Top Ad Leaders on How to Stay Creative While Working From Home

Here's what works for them. What works for you?

A widely shared piece in The New York Times last week repeated a common assertion about working from home: that it makes you more productive, but less creative.

This quote, from none other than Steve Jobs, appeared in the article: "Creativity comes from spontaneous meetings, from random discussions. You run into someone, you ask what they're doing, you say 'Wow,' and soon you're cooking up all sorts of ideas."

Without a doubt, in-person interactions have always been central to the creative process in advertising, too. So, how can advertising people stay creative now that we're all confined at home for the foreseeable future?

We asked a bunch of people in the business how they're dealing with the new reality. Check out their responses below.


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Kelly Fredrickson

President
MullenLowe Boston and New York

Each day of this new reality is an exercise in managing emotions. Within the same hour we can go from "I've got this" to "WTF am I going to do now?" I imagine we are all riding the same carnival ride. When I find myself dipping into the WTF space, I think about the things that ground me and find a way back to feeling like I've got it. Here are a few items on my checklist:

Start your day off right. Wake up, pause, breathe deeply, and think about the thing you are most grateful for—then start your day. Center yourself before you start looking at your phone, laptop or TV for the latest news.

Be where your feet are! Stay present. Your people and animals need you. It can be overwhelming to deal with the amount of information we are being asked to absorb and action simultaneously.

Love the tribe. It's always a good idea to tell the people you love, that you love them. I have four group text strings going—they are a mix of support group and comedy club between family, friends and my teams at MullenLowe. My tribe is strong, and we are helping each other manage being creative through life and through work.


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Emily Wilcox

Head of Account Management
Johannes Leonardo

The current situation we're in as an industry is forcing us to evolve. To develop or build on behaviors, ways of working, or appreciation for different ways of thinking that are in service of supporting creativity at its best.

Trust has become more important than ever. We all know as leaders it's important to have trust among teams and with our colleagues, but it is sometimes harder to practice in everyday behaviors. This WFH home situation is forcing us all to build that muscle quickly, and I think in the long run we'll all be better for it. Trust is an attribute that is needed among the most creative and high-performing teams.

Feeling as though you have the space and time for creative thinking is just as impactful as physical connection and collaboration, but unfortunately not as celebrated in our industry. Often the conversation is about open workspaces, brainstorms and random run-ins. And yes, those are all great, but I think what we might find is that a little bit of distance will do us some good. To give us some quiet to actually think, contemplate, look at the world outside of the office more than in it. We might find it's an untapped source of inspiration and creativity. To connect, in a new and real way.

I draw a lot of energy from the amazing people we have at JL, but I draw just as much energy from reflection, contemplation and seeking out unexpected thinking from people outside our industry. That energy inspires me greatly from a creative standpoint.

However, when connection is needed in order to meet clear business objectives, or for those people who draw their creativity from it, our agency has been finding success in embracing technology for strong connectivity. We have been using Zoom for larger conference calls and scheduling virtual coffee dates with one another. Employees are coming together on Slack to share daily inspirations and livestream workout classes for a mid-afternoon mental break. When we are intentional about it, we can come close to physical "bump-ins" that spark new chemistries and ideas.

During this WFH period at Johannes Leonardo, we have been encouraging teams to find their own ways to inject creativity into their current routines that inspire their best work. For me, that means getting up early, exercising, eating breakfast with my daughter. These small intentions have established a sense of normalcy and balance that give me a focused approach that helps me to be at my best, which helps me to be at my most creative. 


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Menno Kluin

Chief Creative Officer
360i

Creativity is a game of focus and concentration and figuring out creative ways to express a singular message. Depending on the person, working from home can provide more opportunity for clarity, and creativity can even improve. 

Working from home on a mass scale, however, will be interesting and novel. For most, it's a jolt into something new, a shock to the system. However, new things can lead to more innovative results. It's stepping away from your patterns and routines to be exposed to new habits. If you can capitalize on this potential in a working environment where you are already comfortable and free of the distractions of an office, you can truly create some unique work. 

While I personally love coming into the office, being surrounded by the amazing, creatively driven people who work in advertising, working from home also means I am surrounded by my library of art, advertising, and design books, which has been very inspiring again.


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Sarah Stringer

Head of Innovation
Carat U.S.

There is an interpretation that being creative and being productive are at odds with each other, but really, in order to do anything creative or innovative requires some sort of structure.

I find writing a daily to-do list and giving myself permission to be focused on particular things is incredibly powerful. As Nick Hornby wrote in About a Boy, of the character who didn't have a day-to-day job, "His way of coping with the days was to think of activities as units of time, each unit consisting of about thirty minutes. Whole hours, he found, were more intimidating, and most things one could do in a day took half an hour."

Build both productive and creative tasks in your to-do list. This means spending time for creative discovery: What are people talking about? What's trending on TikTok, Reddit, Snap, Instagram Live, Twitch, Steam, Peloton, Giphy, Netflix and Twitter? These live/social platforms give you some of the community context you would usually get from talking with people face to face.

Spend time at the beginning of the day to catch up on your news, but try to limit falling into an overwhelming news cycle. Digital news is not like a newspaper; you can't get to the back page, so give yourself a time limit in the morning, and after lunch, set an alarm and try to move forward with focus.

Pick up the phone more. For creative briefs, I always prefer to provide a brief and then talk through the context with partners. This ensures things don't get lost in translation, allowing for understanding and to even push the concepts and ideas further. If you're a millennial or Gen Z, I know this feels like a scary state of affairs, but you'll be surprised how much quicker and more considered your partner responses will be from a quick phone call.

Continue to share ideas and concepts with your remote team. Microsoft Teams and Slack are incredible tools to stay connected with your trusted colleagues. Share more than you would. More brains on an idea make it stronger. Just remember, tone can get lost on IM, so if you're feeling precious about an idea or concept, be patient. If their tone seems short, remember, their intensions are almost always good, and typing cannot always provide you that human voice. Be open and patient.

And most of all, be kind. We're all in this together. People have stresses outside of work that are being pushed front and center. Now is the time to put humanity first.


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David Alberts

Chairman and Co-Founder
BeenThereDoneThat

At BeenThereDoneThat we have a community of the world's best chief strategy and chief creative officers. They've all worked for 20-plus years. They all work remotely. So, when it comes to the topic of the day, they really have been there done that. Our job is to create the ideal conditions for them to work. Here are five that work for me.

When you send me a brief, please don't tell me to think outside the box. Just tell me what the box is. Tell me why I am doing this. Why it matters. What is success? The adage "A problem well defined is a problem half solved" is an adage for a very good reason.

I want a very tight deadline. Every one of our projects happens in a week, and each creative thinker only works on the problem for 24-48 hours. After that it's no longer fun, especially when you are working alone.

Decouple thinking from the execution. When I ran a creative agency, the answer was television, whatever the question. At a content company, the answer was content. At this stage of my life, I want to focus on solving the client's problem, not on feeding another machine. 

Give me the freedom of anonymity so I can give you the freedom of thought. The best bit about working from home is I never have to look at a client or a creative director; I just have to look myself in the mirror.

And finally, the only thing a client should ever want is your opinion. When you've been there done that, life's too short for second-guessing.


