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Employee engagement

The Designate studio in Sydney is much more than the physical space where we work, collaborate and grow. It’s also the culture we’ve built over the years and every bit of human interaction that makes this place so special. And we really missed it.

The last few months have been the most challenging we’ve faced as an organisation. COVID-19 has shown us what we’re capable of as a team and, perhaps more importantly, what we sometimes take for granted. It has put our process to the test, and made it much stronger.

The black clouds are not gone yet but one thing brings us comfort: we’re back in the studio. And that’s no small feat. Not for us.

As a creative business, remote work fundamentally changes how we operate. Is it feasible? Yes. Is it ideal? No. Not even close. And that is because no amount of technology — and we have it all — can replace the sort of human interaction that makes every day at Designate different and rewarding. It’s what makes us, us.

Our work relies on frequent and informal collaboration. We are at our best when we can invite someone over to our desk and ask, ‘what do you think?’. Or when we put concepts up on the wall for people to pop by and challenge, suggest or improve. All of this is radically different with remote work. It’s less spontaneous and less intuitive.

And the truth is, our clients expect a level of service and quality that requires us to be at our best. Every single day. It’s the only way to remain competitive for over 25 years in an industry that devours independent agencies. 

So yes, being back in the studio is a relief. But we understand every industry is different; our lessons won’t apply to everyone. Most of our clients are the types of businesses where remote work has no noticeable impact. Many companies in financial services, consulting, property or energy are not planning to come back until the end of the year. And that’s perfectly fine for them.

Returning to the studio has also meant making significant adjustments in order to observe NSW’s COVID-safe recommendations. Desks had to be reorganised, meeting room capacity reduced and hygiene practices reassessed, but overall, these are changes we are happy to make to have everyone back.

Other improvements have come from our time apart. We now have shorter, more focused meetings. We make sure to touch base more often and document client interactions better. We are considering an improved project management system, and have even adjusted our shopping list (more sugar).

The point is, our culture is what we missed the most during isolation. But it’s also changing as a result of isolation. We are a different studio today than we were three months ago — a better one. Because it’s that very culture that makes us different. It’s the small things that keep us curious, engaged and creative. And it’s those same things that make us good at what we do.

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Designate acknowledges the Traditional Owners of Country throughout Australia and recognises their continuing connection to land, waters and culture. We pay our respects to their Elders – past, present and emerging.