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Sarah Boris On Why We All Need To Take Steps Back From Work

4 Mins read
Sarah Boris on how the pandemic has changed her life, and why we all need to take a step back from work

Portrait of Sarah Boris – Photography by Lorna Allan

Creative Boom chatted with Sarah Boris about the pandemic and its impact on her life and work. They also talked about how the world is changing under Covid-19, and why we all need to think about working smarter, not harder.

Born in London and raised by French parents, award-winning graphic designer and creative director, Sarah Boris, has had a phenomenal career so far. She’s worked with some of the world’s leading publishing houses and art organisations, including, Phaidon Press, The Photographers’ Gallery, Tate and Barbican.

How have Sarah Boris been coping with the world over the last few months?

Quite frankly, I feel slightly in limbo right now. I’m craving for something out of the ordinary, a surprise maybe. Something unexpected. I might have to provoke it. I think my life has never been so full of routines than during lockdown. This new way of life has grounded me to some extent, but I’m ready for what’s next.


The main things that have kept me sane in the last few months have been exercising, cooking, sleeping, and of course designing. Also, time with some special people like you in the creative community. I was also invited to do eight talks online via Zoom, and Instagram Live during lockdown. These kept me busy and connected to people.

I was fortunate to mentor sixteen Syrian artists ahead of an exhibition of their work in Berlin and Oslo. Having conversations with people from Syria has made me put so many things in perspective.

The world is changing, has the pandemic changed Sarah Boris?

It’s changed parts of me. For one, I feel less stressed. I’ve not missed some of the stress caused by deadlines, email ping pongs or the design industry and its fierce competitiveness.

“Work has also been much quieter for the first time in 15 years, and oddly, I feel somewhat at peace and content.”

I’ve tried to see the pandemic as a moment to reconnect with what’s essential and embrace this journey into stillness.

Interestingly, I’ve found that I’ve not missed attending industry events in person. Although I know I’ll be happy to go back to some, and see people in real life, rather than on a screen.

Reasons for significant change in our worklife and workplace – in the creative industry.

Some people are relentless in the creative industries, but having been there, I understand why. The story delivered in the press is often different and hides the real hurdles and struggles faced by creatives. What creative person wants to spend life chasing numbers, targets, clients, pitches, working day and night?

We can find fulfillment by balancing work and other activities.

There have been trends talking about a better work-life balance and self-care. And then a trend demonising these very things.

At the end of the day, I feel we should all slow down and avoid the rat race.

We should take this work-life balance thing very seriously, and all be advocates for it. I am really in favour of wellbeing and looking after the planet. Looking after ourselves, and each other better. I think this pandemic and the time of reflection it has brought, has only increased that feeling for me.

Fiercely competitive to work hard, but not to live hard.

I did work non-stop for the first ten years of my career, but it was my choice.

I was racing and working all the time. It did have consequences on my social life, family time and much more. I would probably not do it any differently today. But I would say that, it is not necessary to do it that way. We should not push the next generations to work that way.

I’ve witnessed quite a few fellow creatives saying they feel like an empty shell after years of insane work. Wondering in the name of what “passion” did they put their job before life? In life, I mean love, sleep, health, eat, fun, travel, dream, etc.

We can shift working habits for the greater good. We often hear, “Work hard!” But I feel today we should say, “Live hard!”

We question what success or recognition means. What’s the point of working like crazy if you don’t even have time to see people or read a book or just chill?

I once remember a junior designer boasting that he had been working every night until 2am for a large branding agency. It pains me to see design studios still working insane hours. Making their junior staff work through weekend deadlines and late night pitches. On the other hand, I praise the studios that make their staff leave at 6pm. It’s exemplary.

I think we can shift working habits for the greater good. We often hear, “Work hard!” But I feel today we should say, “Live hard!”

I agree, life shouldn’t focus entirely on work.

People are starting to wake up to other realisations too, aren’t they? Hopefully, they are. I don’t want to speak for others. Still, my observation is that the awakening is slow. Somehow the pandemic has shown to what extent our society is dragging its feet at making the right kind of progress; be it on topics of diversity, or the planet.

For the first time, while speaking French on a bus journey in London, someone shouted at me: “Go back to your country or speak our language!” Little did they know I am also British and born in the UK.

I did not even bother to tell them. I felt acceptance of others should not be based on nationality, but purely on humanity.

Bursting the little bubbles we live in individually.

I realise we all live in little bubbles and we tend to get the information, news and beliefs from inside these bubbles. There’s so much to fix, learn, and improve.

The bubbles should burst, and we should spill, mix and regroup differently. We’ve all got an urgent role in making things better and protecting fellow humans.

I feel the education system needs to be re-visited, and the curriculum and histories we learn need to be re-written. Art and design history, for instance, still undervalue the contribution of women and people of colour.

There’s so much to be done. Will those be work? Remember, life shouldn’t focus entirely on work.

To find out more about Sarah Boris, follow her on Instagram.

Myfwl/Work Life Feed re-adapted the write up for short minutes readers. Click here to view the full original write up at


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