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Seth Gaffney

Chief Strategy Officer
Preacher

A new space. A new routine. A new job as substitute teacher for those with kids. A bunch of new inputs can lead to some fresher outputs. It can also broaden your appreciation of creativity. Just today I saw a friend post creative lesson plans for getting your little ones smarter while staying saner. My wife, who I share an office with (our bedroom), didn't realize her calls today were doubling as a class on resourcefulness. My young daughter pioneered some negotiating tactics for getting treats. My younger son has found there's no limit to what he can pick up and swing at us. Every Halloween when I see my little nephews dressed up, I remember that my sister—who's a guidance counselor at a high school—could have gone into advertising. Being outside the office opens up more inspiration from people outside our industry; it's a whole new learning from home.


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Maggie Homer

Art Director
Chemistry

When I'm trying to get through a to-do list of non-creative projects, working without interruption always helps me check off tasks faster. Finding a place to hide in the office—or better yet, working from home—helps prevent my co-workers from interrupting with questions that they could've e-mailed or pulling me into an extra meeting here or there. However, when working with other departments or communicating with clients, I find that a lack of face-to-face conversations hinders communication and so much gets lost in translation, leading to delays and a lot of back-and-forth emails.

I think the same goes for creativity. I tend to have my best idea nuggets when I'm not sitting at my desk, staring at a computer monitor, being interrupted when trying to get some deep thinking done. The other side of that is that ideas evolve best when I'm working with my partner or in a collaborative group face-to-face, instead of over a Slack channel.


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Ben James

Head of Creative
T Brand

There was a time when we talked a lot more about creativity existing outside of the office. So, to be asked about what to do to inspire creativity when working from home is a sign of the times in unprecedented times.

I've been a fan of remote working and the elastic workplace for a long time. Over the years I have led teams that have beaten back blizzards, worked through days that would have otherwise been lost to visa processing across borders, and built campaigns with global teams—all through good teleconferencing and a solid internet connection.

It's helpful to keep collaborations going by making time to bump into each other virtually and to create randomness from what the tools provide. Our team is kicking off the week with unmandatory virtual lunch. We've agreed to mute when chewing. I hope they show up.


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Chuck McBride

Founder and Chief Creative Officer
Cutwater

After three days of WFH, we have come to realize this is the new normal. And while the creative gig economy has the head start, bigger creative organizations are now rapidly moving toward decentralized thinking and participation. Zoom has been our default. And we have seen it work. Sort of. What we found is the teams need to come better prepared to virtual meetings. The nuance of an unfinished or not-fleshed-out idea doesn't translate well. So, we have been doing more creative pre-meeting sessions that allow us to get the messy part over fast. From there we move forward with the ideas that stick more like darts. Who knows, we could edit faster and develop more integration as a result. Thanks, COVID-19.

Juan Javier Peña and Ricardo Casal

Partners and Executive Creative Directors
GUT

WFH

There's nothing like a bunch of creative minds together in the same space to bring great ideas to life. With that said, when we face circumstances like this, people always go first, and there are ways to make it work. For us, there are two key concepts for the remote creative process: over-communicating, and most of all, trust.

Over-communicating to make sure nothing slips through the cracks. To compensate for the fact that the team is not talking face to face, and to get everyone on the same page at every stage. And trust, trust in every person, in yourself, and in the ability for the team to get the job done. Trust to avoid micromanaging, which can be the tendency when working remotely. And finally, trust that everyone has the professionalism and love for the ideas to get them done right.


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John Barker

President and Chief Idea Officer
Barker

It's difficult to admit, because I don't intend to trivialize what's happening in the world, but this WFH mandate is strangely energizing for me, creatively. Despite my role helping our ECD inspire an incredible group of creatives, I'm secretly an introvert, and often do my best work in solitary confinement. A hundred years ago, as a junior writer, I locked myself in an office, turned off the lights and emerged three days later with the line "Who killed Laura Palmer?" to launch Twin Peaks. My CD thought I was nuts until it became a real phenomenon. I've always enjoyed that deep, monocular focus at the expense of things like light, heat or food, much less human contact.

Like most agencies, we're using our remote tools to meet and collaborate, and our team leaders are amazing. We're getting it done. But I also find myself regressing, in a good way, to stay sharp. In high school, I used to "train" in poetry. Yes, I'm actually that geeky. Whether it was math or history, I spent many classes in the back row, writing "speed sonnets." The goal was to write a metrically perfect sonnet about the dumbest thing you could think of. Fast.

I've started that again once a day, with topics tossed out by my 14-year-old twins. Yesterday's topic was "social distancing," which they offered with a wry smirk, but which also luckily works as trochaic trimeter. That's easily spun into iambic pentameter, such as: "The social distancing we now lament…"  So, yes, I'm secretly enjoying this. (See what I did there?) And by the way, remember, wash your hands. (See what I did there?)


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Kelly Bayett

Founder and Creative Director
Barking Owl

Working from home can be much more productive with less distractions, unless you have kids who are also home, and then it's almost impossible without the help of an iPad or Disney+. It can be incredibly difficult to be as creative when working from home, since so much of our creativity is inspired by the people we are around. One idea inspires a thousand, and it's tough to get that first idea alone. 

I always try to keep communication open so I'm not isolated—through FaceTime, messaging, etc., just to have our collaborators with us to bounce ideas off of keeps our creativity flowing. If you stay creative and connected, it will keep you from feeling depressed and in your own thoughts while sitting in isolation. Or maybe that's just me.


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Will McGinness

Chief Creative Officer
Venables Bell & Partners

This experience that we're living though is seismic and will fundamentally change who we are and the way we work. It's fucked up and crazy, but we need a plan and we need to roll with it as we go.

I think this whole thing starts with establishing new routines. We've made sure there is sufficient structure in people's daily routine so we can keep our productivity flowing. Lots of check-in calls early and at the end of the day to track the progress of what everyone is working on—video conferencing will be essential for meetings etc. It will just take a little getting used to, but luckily the technology exists to make this possible. 

Productivity is obviously crucial from a business standpoint, but it's also incredibly important for everyone's morale. People want to be busy and they want to contribute, so we're doing everything we can to facilitate that. 

Also, I think it's really important to absorb this moment in its entirety. It's going to be really difficult, but a lot of great things could come from it in the end. For one, all of the best music and art movements have been born from times of tumult, so I would expect the creative community to gain a lot from this whole experience. We'll all learn a lot from this, both in the ways we work with one another and who we are as humans. Godspeed.


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Jason Tisser

Executive Creative Director
Campbell Ewald

The next few weeks are going to be interesting for sure, and I feel like all my creative energy is going to come from keeping my two little ones entertained. The bright side is that I'll be honing my storytelling as well sharpening my negotiating skills while I also balance out work responsibilities. Keeping a cool head and testing my arts and crafts abilities will be how I see keeping my mind fresh and engaged. For others without tiny humans who depend on you, I'd say find time to walk away from work in a different way. Dust off that book you were going to read, crank up music you love in your ear buds, and walk away from twitter. WALK AWAY FROM TWITTER. That's it. Stay safe and wash your hands.


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Chris Rowson

Executive Creative Director and Head of Design
TBWA\Chiat\Day New York & DXD (Design by Disruption)

There are four main areas of focus for enabling creativity in a remote working environment: communication, operations, trust and inspiration.

First and foremost is communication. It's important to keep open lines of communication so anyone can call, message or email when they need direction, inspiration, clarification or a touch of motivation. Both listening and having open discussions are imperative to developing great creative and design. Work out which channel suits you best, be it Workplace, Slack, Zoom or email.

Operational integrity is also critical. As a creative director and head of a department, it's essential for me to have a partner who can help from an operational perspective—often the unsung heroes of an agency. I'm lucky to have someone who complements my way of working, cares for our team and keeps everyone in constant communication. I think the biggest quality this person brings is structure, and the more structure and routine your team has, the better.

