#WFH Diaries: David Billing of Above+Beyond

As coronavirus confinement continues, we're checking in with creative people to see how they're faring. Here's an update from David Billing, founder and creative chief and at London-based agency Above+Beyond.

Give us a one-line bio of yourself.

I'm a former cellist, PR guy, pop songwriter and producer, currently hoping to stick at being chief creative officer of Above+Beyond.

Where are you living right now, and who's with you?

I'm at home in the Kent countryside with my partner and two children.

What's your work situation like at the moment?

Very, very busy. Lots of change. Lots of adapting. Lots of opportunity. We even did a global pitch last week on Zoom. Probably more “face time” than we ever get in the agency building – but exclusively faces, of course.

Describe your socializing strategy.

Zooms with close friends and family. A pub quiz Zoom on a weekend if I'm feeling like going “out,” virtually. Did I mention Zoom?

How are you dealing with childcare, if applicable?

My kids (two boys) are currently on holiday, whatever that means. But my partner's been home-schooling them outside of that, and we're hanging out every few hours or so to throw a ball around or draw or whatever. Weekends are easier—I think they have more meaning for me than for the rest of my family, though.

What are you reading?

I'm almost Victorian in my march towards self-improvement, so I've been tackling some pretty heavy books about stuff I don't understand at all, like Why Materialism Is Baloney by Bernardo Castrup and The Case Against Reality by Donald Hoffmann. Quite a good antidote for when reality starts feeling a bit too real.

What are you watching?

Like everyone else, Tiger King. Apart from that, Better Call Saul, Ozark, Unorthodox, Brooklyn 99, Curb Your Enthusiasm, This Country. A mixture of dark drama and darker comedy, basically.

What are you listening to?

Podcast-wise, the pitch-black Brian & Roger and the always entertaining Athletico Mince. Music-wise, Arlo Parks and Four Tet. Predominantly though I am listening to myself practice things on the bass and piano, more of which later.

How are you staying fit?

I'm doing as much as I can tolerate on the treadmill every single weekday morning I can face it—usually no more than 4K, no matter how good the tunes. I live near some pretty wide open countryside, so we're managing to do long and rambly walks on the weekends whilst still obeying the rules.

Have you taken up a hobby?

I play a few instruments, so I'm carving out little pockets of time here and there to brush up my technique on bass guitar and piano. Learning new scales and songs that I will probably never play to another human.

Any tips for getting necessities?

Allow a lot of time for online booze deliveries.

An awkward moment since all this started.

We were kicking off this global pitch to 10 people in four countries just as the CEO's (my business partner) internet connection completely died. At that exact same moment the strategy partner's daughter came to chat with him in his “office.” It's all OK, everyone understands the context. What's “awkward” at a time like this?

Best work email you got since all this started.

An all-staffer telling everyone to down tools at 3 p.m. on the Thursday before Easter weekend. They'd earned it.

An aha! moment since all this started.

No real “aha’s”—but a dawning realization that much of how we work today is outmoded. I like hanging out with the agency in person, but I wonder if we can learn something from this surprisingly fast adaptation to remote working. Maybe we don't always have to travel to the same room every day to make the magic happen.

What's your theory on how this is going to play out?

Everyone's got a theory, no one's got a clue.

See the full #WFH Diaries series here.

Tim Nudd
Tim Nudd is editor in chief of the Clio Awards and the founding editor of Muse by Clio.

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