowned photographer and founder of the eponymous creative agency, is talking about the results of a realization he had early in the Covid-19 pandemic.
“I’m very lucky – I have a second home in the country, and I got there just as the lockdown started,” he recalls. “And it made me re-set. I realized that I prefer living that way, that disconnecting from the office is very important to me.”
The agency is now trying to help all its staff find a similar work/life balance and to help them maintain their mental health. It should, Rankin believes, also help with creativity.
“I rely on everyone in the business to be creative, not just a few creatives,” he says. “When we’re pitching, everyone is trying to come up with solutions for the client. And to have that creativity, you need to have separation of work and home, and as a business, we need to respect it. We’re not perfect, but we’re trying really hard to listen to people, offer them support and let them have the time they need.”
Work from anywhere, but get together too
Rankin misses the day-to-day interactions with his team and agrees that remote working makes it harder to sustain a company culture. In response, part of the agency’s ‘work from anywhere’ policy involves creating physical events where staff can socialize face to face. He also sees the company’s frequent shoots as a great opportunity for people to get together in the studio.
And while he acknowledges the importance of platforms like Zoom, he’s not a fan of the now-ubiquitous video call.
“I love the fact that things are more prompt and happen faster on Zoom – no one wants to sit and natter, they just want to get the work done and move on,” he says. “But company-wide hangouts don’t work, they’re uncomfortable. Anything more than three or four people is difficult.
“I don’t understand why we have to do everything on video now. Why don’t we just phone in? One of the things that has helped me with my mental health is doing fewer video calls.”
In fact, his whole attitude to technology could be described as ambivalent. He agrees it has made his business workable during the pandemic, but at the same time he worries about the impact of our increased dependence on social media.
“There are some amazing products out there – Samsung has a great phone, Adobe has some great products – and we couldn’t do what we do without them. I’ve done shoots over Zoom. I did one over the phone for Bafta and the results were amazing. But you have to have time off from the technology in order to be able to use the technology.”
The benefits of being bored
This is another issue that Rankin was aware of before the pandemic, but recent months have brought it home to him even more forcefully. He is a huge advocate of taking time away from social media when you can, of taking time for yourself, and of allowing yourself periods of boredom that can lead to creativity.
“In my opinion, you can be more creative if you find some form of boredom in your life,” he says. “You have to have space to miss out. I’m a big proponent of the idea of ‘JOMO’ – the joy of missing out, rather than the fear.”
His advice is to set time aside for yourself to spend in nature and to think things through: “Be regimented about it. Don’t allow yourself to be blocked out with meetings. Try to find the things that inspire you. And leave your phone at home. Being bored can be really cool.”