Trust goes a long way. The more trust you have in your team, the more you'll be rewarded. I've seen this firsthand over and over again. Don't micromanage, but do let your team know you are available if needed.

And last but not least, the importance of inspiration. Whether it's an article, song, film or your latest personal project, make sure to share it with your team. We're constantly sharing references and interesting stories for inspiration, and there's no reason we can't continue to do this via Slack, Workplace and more.

Over the coming weeks, we'll be trying a few new things out. If they work, great. If not, we'll learn from them and try something new. Whether it's a virtual happy hour, a new Slack channel or "Week in Review" series via Zoom, don't be afraid to try different approaches to determine what works best for your team.


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Jon Wolanske

Creative Director
Goodby Silverstein & Partners

Working from home is a great test for your creative skills because it demands you rethink how you work. Not just how you arrange your day, but how to make sure you're not just sitting in one place for hours on end all by yourself. It can be kind of tempting to roll out of bed and let the day unfold as it will, but I find that filling my calendar as I would at the office helps me feel sharp. Scheduling check-ins with teams, team writing in Google docs, and even scheduling exercise breaks gives the day at home both structure and constant stimulus. Also, I think it's always a good idea to put on real clothes before sitting down to work. Actual pants produce actual results.


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Berk Wasserman

Executive Creative Director
Barkley

Yesterday, our team held our first remote two-hour creative power/work session. It was just like it has always been, with me standing in front of a wall of ideas—the only difference was my giant bald head filling the camera (Berk in extreme video foreground is not easy to take). But we had a great session. Feedback and ideas were broken up only by the occasional dog or adorable kid entering the frame—all welcome interferences.

We all got into the work like we always do, but we also got a look into each other's lives that we normally don't get to see. I met my co-workers' kids and pets and saw their apartments and houses, and everybody met Chica, my nightmare Yorkshire Terrier. Although social distancing is physically pushing us away from one another, this way of working was a more intimate version of creating together. And through all that, we still made the ideas sharper and better.


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Laura Etheredge

VP of Creative
Madwell

For me, the real conversation about working from home isn't whether it helps or hurts creativity. I wish creativity were that simple. It's about flexibility, humanity and trust—not rigidity—and under ordinary circumstances, working from home is a healthy part of the creative equation. But these are not ordinary circumstances.

I think the bigger question we're asking is whether work from home will seriously challenge our thinking about how ideas come to be. There's a very real chance we'll upset the narrative that creativity is being locked in a room together, burning the midnight oil, banging our heads against the wall, "so dedicated" that there's no time for rest, food or fresh air. And when we do break that narrative, we dull the shine that still surrounds it, especially in advertising. Not everyone is ready to rebrand.

We've all worked at home at one time or another, but never all at once. It's experimental territory that instantly compromises our old habits and requires a new level of trust. That kind of change can be a complicated thing for some to process.

Permission to realize our physical and mental health alongside smart work—finding a balance—might be the most creative thing that's ever happened to us.


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Johan Dahlqvist

Group Executive Creative Director
B-Reel

Look for UNWANTED impressions. An office, at its best, is the opposite of the Netflix AI. It serves up the stuff you don't think you want or need, whether you like it or not. You need those, to bump into your own insights or rational things from the brief. Without the office, you need to get it elsewhere.

If your office collaboration is built on Google tools and Slack, the transition to home works relatively well—as long as people feel uninhibited, generous with feedback and good at receiving it. You have to be comfortable with momentary Google-doc chaos and up the crazy in your Slack channels. Embrace the unwanted stuff!

Create random in-betweens. You can't "think" your way into something creative. Creativity "happens." In between high-pressure tasks, in the invisible moment when the swinging pendulum stands completely still. 

In the office, it can be walking up the stairs, flushing the toilet, waiting for a halloumi burger. So you have to create those, and you can only shower so many times in a day. Chop up the day into segments, force yourself to switch, surprise the brain with moments of micro in-betweens.


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John Caruso

Co-Founder, Partner and Chief Creative Officer
MCD Partners

Working remotely is part of most agencies' cultures. Whether it's with people in other offices, at home or in airports, we're always connected and we just make it work. Creativity can happen anywhere. However, this is a very different situation we are in now. All of us are remote without really knowing for how long. And we're not alone—some of us are jammed in with our roommates, our partners and our kids, who won't have school again for weeks. 

But restrictions and limitations drive creativity. If anything, we all have to be creative thinkers to adapt to our new situations working from home. At MCD Partners, we created a daily email series called "MCD Cribs." It's a play on the old MTV show where we ask MCD team members to share a quick tour of their home-office setups. It's been a fun, lighthearted break from the news, but we're really hoping it doesn't need to go two seasons!


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Jim Sollisch

Executive Creative Director
Marcus Thomas

The problem for a lot of creatives working from home is that, when faced with concepting a new campaign alone, cleaning the bathroom suddenly seems appealing. On my first day of working from home during this pandemic, I did things I'd put off for years—like sealing the tile in my bathroom. 

Think about it: Home is where we find comfort. Being creative requires leaving your comfort zone. Home is about order—there is a place for teaspoons and another place for soup spoons. Creativity needs chaos. It requires tension and conflict—other points of view. It requires feedback and back and forth. Tough to do it all alone at your kitchen table. 

A few tips. First, call your partner on the phone. (Yeah, a phone can still be used for talking.) Don't use email. Just talk the idea out.

Second, as you're concepting, force yourself down paths you wouldn't wander on your own. Use specific creative thinking techniques. At Marcus Thomas, we've created an app with more than a dozen creative prompts, including "Do it wrong," "Genre jacking" and "Find an enemy." These are designed to force you out of your comfort zone, which is easy to be in when you're in your sweatpants on your favorite chair.

Third, put on some real pants and find a less comfortable chair.


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Jennifer DaSilva

President
Berlin Cameron

As the president of an advertising agency whose passion is working with female founders, I know firsthand that connections and especially connections between women are essential. During this time when we need to physically distance ourselves, we should use it as an opportunity to connect in more creative ways, especially as small businesses are being more impacted.

With this in mind, I've created an initiative, "Connect4Women," to help women connect in a positive, productive and powerful manner. It's a premise I first tested last year—I was able to connect over 550 women, building a tight-knit network to make us all stronger. This year, in light of the uncertain and unsettling times, especially for startups and female-owned businesses, I hope to evolve and grow the group so we can become even more powerful together. Thus far, I have 60 women who have joined me, and together we can make an impact by making digital connections through this tough time.


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Pedro Pérez

Co-Chief Creative Officer
Energy BBDO

First, and foremost, stay safe. It's the most important thing to do. In terms of keeping the creativity going, approach your home like the workplace. I find it useful to assign areas of the house for doing different things. Kitchens can be kingdoms of brainstorming, living areas become sanctuaries for writing, and walking around the house during a remote meeting brings energy to the conversation. Also, dress for the occasion … I know, I know, that defeats the purpose of working from home in your pajamas, but it will trick your mind into doing the work.


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Dan Flosdorf

Sound Designer and Mixer
Barking Owl

As a sound designer, I find working remotely can be just as productive and creative as working in the studio. For me, it's all about establishing a routine, minimizing distractions and having a dedicated workspace so I'm able to get in the right mindset and focus on the creative. It's very important to stay available and connected, so I keep all lines of communication open with my co-workers and clients to bounce ideas and find inspiration. 

