#WFH Diaries: Emily Wilcox of Johannes Leonardo

As lockdowns linger in most parts of the world, we're checking in with creative people to see how they're faring. Here's an update from Emily Wilcox, head of account management at Johannes Leonardo in New York.

Give us a one-line bio for yourself.

Avid runner, tennis enthusiast, proud mother and creative brand builder.

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

Living in an increasingly cozy-feeling apartment in Forest Hills Gardens, Queens, with my toddler daughter and my husband.

What's your work situation like at the moment?

In a literal sense, my "office" doubles as a playroom. I have a notebook full of client call notes written in Crayola crayon.

Work-wise, it has been pretty full on. The need for speed is real, and we've been responding quickly to meet the climate we are now operating in alongside our brand partners. In some ways, though, the intensity and speed has created incredible connection and collaboration across teams, which requires more intentional focus than ever before.

We all know this is a hard time for everyone, and this environment has also created a real focus for us all to build more personal connections among our teams. Everyone is going the extra mile to look out for one another professionally and personally—checking in frequently to make sure everyone is doing alright, and asking how we can all help support one another, whether that's work-related, emotional or otherwise.

I had someone on the team offer to read my daughter books via Zoom if I needed a "babysitter" to help my husband and me while we balance working from home with childcare.

Describe your socializing strategy.

We had Easter on a Zoom call. Frequent trivia nights with friends over Houseparty (security risk and all). A text thread with my family that is never inactive for more than 10 minutes. FaceTime all the time!

How are you dealing with childcare?

My husband and I are both working from home. We trade on and off taking care of our 2-year-old daughter, Marion. Luckily, in the last few weeks we've discovered that she absolutely loves video conference calls, and she'll hang out patiently on our laps while we take them. 

What are you reading?

The Atlantic is my absolute go-to for any free reading time. It covers any and every topic in incredible depth, and the writing is phenomenal. Practically everything I know I have read in The Atlantic. 

For books, I just finished reading The Body by Bill Bryson, an enthralling read about how this thing that we all live in works. It covers everything from why we have fingerprints to how the brain works (at least, what we currently know about that, anyway, which is surprisingly little) to some of the controversial (and at times shocking) scientific experiments that were conducted in the early days of medicine, which led to our increased understanding of medicine and the body today.

What are you watching?

I've just finished watching Tiger King! Which, incidentally, an op-ed piece in The Atlantic just compared to "the TV equivalent of licking a subway pole." Ah, well, we all need a guilty pleasure every now and then, right?

I'm now watching a docu-series on Netflix called Babies that is great. It's incredible to see what superhumans babies are—astounding, really. 

What are you listening to?

My mornings start with the Headspace meditation app, followed by a rotation of my favorite podcasts, which I listen to during my run: TED Talks Daily, The TED Interview, How I Built This, Stuff You Should Know. I don't often get to listen to much music during the day with all the calls, but when I can, it's usually an eclectic Spotify mix that includes Etta James, Sia, the Rolling Stones and Michael Kiwanuka, to name a few.

How are you staying fit?

I used to run every morning. That is slowly becoming more of a walk as I come up on being seven months pregnant. But it's still something. Mentally, I keep fit with meditation, reading and taking time to focus on my husband and daughter. They always refuel me when I'm feeling a bit exhausted.

Have you taken up a hobby?

Aside from obsessively washing my hands and speculating on when things will go back to normal, no new hobbies.

Any tips for getting necessities?

I recently signed up for a produce delivery service called Misfits Market. It's great because not only do you automatically get a ton of fresh organic produce delivered to your door (and as a household of vegetarians, we go through a TON of produce), but it's actually a company founded on a mission of eliminating unnecessary food waste. The name "Misfits" comes from the idea that the food they ship, while delicious and organic, may not meet the "looks perfect" standard of what grocery stores will accept and sell—think a misshapen apple or a lump or two on a zucchini. That produce used to end up in a landfill; now it ends up in kitchens. 

An awkward moment since all this started.

I was on a leadership call while our chief talent officer was speaking, and I thought I was on mute. I turned to my daughter and said, "Baby, I love you." The team rolled with it and made a joke—still a bit awkward. Pay attention to that mute button!

But these moments are OK, because you have to find the humanity in all of this. To laugh and connect with one another when you can. The line between work and life is blurring quickly and one of the best things you can do as a manager is lead your team with empathy and treat one another as human beings, not just employees. If you have the courage to present yourself as a more complex being, you will win the trust of those around you.

Best work email you got since all this started.

Someone on our team had a baby last week and sent the announcement and pictures. In such a tough time, when we are surrounded by the negative, it's so nice to see that life is continuing to move forward and that beautiful things are happening all around us.

An "aha!" moment since all this started.

I've always felt so fortunate to have an incredible group of colleagues at JL. To see the agency coming together the way it has, to partner with my colleagues to plan our way forward through this, has only further shown how very lucky I am to work with such an amazing group of people. Success and happiness in any career is so much about who you surround yourself with, and I'm surrounded by some wonderful, amazing people!

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

I don't know that I have much of a robust theory. I do know that probably the biggest thing that we will emerge from this with is a shift in perspective. From a personal perspective, I think that shift is obvious: We'll be more inclined to spend our time and energy on the things that matter, like the relationships we have with our family and friends, and to strip away the things that don't. 

Professionally, it's impossible for us as an industry not to have shifted our perspective about how effectively we can, in fact, work remotely. How quickly we can, in fact, respond with creativity to a shifting context. And how working with clients and bringing them along for the creative development process breeds shared accountability and healthier relationships. 

See the full #WFH Diaries series here.

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Tim Nudd
Tim Nudd was editor in chief of the Clio Awards and editor of Muse by Clio from 2018 to 2023.

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