The pandemic changed work lives for people around the world. From layoffs and corporate restructures to the “Great Resignation” that followed, employees changed their work days, career goals, and office spaces to better fit a new age of employment.

We spoke with freelance art director Shazia Chaudhry, who works on a range of projects out of the United Kingdom and who also happens to design the Intelligence team’s own reports. Shazia reflects on how her work as changed in the years since pandemic shut downs, and how her own ability to choose projects that bring her joy and spark her curiosity has changed her job for the better.

Tell us about what you do for work.

I've been freelance for coming up to 7 years now, and my main role is an art director. I've always worked within the magazine and newspaper industry, whether that's print or editorial, but I guess my job always has a sort of storytelling element to it.

I also work as a designer, as you know. When I first started, as probably most freelancers do, I worried very much about getting work and found it very hard to say no to anything. That's something that changed mainly after the pandemic. Within the space of probably 48 hours of lockdowns, I had about six months of work just cancelled, and that was really hard.

I'm taking on work that I know that I'm going to enjoy, and I feel like that's really important to me now.

How did that change the way you work?

I reflected on the work that I was doing, and eventually opportunities naturally just came back, which gave me a sense of confidence in my own ability and in what I do. One thing that definitely changed for me post pandemic is that I really think about the work that I'm taking on and I have a bit more of a sense of freedom to say yes or no to things. I'm taking on work that I know that I'm going to enjoy, and I feel like that's really important to me now.

The actual way that I work has also significantly changed. Pre-pandemic, I would often go into people's offices and work with them quite closely. During the pandemic, I was working from home. That’s a change that I've stuck to, because I'm a lot more comfortable working by myself than I realized I was. My time is my own, and even when I'm working for other people, I find that I'm actually more productive [this way]. I don't need the kind of constraints of a 9 to 5 to be productive.

How has your work itself changed in the last few years?

The nature of my work feels like it's become more and more relevant. When I work with a client, I focus a lot on aesthetics. I think, as a reflection of society as a whole, people want to understand the reasoning behind what they do, and that's definitely something that I feel like my work probably flourishes in: storytelling, and sending a clear message to an audience.

How do you feel your values have changed?

I definitely value my own time more, and maybe that also reflects on the fact that I'm a bit older and I've been doing this for a while. A certain amount of pride and privilege comes with that. I can be a bit more picky, and I definitely value my own time a bit more in terms of working on projects that I really want to work on rather than because I have to work on them. Also, in terms of valuing time, I value time with my loved ones.

There's been huge political upheaval [in the UK], a lot of [things happening] that I don't agree with, so I've definitely found that educating myself politically and knowing what I believe in is a lot more important to me as well.

Part of what I do does tend to have a certain news element to it. For example, I used to freelance with a slightly right wing magazine through the pandemic and Boris Johnson’s term as Prime Minister. [The outlet’s] affiliation with events that I believed were wrong meant I stopped working with them.

How do you choose what work you take on?

In the journalism world in particular, [this work] tends to be underpaid, and it tends to rely on the fact that a lot of people want to work within that industry, and I feel like I've done [those low-paying jobs]. I know my worth, so I do try to work with someone that I feel probably pays my value. I also look at how much freedom of creativity there will be within that project. Is it something that I believe in?

For example, I was recently contacted by a news outlet based in Saudi Arabia. It was very well paid and it was an interesting project, but with political turmoil in the country, I felt like I had to question it a bit more before I took it on. I found that actually, it was a company owned by a woman and the journalism was incredibly balanced. 50% of the writers were female from across the globe. What I really liked about it was exactly that: it was pushing the stereotypes of what people may widely associate with Saudi Arabia, so that was really interesting for me.

Please provide your contact information to continue.

Before submitting your information, please read our Privacy Policy as it contains detailed information on the processing of your personal data and how we use it.

Related Content

A woman with fair skin and dark, short hair is pictured in two photographs taped to a wall. On the left, she rolls her eyes to the left of the image. On the right, she looks into the camera with her head tilted to the side.

Life, refocused: a mini series

Wunderman Thompson Intelligence is highlighting creatives who have pivoted their lifestyles, careers, and habits in the years following the pandemic.
Read Article
A white woman with shoulder-length blonde hair stands in front of a leafy green wall and smiles at the camera with one hand on her hip, wearing a white dress.

Life, refocused: travel

Stephanie Farr, founder and CEO of Maya Luxe tells us why “community is a new currency for travel.”
Read Article