The demands of modern productions require us to adapt to new ways of working and I think that can really allow the creative to flow. The tools we have available allow us to create incredible sound from anywhere, and when outside of the studio, I find myself trying new processes and techniques, often with incredible results. It's a very exciting time to utilize technology and collaborate with clients all over the world.


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Adrian Belina

Co-Founder and Executive Creative Director
Jam3

At Jam3, collaboration and open communication are so central to our process that the WFH policy over the next month is hitting us hard in the heart and soul. Much has been said about the challenges our industry is facing, but if we are to look for the silver lining in a dark cloud, it's that one critical element is being returned to all of us. TIME.

Time is one of the biggest factors working against any creative. Our days are filled with travel, meetings and people stopping by your desk. By staying at home over the next little while, we'll invariably have more free time to just think naturally and slowly. Some of my best ideas have come when I've been at home alone, when I've been bored or even just taking a shower.

Time gives our subconscious space to work and do its thing. And now more than ever we'll have opportunities to find pockets of stillness and reflection. My recommendation to all those WFH is to ensure you break your routine, read the book that's been on your shelf, watch more Ted talks, download MasterClass, meditate. Whenever you open your mind and introduce new avenues for inspiration, those juicy weird and wonderful ideas will flow naturally. 


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Michelle Craig

Creative Partner
UNIT9

Creativity can thrive anywhere. We just have to look at art that came out of recession to know that in the face of adversity, some of the best, world-shaping work is formed.

We are a company that believes in building the right team for the right project, which often means not just being in a different office, but sometimes being in a different time zone! Shared working tools allow us to work in real-time on ideas and projects without slowing workflow down.

How do we stay creative? Internally, we hold all company digital meetings to share work and ideas. We create playlists and inspo threads to keep sane, but more than that, we create real community. It feels native to us to share things as they are happening—to be able to ideate, give notes, create sketches and prototypes or whatever else it might be. By taking this global approach, we often wake up to the efforts of a teammate's creative and that alone acts as inspiration for the day. Encouraging comments and thoughts left as notes keep the ideas flowing. We also try to actively share as many new ideas as possible. We don't think this is a resource that's going to run out.


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Jyrki Poutanen

Chief Creative Officer and Partner
TBWA\Helsinki

Maintaining interaction and thought-exchange with creative peers is the most important way to stay creative while working from home. As we know, there are several ways to go about it—chats, calls or video-calls. People share their creative ideas more freely even when just imitating a physical get-together. And in terms of maintaining personal creativity, creative leaders are only as good as their creative teams. We just had a remote creative brainstorming session today and I must say it was at least 80 percent as efficient creatively as a physical meeting would have been.

Another quite obvious but important thing is the opportunity for some serious (self) studying while working remotely—reading, watching and listening. If there's anything good coming from the situation the world is facing now, it's that working without distractions allows us to really concentrate on important subjects. I personally take the time to broaden my creative spectrum and am forcing myself to take time to learn about topics and content I normally wouldn't, because my "all-knowing professional brain" would have previously told me that either a) I don't have time for it, or b) it doesn't have relevance to my line of work. Which is of course so not true.


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Brian Cohen

CEO
Match Marketing Group

Interestingly, we are experiencing just as much creativity with our recent shift to working remotely. That might seem counterintuitive, but it's not unlike other behaviors I've personally seen in the past. While nothing can beat a collective, in-person brainstorm, the reality is that sometimes the most creative voices don't get heard during these meetings; some people are not as outspoken as others and end up falling silent as more dominant personalities take over.

The alternative psychological trait inherent with anyone who works from home—the need to prove that you are, in fact, working and not slacking—has already driven an uptick in having all of our voices heard, giving us a broader depth of creative choices. We're hopeful this trend continues as we get used to our new normal, and the confidence gained will serve those individuals who are finding their voice when the time comes to return to the physical office.


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Stephanie Newkirk

Senior Strategist
Match Marketing Group

Creativity and productivity have often been at odds with one another. Seeking out the inspiration needed to be creative is rarely seen as productive time spent, and yet, the circuitous nature of creativity requires this type of non-linear, "inefficient" exploration.

Reading magazines, wandering the neighborhood, sketching, digging through Google images, watching Netflix shows you normally wouldn't—all these inputs are ways to introduce new sparks of an idea. When faced with a new problem to solve, I often print and hang dozens of images, quotes and inspiration into a so-called War Room. Now, that process will become digital. Digital mood boards on Pinterest, Google slides or Teams allows for cross-pollination of ideas.

That's what we'll need more of.

If you subscribe to the belief that all great ideas are simply recombinations, you'll create a new workflow that includes conscious input searching and cross-pollination from sources that can't stand around a water cooler.


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Matt Kandela

CEO
Dear Future

I've always liked working from home. My belief is that creativity can be an individual sport as much as a team sport, and being at home was frequently a chance to avoid distractions and give solid sustained thought to something. 

Then something happened. I became a dad.

My 1-year-old has yet to understand the subtle but significant difference between working from home, "WFH," and just being at home, "BAH." Suddenly "WFH" is a battlefield and the opportunity for creativity, an ever decreasing one.

Like many creative breakthroughs, though, it's important to reframe the problem. Creativity actually thrives in adversity. It forces us to think differently, to try new things, and gets us out of our comfort zone. So rather than despair, appreciate the urgency and focus it provides. You have heard of "Sleep when the baby sleeps," but I introduce to you "Work when the baby sleeps."

And rather than see your inquisitive child as a barrier to you giving deep creative thought to something, try looking at the world through their eyes. You might get that creative breakthrough you were desperately seeking.


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Tori Ciniglio

Copywriter
GSD&M

I saw working from home, pre-pandemic, as a bit of a luxury. But even now, as it is a necessity, I approach it in the same way (my house is still my house after all). 

First, I STAY IN MY PJs, or at the very least, I stay comfortable. A lot of people say they get dressed even when working from home for productivity, but soft pants covered in penguins wearing sweaters is the stuff creativity is made of, right? Second, having a creative partner to interact with is key for me. I am a creative who really feeds off my partner, and being able to interact, even via FaceTime, lets us still play off each other's creativity. And lastly, just like in the office, taking little 10-minute breaks to watch a dumb video or read an article helps refresh the brain. 

I'm sure everyone has their own method to the WFH madness, but isn't that true of the creative process anyway?


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Alastair Green

Executive Creative Director
Team One

With modern digital tools, we can still create virtual spaces where ideas are exchanged and built upon in unusual ways. I personally like Slack as a place to do this, sometimes turning on video if I want to share sketches or my screen, if I want to change the mood/direction of a text chat or conversation.

Basic tenets of working from home are the same—dedicate a regular space, be disciplined with attention and time, but also try to be connected to fellow creative team members. We've been successful by sharing more work in progress as casual drop-ins, in addition to having official reviews.

Making use of props helps as well ... like this light saber. All jokes aside, there's a method to the madness there—by having fun, we can encourage more outrageous ideas and solutions, and give people the excuse to take risks themselves, no matter where they're working from.


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Andy Nathan

Founder & CEO
Fortnight Collective

Different environments inspire creativity. Even before the coronavirus outbreak, we were always about allowing people to work from anywhere. Why? Because you never know where inspiration can come from. As BBH's Sir John Hegarty says, "Do interesting things, and interesting things will happen to you."

This is something we subscribe to everyday at Fortnight Collective. While at home, change your perspective. Look to switch up your routine. Sitting around your dining room table may inspire different thoughts than sitting at a conference room table. Taking a call while walking around the block or a trail might open up some new ideas. We want our team to lean into this now and always.


