#WFH Diaries: Jeff Benjamin of Tombras

Even as the world begins to open up amid the pandemic, most folks are still working from home. We're checking in with creative people to see how they're faring. Here's an update from Jeff Benjamin, chief creative officer at Tombras in Knoxville, Tennessee.

Give us a one-line bio of yourself.

Chief creative officer and delusional optimist.

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

I'm in Knoxville, Tennessee, living with 34 house plants and a virtual roommate snack cake that lives in my smart speaker.

What's your work situation like at the moment, and how is it evolving?

Getting a task chair at home has changed everything.

When you do you expect to return to the office?

As soon as it's safe. Which I hope is soon. This has been a great opportunity to use a new and strange set of circumstances to help break us out of old routines, build grit, adapt, innovate, discover our own and each other's superpowers, and be truly present for each other. We've never felt stronger as a team, and I'm blown away by the ideas we're coming up with. That said, I do find myself missing the creative abrasion—accidents, random conversations, elbows and chaos that come from everyone being in the office together. I think what we return to will be a blend of both worlds.

Describe your socializing strategy.

I'm organizing a happy hour around a live Flowbee haircut. I asked the guy who cuts my hair for advice, but I think he was offended and refused to be involved. So I'll be relying on everyone at the virtual party to decide just how long my bangs should be.

What are you reading?

My friend Henrik Werdelin just came out with an incredible book, The Acorn Method. It's all about how companies can grow by building new businesses. It's actually been pretty fascinating seeing companies pivoting to make hand sanitizer, masks, ventilators and more. It proves how important brands are for humanity. And for those brands, it's proving that they have the ability to create tangential businesses.

What are you watching?

I watched The Godfather and The Godfather Part II for the first time!

What are you listening to?

I have this awful habit of listening to songs over and over again. So there's been some really terrible music on repeat. I've also been listening to Rick Rubin and Malcom Gladwell's Broken Record podcast. It's so great. Isolation has been really tough for creatives because a lot of what inspires us is wandering … to new places, meeting new people, trying things. I think it's important to find other ways to wander and get exposed to new ideas—and their podcast has been that for me.

How are you staying fit?

For the first few weeks I found myself watching all those Instagram workout videos from my sofa. They're strangely calming and hypnotic. But ironically weren't motivating me off the couch. So my friend and fellow creative badass Russell Dodson shared his personal workout secret with me—ankle weights! Just slap those things on and go about your day. Five pounds per leg, 10 hours a day, will burn you up!

Have you taken up a hobby?

My hobby is to be trendy. So naturally I started with cooking and getting into all those meal-kit delivery box things. I may have signed up for too many, though. It got to the point where I would turn off my Zoom video because I had to make an elaborate roux or rough chop beets. Still working up the courage to try bread.

An awkward moment since all this started.

I got five sets of utensils with my GrubHub overorder and had to pretend I wasn't the only one in the apartment.

An aha! moment since all this started.

Everyone has the ideas. Amazing ideas. We all know what to do. It's just a question of who can make them. And make them first.

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

Halloween will be incredible this year. And we are at the very beginning of an amazing moment for creativity. Dark times have always been followed by remarkable ingenuity and ideas—in art, music, food, film, engineering ... and even marketing. We've had time to think, experiment, reinvent, scheme, wander, come together in amazing ways. I can't wait for what's next.

See the full #WFH Diaries series here.

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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