1 Home office
Rows of desks and boxed-up cubicles: offices, even creative ones, can be dull. So spend a little time and money personalising your space. Try growing bamboo plants, celosia, a fern, a small spider plant or philodendron. Bring in photos or pieces of artwork you love. Slot a rug under your desk or maybe even bring in a small fish tank. Think of things you like – things that make you relax without being distracting, and require very little upkeep.
2 Think long term
Everyone finds themselves with downtime at some point. Instead of throwing yourself into something that won’t get finished, block out a long-term project into smaller chunks, and concentrate on getting each of these mini-tasks completed each time your workflow dries up. This doesn’t mean forgetting about the all-important general admin, but does mean you focus on the important, and not just the immediate.
3 Rewrite your job description
Maybe your studio lacks a coherent PR plan or its portfolio requires updating – use some initiative, energy and make use of your downtime to do some of the jobs you want to do rather than those you’re tasked to do. It’s this type of self-starting that gets you noticed as a do-er.
4 Get out of the office
No new job should be the same as the last, so why maintain the same environment for all of your creative thinking? Do your research: if you’re working on new branding for a local zoo, take a trip and get a feel for who the audience is and what pushes their buttons. You can’t do this from your desk.
5 Play a game
We’re not talking about spending any quiet hours on FarmVille – think about the people you work with and what they enjoy. Something as simple as a fridge-mounted Scrabble challenge keeps your amusement levels up each time you head to the kitchen area. Similarly, a lunchtime illustration competition with a tongue-in-cheek prize, or an alternative take on a current project can often result in usable, valuable outcomes. You’d be surprised how constructive the often-crazy ideas can become with a little refinement.
6 Entertainment union
If you work in a larger studio or agency, you could lobby for a social budget. Times are hard, but why not get some folks together and arrange camping trips, fundraising activities or charitable challenges? Ride your fixie the length of the UK; organise an exhibition. These activities help promote your company, while at the same time raising money for decent causes and building a positive team atmosphere.
7 Host a screening
Got a meeting room equipped with a projector or big screen? Why not host a movie night after hours? Sling down some bean bags, chuck some popcorn in the microwave, get the beers on ice and pick a flick everyone will enjoy. Even better – hook up your Wii and host a karaoke night. It’s fun, cheap and makes a great talking point.
8 Us vs the world
An ‘us against them’ mentality is fantastic psychology for fostering a tight team atmosphere. Why not get involved (or start) a league where you can pit your company’s skills against your competitors? Creative five-a-side football tournaments exist all over the UK, or you could take it further and challenge your local competitors to a pie-eating competition or design-off.
9 Fun Fridays
We all know about ‘dress-down Fridays’ whereby those with more lacklustre office jobs let their hair down by losing the suit and tie for a day. Those crazy cats. Well, what about a day’s themed dress-up in your office? You could go for fancy dress or a competition of some kind – anything that stimulates the creative juices, breaks the day up and enables people to express themselves while focusing on the day job.
10 Become a mentor
Remember how serious, technical and downright scary it all seemed when you were first starting out? Why not become a mentor for new starters, or better still for college or school kids keen to learn about the creative industries? Helping out a new starter is a great way to get them up to speed and make them feel as though they’re part of the office culture. Similarly, mentoring college and school kids has its own set of rewards, and helps build your company’s brand as well as your own.
Illustrations by Linda Coulter