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John Besmer

Partner, Creative Director
Planet Propaganda

Working from home can have its challenges: a houseful of screaming kids, for example. Happily, I'm past that. For me, working from home usually means I've got the place to myself. But still, creative focus can be hard.

I've found what helps is avoiding the obvious locations in the house: I skip the couch and the cushy chair in the sun. Same goes for the kitchen table. My brain knows those places are for chilling; surrounded by snacks, distractions and fast WiFi.

Instead, I'll head to the funkier corners of the house—say, our tiny guest bedroom, or a personal favorite, my astoundingly dingy basement. I've got a hammock down there, my parents' 1978 stereo, and an old dorm fridge full of IPA in case of emergency. There's an orange extension cord for power, an overturned milkcrate for the laptop—as I'm boarding and deboarding the hammock—and some exceedingly sketch WiFi, which I've learned to not even bother with. If I want anything beyond that stuff, it'll take some work. 

As a result, staying creatively focused usually requires less effort than being distracted. And, well, I'll take the path of least resistance every time.


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Bee Reynolds

Creative Director
EP+Co

For me, getting in touch with my creativity is a matter of diving deep inside my head. I close my eyes, tune out my surroundings, and try to grab onto a thought that leads me somewhere else. The upside to that is that it can happen just about anywhere, so wherever and however I'm working isn't an issue.


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Peter Herbst

Executive Creative Director
St. John & Partners

I would definitely rather be at work. For me, working from home is great for busy work, but I often struggle being creative out of the office environment—even in coffee shops. I think it's a combination of too many distractions and not enough dedication to power through and finally slip into your "flow-state."

Try locking yourself in a room, losing your phone, even ditching the computer for pen and paper. I love my porch because there's zero temptation to even look for a screen. It's just about training yourself to focus, where you've never really had to before.


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Mike Lee

VP of Strategy
Cactus

Working from home doesn't always have to mean working from home. In today's environment, it means working away from people. Maybe find an outdoor space, a view, some public art, any place that is away from people that inspires you and post up with your laptop or sketch book and let the good vibes roll.


(EARLIER ENTRIES BELOW)


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Karen Costello

Chief Creative Officer
The Martin Agency

Can creativity survive my 12- and 14-year-old, stuck in a house with both their parents, who are figuring out how to go to school remotely and trying not to teenage freak out about a pandemic they vacillate between thinking is the apocalypse and the equivalent of a month-long hooky?

The answer is yes. Because creativity and impact blossom where problems live. Even when it doesn't feel like it at first. Because at its heart, creativity is a dynamic and adaptable force that's often made more potent with challenges, limitation and obstacles. And we've got plenty of those going on right now.

While I might be distracted more regularly during the day by my kids, I'm also inspired by entirely new things: How our teams are collaborating in inventive and supportive ways. How companies are stepping up to help. How creative people are reacting, responding and creating in this weird new world. And yes, I'm also totally and completely inspired by my kids, whom I now see all day every day. And even though they are teenagers in every sense of the word, they also happen to be pretty evolved creative beings. And that makes me and my work better.


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Joe Baratelli

EVP, Chief Creative Officer
RPA

At RPA, we've been working with remote communication tools for a while now. Primarily Microsoft Teams. A simple button on the cell or laptop and all are able to call in or video conference. Now, will the team that needs to crank on the next campaign want to work with their partner over video chat? That's up to the team. That process is usually chat a little bit, work a little bit separately, share thoughts, and do it over again and again. Being open and allowing people to work however they wish is important. 

How ideas are communicated across departments is where process and protocol needs to be standardized and where a solid suite of tools to allow that communication is so important. I've always been a firm believer that creatives can and should work where they are comfortable. In the office or remotely, as long as the work gets done and the ideas are good.


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Tara Lawall

Group Creative Director
Droga5

The good news is that creative people will always find a way to create. It's who we are, and it will always find its way out of us. This time in isolation could also cause our creativity to manifest in entirely different ways. I started a podcast with my 3-year-old last night. It was an unlistenable disaster. But it got me to unpack the microphone I've been storing in my closet for five years. And I'll try again in a couple of days.

The bad news, this is all so f*cking terrifying, and us creatives are sensitive, empathetic souls. I had a video call with a couple of creatives yesterday, and all three of us are experiencing shortness of breath from extreme anxiety (I hope).

I've set up a desk in my bedroom so I have a place to sit and focus and work. I plan to shower and put clothes on (including pants) every day. My husband (also a creative in advertising) and I are going to be juggling both of our jobs and watching two children without childcare. I'll be working in the morning and watching the children in the afternoon; he will have the opposite shift, and we will make up the additional hours at night. 

We plan to re-evaluate every couple of days. Let's all do the best we can these next couple of weeks or months? Stay safe. 


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Rob Lenois

Chief Creative Officer
VaynerMedia

Staying creative while working from home, day one: I commandeered my 2-year-old's room to work and have countless Zoom calls. At the end of the day he walked into his room, picked up my computer, raised it above his head, looked me straight in the eye and dropped it to the ground. He's a good kid, but his point was made. He would not make this easy.

Not to make light of what's happening in the world, but I do think this change of perspective can actually be healthy for our creativity. After all, we are out of the office, right? We can all be a bit more of a free spirit. So take a walk, take in the abnormally less busy city (staying six feet away from people!), lock yourself in the bathroom for a phone brainstorm with your team, go for a run while you think about that one thing you just can't crack. The very change of scenery can free your mind to go places it might never go in the confines of our normal walled spaces.

At the end of the day, I believe the creative mind will do whatever it takes to keep those juices flowing. As I wrap this up, my son is reminding me that I promised to order him the Lego fire station. Truth? I bribed him.


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Mark Fitzloff

Founder and Co-Executive Creative Director
Opinionated

Half of the creative job is exploring, investigating, learning, researching. The other half is writing, thinking, creating, making, experimenting. Creative inspiration comes in the "time-wasting" middle bit in between. The bit where you get up, grab a snack, surf the internet, play video games, go to the bathroom or just stare into space. 

To set up a good creative routine at home, you need to ensure you have space for the two halves AND the in-between bit. The only obstacle I see to this is having your family witness firsthand just how ridiculous this job of ours actually is. 


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Omid Farhang

Chief Creative Officer
Momentum Worldwide

Within the normal work flow, it's easy for creatives to feel like gumball machines of never-ending ideas. I hope our social distancing will create time to stop and think. Strategize. Daydream. Seek new inputs and new inspiration. Watch the thing, read the thing. Get out of our calendars and into our hearts. 

Ever wish your clients would embrace disruptive ideas more? Instead of recreating your office routine from your couch, try disrupting your own process—demand of yourself what you're always demanding of them. I'd also advise not to stay in pajamas all day, but most of us creatives already adhere to a strict jammy-adjacent wardrobe. 


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Rebecca Armstrong

CEO
North

It's a sorry state of affairs when we think that creativity can be inspired only by interaction with a bunch of other ad people in our offices. Maybe this, in fact, is the fundamental problem with advertising that can manifest like a bunch of regurgitated memes created by drones. Surely our success as an industry is predicated on our ability to leverage the culture, beauty and human-ness in the world around us. 

Revisit the scene in American Beauty when Ricky Fitts shares his video of a plastic bag blowing in the wind. He is inspired by everything that most people overlook. Read blogs, call your mom, meditate, spend time with children, go for a walk, notice things, REALLY notice things. The world is actually a very inspiring place if you pay attention.


