#WFH Diaries: Jouke Vuurmans of MediaMonks
As coronavirus lockdowns persist around the globe, Muse is checking in with creative people to see how they're faring. Below, we catch up with Jouke Vuurmans, chief creative officer at MediaMonks, which is based in the Netherlands.
Give us a one-line bio of yourself.
I joined MediaMonks as the first creative Monk when MySpace was still a thing. After more than 15 years growing MediaMonks from a team of 10 to more than 2,000 around the world, I'm leading all our international talent across timezones in the ongoing pursuit of creative excellence.
Where are you living right now, and who's with you?
I'm in Williamsburg, Brooklyn, with my girlfriend (also a longtime Monk) and our 4-year-old daughter (the first and only full-blood Monk).
What's your work situation like at the moment?
I think everybody can probably imagine what my work situation is like, because for the first time ever, we all have the same work situation :-). And I think that is a silver lining of this crazy time, as we seem to sympathize with each other more than I've ever seen. No matter your role, seniority, or life situation, we're suddenly distilled to pure humans, all struggling to get through the day-to-day.
This is particularly interesting for MediaMonks, as we're pretty used to working remotely and virtually with each other. We basically run our 29 offices as a single team, with collaboration happening on a daily basis. In general, it works really well, but I think Covid-19 is showing us all how to be a little more empathetic, and I hope we'll continue that beyond the pandemic.
Don't get me wrong, I'm not saying it was easy. My working situation, like anyone else, is messy and chaotic. We're asking a lot from everyone. But as an organization, we're great at adapting, and every day I personally seem to get a better rhythm going.
Describe your socializing strategy.
Ha! I've broken down the fence between the neighbors and us. We are taking social distancing super seriously and we've basically not left our house since we started working from home five weeks ago. But in that first week, we and our neighbors decided to quarantine together as our daughters are close friends and they need each other at this time. Just like we adults need each other and the wine, I guess ;-).
How are you dealing with childcare?
I've mastered arts and crafts! I'm the best at making horse stables and Barbie bedrooms from cardboard and tape. And I kind of forced a hobby-that-dad-likes-too upon my daughter: Lego!
But my girlfriend and I both work full-time, so it's a struggle most of the time. Or perhaps a great early internship for my daughter, as she is joining a lot of calls and conversations! Luckily, we do shifts with our neighbors and we can work 24/7 ;-).
What are you reading?
The Cat in the Hat by Dr. Seuss and Miffy by Dick Bruna. I highly recommend the latter for parents who are into graphic design.
What are you watching?
I'm enjoying a lot of content people make in response to the quarantine restrictions. Home concerts, TV shows from home, etc. People get so creative. Besides that, I frequently watch videos of my latest Heli-Ski trip in Northern Canada. The memories of those days in no-man's land keep me sane in times when our only view is a white wall.
What are you listening to?
I'm bouncing between moments of listening to “Appetite for Destruction” from Guns-n-Roses and “Dreams” from Fleetwood Mac.
How are you staying fit?
Dancing with my daughter, cleaning the house and the occasional indoor exercise.
Have you taken up a hobby?
HA! Not sure I have any time left in the week for a hobby.
Any tips for getting necessities?
I'm actually looking for tips myself Anyone?
An awkward moment since all this started.
Getting my parents to understand the importance of staying at home. But apparently I'm not the only one who has been faced with this. It seems to be a baby-boomer thing. It is interesting to see generations and cultures dealing with this reality differently. As a Dutch person living in the States for more than six years, I was quite stunned to see the initial ignorance from my own culture. Just after the Dutch government invoked the social distancing order, the full country decided to mass-visit the beaches and natural parks, making it one of the busiest days ever.
Best work email you got since all this started.
All the emails (and messages) I received after the announcement of my new role as MediaMonks' chief creative officer.
An aha! moment since all this started.
I can recall a specific moment (and I think I've had several similar ones since) where I was in awe of our ability to adapt, change and innovate quickly. In a time unlike anything we've ever experienced, it's a reminder of what we can achieve under pressure, outside our comfort zone. It's messy and uncomfortable, but it's human and real, and we're all in it together. As a creative, it has me thinking about all the possibilities when we are pushed to stretch the bounds of our imagination to create and innovate. It feels like a reset.
What's your theory on how this is going to play out?
I believe our behavior will fundamentally change. I predict more real, human-to-human experiences, coupled with increased digital prevalence and permanence in everyday life. I think this time has reminded us that old-fashioned human interaction is a basic need, no matter how advanced our technology becomes. That's a good thing—it's irreplaceable. Similarly, I think people have a greater appreciation for digital, not only as a means to connect and be inspired, but also as an absolute imperative for accomplishing all that needs to be done in work and life. As the lines between work and life become more blurred, so do the lines between human experiences and technology. I think it will be less about the two vying for attention and more about them working in harmony.
While many brands and businesses have been slow to digitally transform over the years and adapt to increasingly digital audiences, the Covid-19 pandemic drives home why customer obsession and experience-led transformation is critical. I predict we'll see a heightened focus on digital transformation, particularly for products and services that have proven to be imperative, like e-commerce and e-assistance.