Navigating the new normal

These are unprecedented and uncertain times, so how can the industry better come together to navigate the new normal?

Nicola Kemp

Editorial Director


Keep calm and carry on has so long been part of the British psyche, it is a fundamental challenge to establish a new normal in which simply ‘carrying on’ is no longer an option. In lockdown if we attempt to shoehorn old models of working into the current climate, we will all fall short.

No one could have envisaged the environment we find ourselves in today, yet that doesn’t abstain us from the responsibility of stepping up and navigating a new normal. For the lucky ones working from home, that means navigating myriad responsibilities and roles. Flexibility and empathy have never been more important.

Creatively, culturally and economically the industry has been fast to adapt. Now more than ever the highly competitive creative industries need to come together to collaborate and share what’s working and what isn’t in this new normal.

We need new approaches, not just in terms of remote working, but how brands and businesses can be a positive force for good in the midst of this crisis. With this in mind, as part of an ongoing series, we asked a selection of industry leaders how the industry can better come together to navigate this new normal.

To benefit long term, we must keep sharing our learnings to ensure we all keep connecting, sparring, hypothesising, musing, thinking and talking.

Zoe Crowther

Zoe Crowther

Zoe Crowther, Red Brick Road.jpg

Managing Partner

Red Brick Road

Apparently, we are at war. And wars are often a catalyst for big societal shifts, big change. The women’s vote in 1918. The NHS following WW2. The positive to living through a crisis where society is united against shared adversity is that it can have the power to bring us together in an unprecedented way. The catalyst for the changes we talked about but couldn’t quite action, by forcing us free of the “but that’s how we always do it”s. Our industry has long relied on physical interactions to build business relationships and forge creative alchemy. But all that office time has come with unpleasant side effects, on mental health, work life balance, toxic working cultures and discrimination.

This new ‘war’ will require us to fundamentally change the way we work. Though challenging, there are already huge positives emerging. Team flexibility and trust. Time to focus on the important not the urgent. Space to create. To benefit long term, we must keep sharing our learnings to ensure we all keep connecting, sparring, hypothesising, musing, thinking and talking. Our industry will always rely on human connections, but perhaps this crisis will show us a new way to connect and create.

These aren’t normal times, so insisting that things carry on the same is unrealistic and unfair.

Terri Bailey

Terri Bailey

Terri Bailey, NABS.jpg

Director of Culture Change & Wellbeing Services


We’ve always been passionate about wellbeing at NABS. Now more than ever, it’s time to support wellbeing in ourselves and our teams as we go through the next few months.

Manage your emotional and mental health

Information is coming at us constantly from so many different sources. There’s an influx; it’s too much. We have to choose which sources we look at. Personally, I’m listening to Boris once a day and reducing the time I spend on social media. After a weekend where my phone didn’t stop pinging and I started to feel a level of stress creeping in, I decided to turn off my notifications and now just check WhatsApp twice a day. Being sensible about what to listen to and when, is essential for your wellbeing.

I’ve got straight back into my meditation practice, and that’s really helpful. Having a routine helps set me up for the day too.

Flexibility’s the key, especially for parents

As a working mum, one thing I’ve noticed straightaway is the challenge of having the kids at home while having your own work to do. During these extremely unusual times, companies should consider offering some flexibility. Maybe having core hours for meetings or allowing people to work hours that suits them and their families. Employers have to realise that the normal 9-5 day is going to be challenging. The schools are closed, there are no facilities; being at home is the only option. My children are a bit older; it will be extremely challenging with little ones. Parents and carers need a more flexible approach where it’s OK to do that big piece of work after the kids have gone to bed.

These aren’t normal times, so insisting that things carry on the same is unrealistic and unfair. The whole world will have to accept that flexibility will be the key to make home working work. 

Leaders, lean on someone

Leaders and managers need to seek out help. Your team members will talk to you about their worries. It’s encouraging if they do because it means that you’ve created an open culture and communicating about emotional health is especially important at this time. But this also means that you’ll be carrying their worries as well as yours, so you must get some support. Find somebody to talk to and do what you can to help your own wellbeing. You can always call the NABS Advice Line for a supportive chat.

For support and guidance throughout the pandemic and beyond, call the NABS Advice Line on 0800 707 6607 between 9am – 5.30pm or email support@nabs.org.uk 

The mandate has shifted and it’s a simple one: just help. Pursue the greater good rather than self-interest.

Dan Cunningham

Dan Cunningham

Dan Cunningham, Dark Horses.jpg

Head of New Business

Dark Horses

The role of brands has altered because the preoccupation of their audience is no longer spending for want, but for need.

And without trying to formalise everyone’s collective headspace, Bain & Company’s adapted ‘Elements of Value’ model points in the right direction: people value things that provide belonging and reduce anxiety.

This is important.

The old adage that brands spend their way out of crises isn’t relevant here. Brands aren’t spending their way out of this one. But equally it’s not a time to go dark. The mandate has shifted and it’s a simple one: just help. Pursue the greater good rather than self-interest. And if you can’t figure out how to do that, don’t do anything.

But thankfully there are brands that have figured out how to make a difference with their actions. And they’ve done so quickly.

There are those fundamentally shifting the categories they operate in, in order to serve society's needs, such as LVMH switching their perfume production to hand sanitiser or car manufacturers turning their production lines into ventilator production lines. And it's been done without any airs and graces.

A client of ours, Just Eat, responded by delivering emergency supplies to those that need it most. Boots are rolling out testing facilities. We’ve seen sports, such as the Football Association of Wales, leaning into mental health in response to loneliness searches peaking at their highest in recorded history. Logos have changed, some more successfully than others, in support of saving the NHS. BBC dipped into the archive to advise us on staying home while Netflix is filling billboards with spoilers for if we don’t. Defected Records’ made its festival virtual. And Budweiser’s SavePubLife initiative is an attempt to save the place we’ll want to go after this.

It goes without saying there are a lot of things we can’t control. But that doesn't stop how industrious and resourceful we can be in finding ways to still do the right thing. And if the last few weeks have shown us anything, never has there been a greater call to arms.

Most brands have played their role so far in establishing a new normal and making themselves part of culture by showing a duty of care. It’s shaping how people feel about what’s happening.

These are the things that will be remembered on the rebound. And the brands that haven’t pulled their weight will be found out when this is all done. But there is still a lot longer to go. So, where you can, find a role and don’t set limitations.