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Chapin Clark

Executive Creative Director
R/GA

Having to work remotely doesn't mean creativity has to suffer. Inspiration isn't something we leave in a drawer in our office desks. New ways of living and interacting with one another will yield new behaviors and new cultural trends to make sense of, which will spark new ideas. As dire as this situation is, creative good will come out of it, I'm sure.

As a writer, I welcome the chance to work without the interruptions that an office forces on you. No more "Hey, do you have a minute?" drive-bys at my desk? Yes, please. I'll probably be reading more, listening to more music, and taking more walks outside. All those things are good for generating ideas and getting unstuck.


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Mark St. Amant

Executive Creative Director/Creative Director/Copywriter
Freelance

As a freelancer who's no stranger to WFH even when there isn't a pandemic, I've learned to look to the Unabomber. He ... really let himself go. And whether your workspace is a northwest Montana shack or Lower East Side loft, physical appearance, or lack thereof, can absolutely affect creative productivity. So treat each day like you'll still be interacting with colleagues/clients IRL versus just Slack or Skype.

Shower. Brush your teeth. Shave. Slap on some Drakkar Noir if that's your thing (please don't be your thing). Put on socks and shoes. Wear pants—ideally not Fireball-stained sweats or anything with an elastic waistband, but actual PROFESSIONAL BIG BOY/GIRL PANTS. I'm not suggesting a tux or ball gown, but at least rock some jeans and a clean top. While creativity can be fueled by feeling comfortable, don't use WFH as an excuse to slide into "hungover college freshman"-comfortable or, worse, Unabomber Chic. Because when this hopefully passes and you return to civilization (the office), you really don't want to be known as "the CD on that one Google Hangout who had a baby possum living in his beard."


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Laura Fegley

Chief Creative Officer
O'Keefe Reinhard & Paul

Oh, I'm gonna have a toddler at home. My biggest creative challenge will be finding ways to keep his brain busy. Hopefully that will up my work creative game. Or I'll at least be telling creatives to "share" and "use their words" more.


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Gavin Lester

Partner and Chief Creative Officer
Zambezi

I think it depends on where you are in the creative process. In the very early stages, it's really important to have good dialogue with your partner and strategist, and dig into the brief together. To me, in-person discussions are generally the most beneficial, though during this crazy time, Skype, Google Hangouts and FaceTime can work well, too.

In any part of the process while working remotely, the space you choose is key. We know that many people do not have dedicated office space in their homes, so creatives will need to be disciplined about creating an environment to work and be productive.

Movement is also so critical for creativity and generating new ideas, so I'd suggest finding safe ways to do that. Consider taking local walks, for physical activity and also inspiring visual input. Find ways to communicate regularly, through phone calls and video chats with colleagues and friends. Keep moving, and keep the ideas and inspiration flowing. Take your thoughts on this journey with you.


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Linda Knight

Chief Creative Officer
Observatory

At home, you have time to think—a quietness. Ideas can come in the shower. Or tidying the kitchen, or drinking that one coffee (OK, two coffees) as you gear up. At work, it's a collaborative time. Conversations, brainstorms, meetings. But that quiet time at home is something precious in the creative process, often overlooked. Not sure my best ideas would come in the shower at work.

Thankfully, with new technology, we don't have to sacrifice our work connection. Just yesterday, Observatory had an hourlong session with creative collaborators in London whom we'd planned to fly in to work with. A virtual writers' room! Today, we had three Zooms, and next week a creative team will video conference into an edit. There is still so much going on. We are just as engaged and connected but with more time to really think.

The enemy isn't the office or working from home. Creativity comes from keeping things fresh and changing them up.


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Rafael Rizuto

Founder and Chief Creative Officer
TBD

It's hard to keep creative with this ominous noise in the background, regardless of whether you are working from home or not. In my case, it is all about discipline—especially with two little boys who are super excited to have their Papai at home all the time. There are practical tasks that require you to be focused and objective, and then there are tasks that require you to daydream. For the former, I try to do these things when everybody is sleeping, and for the latter, I like to go on walks with my dog. It's all about knowing what you need to accomplish and setting yourself up for success. 


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Roger Camp

Founder and Chief Creative Officer
Camp + King

Today is my first day of working from home on an extended basis and I was just asked to contribute to this article about how I plan to stay creative while working from home. Well, it's going to be great! 

In my head are images of me at my home desk, thinking and concentrating on the creative tasks at hand! Remember the way Leonardo DiCaprio was intensely focused while drawing Kate Winslet, that wisp of hair falling in his eye?! Its gonna be like that! Except instead of Kate Winslet, I will be toiling away on a creative brief for one of our clients.

I'm so excited to have the ability to really think and focus without getting pulled into tons of meetings and being distracted with all the other things that go on at the office. Then, as I sat to write this, here are the things I was asked in the span of 20 minutes:

"Can I take the bird out of his cage?"
"Hey, listen to what Grammy just said..."
"What are these Doritos? Are they the spicy ones?"
"Dad, can I move the Sonos speaker!?"
"Emily is going downtown with Clare and Jess. Do you believe that?!"
"Are you on Instagram right now?"

HOLY SHIT!!!!

I can't wait to read what others wrote for this article because I need some advice. 


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Jillian Davis

Director of Strategy
barrettSF

Most people think distractions are one of the biggest problems with working from home. But when it comes to creativity, the right distractions can be fuel: After all, our brains need a little downtime to connect the inputs and ideas we encounter throughout our day. 

A barking dog who needs to go outside for a walk, or an impromptu conversation with a housemate about something seemingly off-topic, brings new energy and sparks connections that may not have come to you at your desk. Sometimes a literal breath of fresh air—something that we often don't afford ourselves when we're in the office—provides the perfect conditions for our ideas to grow. 

Don't resist every distraction. Embrace them at the right moments, and they can become periods of creative incubation.


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Adam Chasnow

Executive Creative Director/Co-Lead of Creative
CPB

I prefer to work out ideas together in person with my team. But working from home last Friday, we did it by FaceTime and it was fine. Then a director who is hunkering down, not shooting, said he wanted to get on a few more calls to workshop scripts we are planning to shoot. That kind of thing would not have happened if everyone was out and about.

To stay creative, I make an effort to keep away from too much CNN or social so I don't get sucked into the minute-by-minute. But small doses of late-night shows like Colbert or Spade are a must. I never listen to music at the office because I'm a musician and it distracts me. But working from home, I take time to do just that. But really listening. And at home, I can take short breaks to play my trumpet. Usually playing along with a jazz recording I'm digging at the moment.

Doing all this with two kids who are TikTok-ing and YouTube-ing is a challenge, but sometimes they'll share what they're doing, giving me a different perspective on what's going on out there. And yesterday I got to help simplify fractions, which was probably good for the brain. 


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Jerry Hoak

Executive Creative Director
The Martin Agency

"Dada, Dada, Dada."

That's the sweet sound of my 18-month-old daughter ringing up the stairs and through the door to my makeshift office in the spare bedroom.

As far as working from home goes, we're very fortunate it's 2020. Slack, FaceTime, Google Slides and Keynote Collab have made it possible to keep things moving—and ideas bouncing—even with miles of physical distancing between us.

As we're each faced with a new set of distractions that force us to constantly tap in and tap out, this mind-melding collaboration is critical. Perfect ideas from the usual places might not present themselves as neatly as they used to. But less perfect ideas, built upon by lots of crazy smart people, can become great ideas.

