Life Lessons During Covid From the 'Mother' at Havas Media

Happy hours, getting out of your comfort zone, embracing change and more

"When you share a smile with a stranger, you can make that person's day. Remember, even if you are wearing a mask, a person can see a smile in your eyes." —Pat Heintz, Director of Guest Relations, Havas Media

Patricia Heintz is a devoted, kindhearted professional and has been an integral part of Havas family for over 30 years. She uses her interpersonal skills to enhance Havas Media's guest relations, welcoming employees, clients and guests to the office all while selling the company and its benefits to potential candidates. Known as the "Mother" to all of her children at Havas Media, her commitment to the company and contribution to the culture is unmatched.

When I started working at Havas Media on Aug. 13, 1990, I could have never imagined I would still be here 30 years later. Due to the pandemic, we're all working from home, trying to adapt to this "new normal" of kitchen-table desks and conference calls in the bedroom. I miss working in the office and seeing all my "children," as I like to call them. Throughout my time as the vp of guest relations, I've seen many changes, as the company endured 9/11, the 2008 financial crisis, and more. All of these hardships and triumphs have served as learning experiences, and, at my age, you're never too old to learn. Some of the lessons I've learned over these many years include:

Companies thrive by creating supportive communities. 

At Havas Media, I started something called "Getting to Know You." Once a month after work, we'd go to a local bar, allowing co-workers to create meaningful connections outside of the office. This outing became a tradition that still stands today in the form of our New York Village HXC Happy Hour and keeps our bonds close across the agency.

I always tell managers to remember the times when they were in school because, as adults, things don't change. We remember teachers who were patient, understanding, listened to a problem—those were the teachers you went home and studied for them first, you wanted to please them, do your best work for them. Well, here we are in a business world; we're grown up as adults. Well, that doesn't change. When you have a company that goes above and beyond, this custom works in the same way.

Change can be a good thing. 

Right now, things feel uncertain—and rightfully so. However, throughout all the crises I've seen in my life, we've always come out stronger and better. While many of the routines we hold dear have been taken away from us, we've discovered new hobbies, working styles and relationships that we might have never had if we hadn't been forced out of our comfort zone. For myself, I've acclimated to these changing times through personal communications to different groups in the office. I start each day by sending out a piece of advice or joke to brighten an employee's day.

When I first came to Havas Media (then called SMF), the company was much more structured and "professional." Over the years, we've adapted to the changing work environment, from the way we dress to how we communicate. We've also expanded globally, connecting people of diverse thought and background, something that makes everyone better. Things such as the emphasis on employee mental health or over-communication shouldn't be forgotten when we return to the office. 

It's OK to be you, especially if you're new.

Over the years, I have gotten to meet hundreds of people. While each person is different, the structure of business remains constant: There are leaders and there are people on the road to becoming leaders. In my role, you see so many things. How we treat one another is on display the minute you cross the threshold.

For new employees, I would tell them it is OK to be you. Try to get to know your co-workers; you can learn from them and also make new friends. Getting to know people differently during this unprecedented time has its advantages. You're seeing co-workers and even our leaders in a different, more personal way. We're getting a glimpse inside their homes, and seeing how they respond as leaders. 

One last piece of advice I'll leave you with ...

Never underestimate the power of the receptionist.

They set the tone for the whole company. As the first person a client or employee sees when they walk through our doors, receptionists are vital in setting the tone for that person's experience at Havas Media. Not only do I want people to feel welcomed and comfortable, but I also help manage the flow of the office. If someone is running late to get their guests, I'll start talking to them. If someone is there for an interview, or there for their first day, it helps them open up. Making these connections is important to me. 

Bottom line: If you're meeting someone friendly, they must be happy to be there. So, this company must be alright.

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Patricia Heintz
Patricia Heintz is director of guest relations at Havas Media.

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