#WFH Diaries: Kathy Delaney of Saatchi & Saatchi Wellness / Publicis Health

As quarantines continue across much of the world, we're checking in with creative people to see how they're handling the ongoing WFH situation. Below, we chat with Kathy Delaney, chief creative officer of Saatchi & Saatchi Wellness/Publicis Health.

Kathy, give us a one-line bio of yourself.

I'm a storyteller passionate about bringing creativity to healthcare marketing and elevating people's engagement with brands that can help them.

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

I'm currently living in New York City's East Village with my husband, Steven; our French bulldog, Sadie; and our feral cat, Lola.

What's your work situation like at the moment?

I've got my desktop computer, my laptop, and my iPhone set up in my home office, and they're all burning it up 24/7. Oftentimes I'm juggling multiple meetings on multiple devices. I've become an expert with my trigger finger on the mute button to avoid interrupting Zoom or Teams meetings with all of the walking, talking and barking that my husband and Sadie do in the background. I love my apartment, but the acoustics are abysmal. They really are trying to keep it down!

Describe your socializing strategy.

I need some help with this. I'm working on it and trying to be more proactive about connecting and reconnecting with friends and family outside of work. My team recently had a lovely impromptu virtual birthday party for one of our colleagues, which included a surprise guest dialing in from Santa Barbara. It was one of the most heartwarming half hours of social fun that I've had over the past few months. Another friend invited me for a cocktail at a bar in our neighborhood that serves drinks through a takeout window last week. I couldn't go right when she asked, but I am up for a street-side martini as soon as she's back in town.

How are you dealing with childcare, if applicable?

While I don't have children, I'm sympathetic to and impressed by everyone who is struggling to juggle work and child responsibilities right now. I always tell my team members and colleagues that it's OK to decline meeting invites or to shift when you get your work done. Open communication and flexibility are the keys to successfully making it through together. As for my pets: having me and my husband at home with them all day long may have been something they always wished for, but now that they see we're basically at our computers working all day, they are so over us.

What are you reading?

I'm currently reading The Most Fun We Ever Had, by Claire Lombardo. It's a family saga that follows the lives of four very different sisters over a half century. A "nature versus nurture" story, which I find fascinating. I also recently reread The Elegance of the Hedgehog, by Muriel Barbery, which has a bit of a quiet start, but once things get rolling, it's an exquisitely beautiful story about art and unexpected love between kindred souls in Paris.

What are you watching?

I just finished watching The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel, which is so, so good. I found much inspiration in the incredible writing and acting. Not to mention the art direction and wardrobing of the series. It really was marvelous and I highly recommend it.

How are you staying fit?

If the news media ever reports on a worldwide shortage of weights, I can reveal it was because of my husband, who has purchased hand weights and kettle bells in every size and shape during the quarantine. My husband is a fitness professional, and I've avoided enlisting him as a personal trainer for years because who wants their significant other telling them what to do? Since lockdown, I've relented and I've been training at home for an hour each day with my husband. It's necessary, but sometimes it's really not fun!

Have you taken up a hobby?

I feel like I am learning something new every day. Whether it's how to navigate a new platform or the best way to brainstorm a concept with a team member remotely, our current situation is forcing me to grow and improve in a million little ways. I'm also knee deep in David Sedaris's MasterClass, which is amazing. I love the way he thinks about writing and about how asking the right questions can reveal much more provocative and interesting stories.

Any tips for getting necessities?

A colleague who lives in my neighborhood just let me know that the Union Square Farmers Market is still alive and well. All the stalls are socially distanced from each other and no one is allowed to touch the produce, of course, but fresh vegetables, fish and flowers are there for anyone who wants to make the trip (and wait in line six feet apart). I'll be heading over this week, for sure. Also, I've been somewhat disappointed by the shipping delays with Amazon Prime lately. I understand that the pandemic has resulted in delays across the board, but I've discovered that if you need something in a more timely or urgent manner, shopping on eBay has been much more efficient and reliable. Sorry, Jeff Bezos!

An awkward moment since all this started.

Shortly after shelter-in-place orders were put into effect, we had our first remote pitch. The team had rehearsed for days and everyone had assigned roles and responsibilities. We felt really tight and good to go. On the day of the pitch, at the very moment I was set to present a creative idea to the client, I was kicked out of the Zoom meeting and the team was left hanging and having to improvise. I quickly switched from my desktop computer to my laptop and picked up the pitch where we left off. It was a pretty awkward moment, but I think the clients appreciated the realness of the moment. At least I hope they did.

Best work email you got since all this started.

Since we began working remotely, our CEO, Alexandra von Plato, started sending out a weekly email that highlights what people are doing and feeling across the network. There's often a video that shows Alex offering words of encouragement or glimpses into how she and our colleagues are coping with juggling WFH with kids or managing stress and mental well-being. It's a very warm and very real way to stay connected.

An aha! moment since all this started.

After weeks of successfully working via video conferencing, seeing that everything continues to go smoothly and everyone is able to effectively provide the same contributions as when we're together IRL, it's become abundantly clear that business travel is not going to come back at the same levels as it was before Covid-19. The expense and hassle of gathering a large group of people will never feel supremely necessary again. Plus, what may have been perceived as a faux pas in the past, like getting kicked off of a Zoom meeting or having pets and children barge in on a video conference, is no longer embarrassing, since our clients are in the same boat. It really shows our collective humanity and vulnerability, removing the layers of artifice that used to exist.

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

When we eventually return to the office, things will look very different than before. Because of social distancing requirements, I wouldn't be surprised if open-office arrangements come to an end all together. People will never be comfortable being crammed into work spaces again. WFH, remote working, and flexible work arrangements will all become everyday, expected parts of how we will work together successfully moving forward. We are certainly getting quite the trial run.

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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