For me, even the most powerful noise-cancelling headphones can't eliminate the tiny voice I know in my heart is yelling for me up that staircase. But when I tap out of a Keynote to go see her, I know there are 10 people tapping in to have my back. Creativity is a team sport, and it's never been truer and more powerful.


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Carolyn Hadlock

Executive Creative Director
Young & Laramore

"Were it not for shadows, there would be no beauty."
―Jun'ichirō Tanizaki, In Praise of Shadows

I've been asking myself why some people seem to be going straight to panic. I must confess, I found myself putting a little too much toilet paper in my cart at the grocery store. Do I really need four months of Quilted Northern 3-Ply?

My theory is it's because we went into this scary situation already run down. The anxiety of the 24-hour cycle of life has taken its toll. We react. It feels good. We hit deadlines, submit changes, check our multiple social media feeds every hour and go to yet another meeting.

In retrospect, we haven't been creative for a while.

Maybe we can find creativity again by being still. By observing the world around us with our eyes, not our iPhones. By not multitasking. By listening, really listening to our kids. By taking a walk instead of going to the gym. By sitting with uncertainty.

Embrace the shadows, look for the light, and celebrate it when you find it.


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William Gelner

Chief Creative Officer
Engine

As a creative person, I have a love/hate relationship with distance.

On one hand, it's great. It enables objectivity and that's crucial for fresh thinking. For me, the crappiest ideas always come from being way too deep in the weeds and getting lost in the mire. You miss those obvious yet weird and wonderful connection points that come from being away from it a bit.

On the other hand, I also loathe the whole remote thing. It bothers me, being disconnected from the magic that happens when you're all together, discussing, debating and fighting for ideas. That dynamic sparks so many other ideas that are often better than the ones you started with. Being away from that for too long can have consequences. For the work, but also the culture.

Since I travel so much, the trick has always been about finding a balance between the two sides of the coin. The things that work best for me:

Try to keep the same routine while working outside the office. Replicate everything you can. Keep all the meetings, just use technology like Zoom or Hangouts to do them where you see everyone's face and hear all the ideas. Having a human connection is key. Remote doesn't mean isolation or filling people's inbox with faceless emails. And Slack, while a good tool, isn't an employer-sanctioned social networking platform.

Beware of social suck. You don't check Instagram or post diatribes on Reddit while in meetings at work (I hope) so don't do that during office hours while working from home. It's a distraction and unproductive. If you need a break, go get a cup of coffee or play with your dog for a bit. I recommend getting a Frenchie.

Fresh air and exercise. The more intense the better. In the mornings before going to the office, I either box, run, swim, surf or ride. I do the same thing if I'm working from home. Even the act of just getting up from my desk and going around the agency or taking a walk outside has always helped me. At home, you can do that even easier.

Workspace is key. If I'm at home, I need to work out of my office. I can't do it in the living room, the kitchen or even outside. Especially if the kids are here. To be productive, I need to physically and mentally be aligned and in work mode. Nothing does that for me better than being holed up in my office. Until I get fidgety and then, well, see point 3.

Enjoy the music. I can play my questionable Spotify playlists as loud as I want, when I want, without worrying about bothering anyone else. This is both a gift to me and my officemates.


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Josh Paialii

Creative Director
The Many

We're a WFH agency for now, and as a creative, I'm not worried. Maybe it's all the freelance years, or working remotely between our L.A. and Boston offices, but some basics always hold true for staying both creative and productive. The caveat? It doesn't always come easy at first: 

Keep your morning routine:
Wake up, get dressed. Take the dog out at the same time as usual. Go for a run at the same time. Don't change the way you start your day. It makes a difference.

Work your schedule:
Figure out when you do your best work, and block your calendar to prioritize your craft. Then schedule your calls and Hangouts around that. But don't forget to stay connected to your team—video/FaceTime even if you don't have to, even more important at a time like this.

Trade in "cooler time":
There's a fair amount of time spent at the office not really working, chatting around the coffee pot or in hallways. And that takes time and energy. Add that up and give yourself some quality time at home in exchange. Tuning in can be primetime for creative exploration—read, watch documentaries or rob banks in Red Dead Redemption 2. Sometimes that's when you'll do your best thinking.

Get back to basics: 
Put the computer away and change your location. Write with a pen and paper. Get a whiteboard. Concept with and without the screen. You might like working from your patio that much more.


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Ashley Bozeman

Art Director
The Martin Agency

So every time something unexpected comes up, I try my best to look at it as a creative challenge. How can I make something fun out of this? So here are a few things I plan to do to help adjust with working from home:

Doing the things I always said I wanted to do but never had the time to: This includes, and is not limited to, puzzles, reading, painting, drawing and starting a few classes on SkillShare. I think also, from a mental stand point, doing these things will help so much. Less time with my phone and more time making things with my hands will definitely get the creative juices flowing.

Music: As someone who's obsessed with music, I realized this is a good time to create a few playlists to share since so many of us work with music anyways. I'm excited to take some time to really listen to my music library and come up several combinations of songs!

Unconventional creativity: I'm also excited to try out things I don't naturally gravitate toward: crochet, making bracelets, collaging—and since I'm back home with family, I'm also interested to see what I can make with my siblings, as a collaboration effort.

There's a lot of change in air right now, but making things always makes me feel grounded, so I'm ready to tap into the very thing that's at the core of who I am—my creativity.


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Nick Sonderup

Executive Creative Director
Pereira O'Dell

Working from home. Sounds great, right? You can wear sweatpants all day. Showering is optional. OK, depending on where you work, these may have applied already. But for the rest of us trying to adjust to the WFH life, the big question is, "Can I still be creative when I'm stuck at home?"

I think you can. It just takes discipline about fitting in creativity, so that the Zooms, Gchats and Google decks of the world don't take over. Here's my plan.

Get up early and think while the others sleep. For me, creativity is like metabolism. Get it started early and it will burn all day.

Schedule unstructured thinking time. You'll be surrounded by all of your books, records, paint brushes and guitars. Grab them. Use them. Exercise a different creative muscle between the Zooms and Gchats. It will help.

Go take a walk. Not the kind you usually take to just grab lunch and bring it back to your desk. But the mind-clearing kind that lets in a new thought.

Change up your workspace to change up your headspace. Forget the Zoom. Go meet a colleague at a coffee shop if you live in the same neighborhood.

If growing up with long Minnesota winters taught me anything, it's that, yes, some very creative people made a lot of great art while being trapped indoors. See Prince, the Replacements and Hüsker Dü, for starters. But it's not the being trapped part that matters. It's the deciding how to make the most of it. 


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Talia Arnold

Head of Media Strategy and Planning
Exverus Media

"To believe your own thought, to believe that what is true for you in your private heart is true for all men—that is genius." —Ralph Waldo Emerson

Working from home is fantastic for creativity. Embrace the quiet and move as slowly as you like. No traffic, no rushing, no one pushing you in line. Live in your own world, which is unique from everyone else's and everything you think, do or say is without fear of judgment. Feed and water your idea seedlings on your own before setting them free into the wild, cruel world.

Notice how we are always surrounded by inspiration. Have you ever watched birds peck the grass and listened to how they call each other from the trees? How long does it take before they notice you? Sit quietly and notice.

The most creative ideas come from being quiet and slow enough to listen to your own heart.


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Jeff Sweat

Founder
Mister Sweat

Agencies are some of the last holdouts against remote working. I've heard the rationale from agency leaders, and have even believed it myself: "We can't create without everyone in the same place." "We're a people business. How can we succeed if our people aren't together?"

