As we enter week 10 of the ‘new normal’ I decided to sit at my (eldest child’s Ikea) desk, knees brushing my chin, and write about my experience over the last few weeks. Home hot desking options that include the kitchen, the bedroom, and the back of the car, have certainly not been my most remarkable locations to work as a producer. The challenges of working from home full time have been as significant as my new found love of gin at 5pm. That part is misleading, it’s not new.
I am Managing Director of Fred & Eric, an animation and design agency that I run with my partners Jamie and Maggie. We have a studio on Charlotte Street but are now scattered to East, West and South London. It was important to all of us that our agency could always operate remotely; so setting up a 'working from home' environment was an easy transition. The challenges have come from two exceptionally difficult clients, aged 2 ½ and 6….
These clients are diva level demanding. They insist on regular catch-ups by holding onto my chin in a vice-like grip to make sure I understand their brief. They like full control over a project, and will communicate their feelings with ardent force if anything doesn’t ‘work’. Woe betide the times I attempt to distance (*hide) in another room; with senses more acute than Lassie they sniff me out. I learnt early on, don’t EVER forget the biscuits to any meeting they’re attending.
The clients I live with also need regular exercise, despite getting my hands on one of the last trampolines available in lockdown, zipping them in and hoping for the best only buys me so much time. As a result, I have become adept at taking work calls whilst throwing a Frisbee, kicking a ball, and acting as a human vending machine for snacks. I mouth silent instructions and use hand signals to covey with an increasing amount of urgency that it would be preferable not to be used as a human climbing machine.
Most of our clients favour email correspondence, although ‘jumping on’ a recent zoom call with a prospective new client whilst wearing highly inappropriate 90s girl band bunches was not my finest hour. My business partners assured me I managed to keep an air of professionalism despite the unspoken Baby Spice homage (anything goes in in the Corona Call Era). And before you suggest there’s always time for a last-minute-pre-zoom-restyle, just accept that the eldest of my live-in clients turned personal stylist was vocally against modifications. And they say the client always knows best….
At times I’ve attempted to involve the ‘clients’ in creative decisions, sharing examples of illustrations and animations. But within moments, I was candidly told I should ‘get a cooler job’. ‘Like what?’ I foolishly asked, ‘errrrr Rocky, or……Sonic.’ So it seems that unless I become a boxing hero or a hedgehog on steroids, I’m irrelevant. I may yet recruit the smaller one into new business, however, as his propensity to grab my phone and start cold calling has resulted in numerous chats with strangers, and just a couple with the police…..
There is a palpable lack of office etiquette, working hours are irregular, dress codes flounced daily with a fluid relationship with the necessity of clothes, and no one has made me a cup of tea. However we’re muddling through, and I’m proud we’ve created an agency that is thriving in these exceptional circumstances.