Following our announcement that Content Creatures has permanently become a fully remote studio, we sat down with our founders, Brett & Cailie, to hear their thoughts.
1. Why have you chosen to go fully remote?
Brett: We were in a fortunate position as we experimented with teams before the pandemic, so it was a smooth transition for us. Over the course of the initial 4 months, we recognised that we weren’t ready as a business to move back into the building last September as it wasn’t COVID safe. We stayed remote and realised that, as work picked up, it was manageable on a high, regular level of work. In Spring, lots of people were considering their options, we weighed up the pros and cons thoroughly.
2. What are the opportunities?
Cailie: Travelling was a pain for a lot of the team. It took up so much time out of their day and was especially a burden when we had to work late some evenings. Everyone seemed happier being at home, with the freedom to work longer hours if they needed to. So it just made sense to not be bogged down by the cost of travel and the time it took to get to work.
Brett: Another benefit for us has been recruitment. We were initially based outside of London (Dorking). Recruitment was always tricky as people didn’t want to travel out of London so remote working has opened up so many different opportunities. Over the past 6 months, we have had team members working with us from across the world (Midlands and north of England, Mexico and Canada), which is completely workable and we have faced no issues.
3. What are the benefits for employees?
Brett: When you’re working hard at the office, it’s hard to take as many breaks. You also tend to have long days due to travel which can be hard for staff. By being remote you are closer to the things that relax you.
Cailie: The key thing for us was connecting with staff more and handing the decision making process over to them a little more. It was important that they were openly voicing their concerns about working remotely full time too. We have a young workforce, but they do like being at home and they recognise the benefits it gives them.
Brett: We recognise that in order to make remote working work, we had to consider how we would keep and build a culture, so we have devoted time, effort and energy into solutions to give back and enrich our teams lives.
4. What are the challenges?
Brett: There are, firstly, the natural challenges of not being together all the time when working and not being able to interact in a very fluid way. Alongside this, how do you fire people’s energy up and make them think creatively and respond more dynamically when you’re separated?
Cailie: We’re a small team who are very close and have gotten used to this together. I believe that if we were much larger it would have been more of a challenge as there would be lots more personalities to take into account. But there are of course personality differences which we always took into account and openly discussed.
At first, it was hard to speak to everyone and make sure people weren’t alone all day. Now, everyone’s enjoying hanging out video chats whilst working, as it allows people to have that company throughout the day. You notice that there is that culture of ‘office life’ which they were missing that is coming back in a new way.
Brett: Another initial challenge we faced was that everyone felt like they had to come through us when something happened, so there was a fear of making decisions independently. However, this has taught the team to take more responsibility and they have really enjoyed being more empowered.
Cailie: Life as a working mum and business owner is always quite hectic, but the integration of home working has added to this; trying to control noise levels and childcare. But one of the biggest challenges has been taking breaks. With no commute, there is a tendency, if busy, to put the kids to bed and go back to work, so the lines are more blurred.
5. Have there been challenges with recruitment?
Brett: There have been lots of benefits with recruitment, however, the main challenge has been recruiting and training up graduates. The problem with it is that they need a lot of attention and can be less willing to ask for help than they would be if they were at the end of a desk.
Cailie: However, with that comes the advice that ‘if you don’t ask, you don’t get’. Part of taking on graduates, juniors and interns is that we know it’s a learning experience and our team do not mind being asked questions. The key skills they need to develop are around problem-solving, strong communication and using their initiative. It’s so important to encourage young animators into the business so we will always keep working to do that, however, this is one area that we’ve found hard.
Brett: However, graduates in the next few years will have already experienced learning remotely so they might be better equipped which will definitely help with their training in this field.
6. How have you stayed connected and motivated as a team?
Brett: First and foremost, we need to get together again. We haven’t seen each other in so long, so regular plans are needed.
Cailie: We need to make plans regularly and get them in the diary. Part of it is having the feeling that something is coming up. Currently, we have our water-cooler moments every morning where we catch up and talk about everything we used to talk about when we used to make cups of tea and breakfast in the studio. We’ve had ideas about things such as morning yoga, but our intention is to push people out of their comfort zones to connect.
7. How do you find creative inspiration?
Brett: When we first started working remotely, the most challenging thing was brainstorming.
Cailie: We assumed it was going to be harder than it was, so we worked around it and found solutions. We played with whiteboard on Teams and sharing screens.
Brett: Initially I think it was the ‘shock of the new’, and the tech was challenging with people accidentally talking over each other, so that made it feel very broken. But we learned as a team to not only make do, it has actually improved the way we brainstorm because we have access to resources in the same space.
Cailie: It has become a dynamic brainstorm experience. You can hear everyone tapping away on their second screens, being able to research and drop in links and pictures into the chat. There’s a real sense of everyone connecting and it is much more productive.
8. What does the future hold?
Brett: Part of answering this is down to the way the business grows over the next year or two. After lockdown, we learned that we needed to be more diverse in not getting too attached to a particular industry or client. Every business finds at some point they’re tied to the success of another, but what we’ve been able to do is add in a diverse range of new clients and business, which has been a massive change. This has been enabled by remote working as we have been able to work with clients that are not UK based, which would have been more difficult from our studio due to time zones.
Cailie: Our pre-pandemic approach was a mixture of going to events, scheduled meetings and getting out to meet people, which was obviously completely wiped out. At that point, we pushed more into our digital marketing and our presence online. This has really opened up our client base as we have reached more people from different sectors.
Going forward, it would be lovely to go to conferences and face to face meetings with a combination of our digital presence, but it’s just about finding the balance. We’ve done lots of work for virtual events over lockdown but we now hope to continue to do work for live events. Its really important for our industry to get people out again meeting face-to face.
Brett: Inbound marketing has driven the last 12 months for us. There was also massive learning for us internally and how it works best for our type of business.
Cailie: The point is that anything is possible, but we have to be flexible and listen to the people we work with and see what we want to do at the time and how that works best for the business.