Two things happened then. I started my own agency—virtual by design because I couldn't afford the rent. And I wrote two novels. Both led me to look more closely at how creativity really works.

Look at every novelist you've read. Look at every artist you've ever loved. Not one of them created that work in a conference room. Not one of them required a brainstorming session. The idea that creativity happens only in the company of others has been disproved for centuries. Why do we think it's true in the context of agencies?

Think of the big agency briefing sessions you've participated in. Then think of how the creatives crept away, alone or in pairs, to mull the problem they were trying to solve. Working from home allows almost everything we need to be creative: silence, space, and moments where you're not working at all. Those quiet moments are when I've had every one of my best ideas. Remember, creativity doesn't live in the meeting. Creativity lives in the margins.

What, then, don't we get from working at home? The quick start, the reality check, the mentorship, the feeling that we are all in this together. That's the gap that agencies will need to fill, through Slack and videoconference and anything else they can do to maintain our human connection. 

Provide guidance to your teams at the beginning, middle and end of the process. Then trust them to create on their own. As Stephen King, one of the greatest work-from-home creators, said in On Writing: "Write with the door closed. Rewrite with the door open."


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Sam Jackson

Senior Copywriter
Portal A

Working from home with two small kids reminds me of George Costanza's "World's Theory," where he was convinced that bringing his fiancée into the friend group would create a collision of worlds that would ultimately destroy him. 

Without the separation of the office, I need to establish clear boundaries between my creative work world and home world; otherwise I find myself doing both half-assed. Going for a walk in the morning is a great way to reset and transition from one to the other. It's like a commute where you just happen to end up where you started. I get back, pour some coffee, tune out whatever chaos is inevitably going on, and get to work with a clear boundary and clear head. 

Separation of worlds is crucial because, like George, a copywriter divided against itself cannot stand! 


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Jessica Reznick Martin

President
We're Magnetic 

At We're Magnetic, we believe creativity can be inspired by changing your vantage point. We hope working from home will allow our team to look at their day and perspective in a different way, which could be valuable when challenged with creative tasks. 

To further support the creative process, we'll be offering Amazon gift cards and encouraging everyone to surround themselves with inspiring content. We have also discussed "surprise and delight" team video chats that can be anything from a magic show to a town hall. 

During this unique time, it can be challenging to promote creativity and community, so it's up to our leadership team to continue finding innovative ways for creativity to thrive.


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Ryan Honey

Chief Creative Officer
BUCK

True creative people are always going to be creative regardless of whether they are in an office, at home or on the toilet.

At BUCK, we have always encouraged our people to find creative inspiration in whatever way works best for them, so we don't see working from home as a bad thing.

Personally, I'm at my most creative working in the nude, so I welcome working from home. It's just so freeing.


WFH

Deacon Webster

Co-founder, Chief Creative Officer
Walrus

One amazing thing that working from home offers that a big open office with a lot of people does not: peace and quiet. When you have peace and quiet, you can actually get yourself into a state of Deep Work, where you focus on a particular task for an extended period without interruption.

In today's frantic work environments, a harassment-free stretch of 45 minutes is basically unheard of. Self-quarantine offers you a chance to remember what it was like to truly immerse yourself in something. 


WFH

Wimberly Meyer

Executive Producer
Summerjax

As a creative production company, the very nature of our work doesn't allow us to be in the same room together often. We operate as a global, nimble team which makes us more efficient at the creative decision-making process. I predict that what's going to come out of this experience is massive creative efficiencies. We've also found that overcommunication, something that is innate to producers, is more important than ever at times like this.


WFH

Josh Shelton

Associate Creative Director/Copywriter
WorkInProgress

Working from home is working remote. And working remote is working from wherever you want. The idea that working from wherever you want could somehow be bad for creativity is laughable. Likewise, so is the idea that we need to be around co-workers to do our best work (to say nothing of the ancillary conversations, barking dogs and fire drills that come with those co-workers). Anyone who's freelanced and then returned to a full-time gig can attest to the inefficiencies of being in an office. 

Isolation isn't the problem. Permanent isolation is. But voluntary isolation is perhaps the universal muse. Thoreau's hut at Walden Pond. Virginia Woolf's storage room in her basement. Mark Twain's private study. JK Rowling's Edinburgh café. Nobody in this industry is writing The Old Man and the Sea, but it's hard to stomach any argument that suggests we'll be at our best if and only if we're all sitting under the same fluorescent lights. 

With the click of a button, I can be texting/emailing/Zooming/FaceTiming/Slacking anyone in our company. Which is how the majority of our communications are happening in the office anyway. Does physical proximity matter? Obviously and often. But more, flexibility within the industry is long overdue.


WFH

Nechama Muchnik

Creative
72andSunny New York

Staying creative while isolated is definitely a doozy. Especially in an industry that usually thrives off chatter, play and nonsense. But the positive side of isolation is focus. The opportunity to indulge in all the corners of our lives that are usually neglected. 

We are a community of glancers. We skim everything, in an effort to move fast and absorb as much as we can, because the client meeting is at 3 o'clock and you don't have a big idea yet. Hell, there's not even an insight in sight. But quiet time—time in our own spaces, surrounded by the books we say we'll read and never do, or movies that are on some checklist we've never seen, or an instrument idly tucked away in your living room corner that you always promise you'll play—these are the tools we can relish in. 

We might be upset that we're missing out on the world, but we're forgetting there's a whole big universe of inspiration that's been waiting for this kind of isolation—content that's been desperate to straddle our brains. So clean out your closet. Fiddle with old memories, one by one. Receipts, pictures, doodles, birthday cards. Let yourself sink into the feeling of nostalgia. Search your mind palace. Pick up a book you bought for Book Club in 2016. Read it. Slowly. Write notes in the margins, underline words you don't know. Extrapolate. Dissect every sentence.

Write letters instead of texts. Feel the weight of your pen, and delight in the ink smudges that litter your page. Play a game. Bend the rules. Make up new rules. Water your plant. Now you have time to pay attention to its growth. Hang up your art. Rearrange your furniture. Dig into the 700 square feet you miss every day and proclaim is too small. 

Inspiration right now just means putting in a little more effort. Looking inward and seeing more than we saw before. 


WFH

Dave Snyder

Chief Creative Officer
Firstborn

The great WFH experiment no one asked for is here. No more work wife, it's my real wife. My new office comes with a 9-year-old—a nerf dart just bounced off my face mid Zoom. This is not the 2020 we envisaged. But it's our new normal for the foreseeable future.

So will this WFH experiment be a burden or A blessing for professional creatives? If you are creative in the weeds—a maker—fleshing out designs or bang'n out scripts, I can imagine this is a blessing. If you are a developer, you finally get that cubicle-type alone time you've been ranting on about for years. Enjoy the "flow," my friends. #flowbros

But what if you are one of those stereotypical advertising execs? You know, the "idea guy" who still wants work mounted to boards. Or the strategist and their Post-It notes? I mean, where will they all go? What will happen to the lords of the swoop and poop, or those who don't feel like they're earning their paycheck unless they're talking or causing swirl?

Personally, I've always been the person to say that remote won't work for "what we do." Because I like the energy of the office. I like my coworkers. And so, I've never worked remotely for longer than my hangover. But I'll say this: I'm excited to try new tools. And set new routines. I'm comfortable being uncomfortable and always open to something new. God forbid I learn something. Something that may—or may not—be better.

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

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