#WFH Diaries: Lisa Smith of Jones Knowles Ritchie

As the COVID-19 pandemic continues to wreak havoc around the world, we're checking in with the people in the creative industry to see how they're doing. Here's an update from Lisa Smith, executive creative director of Jones Knowles Ritchie.

Give us a one-line bio of yourself.

ECD, JKR New York, ex Chobani and Wolff Olins. British, but born in the US of A.

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

I'm living in my under-construction (now on pause) loft apartment in Clinton Hill, Brooklyn. My company is my scruffy Puerto Rican hurricane rescue dog, Nia.

What's your work situation like at the moment?

It's been tough to start with, but getting better every day. My chair is bloody uncomfortable, but can't really complain. Hearing ambulances outside my window as I work is a constant reminder to stay inside, stay safe and be grateful for what we have and how living in such a connected time is so beneficial for us right now. 

I'm grateful for a wonderful team who are being super supportive of each other and of our clients that we're connecting with in an even more caring way, as they of course are going through exactly the same as us.

We had to set some boundaries for WFH pretty quickly so we weren't working all hours, by reiterating our working hours, turning off Slack notifications in the evening and blocking calendars for everyone to have a mandatory lunch hour. Also blocking personal time, having coffee and lunches with colleagues (via Zoom) keeps things as social as possible. And most importantly, keeps us feeling like humans and not machines.  

Overall I would say the positives are we've become more connected as a leadership team, and the hub teams too … a few mentions by creative directors how they feel their teams are being more efficient, hoping this is something we can take back to the office with us!

Describe your socializing strategy.

WhatsApp groups give me a constant stream of what's happening from all my school friends that live all over the world, from Dublin to Dubai. We're a bunch of Hertfordshire and Essex ladies so there are a lot of jokey memes being shared, a lot of laughter and trying to keep the spirits up.

My New York pals, who are mostly Brits, we do Zoom wine hangouts and are planning a Pub Quiz night. And friends and family are checking in more than ever on FaceTime, sometimes at meal times so we eat together chatting. To be honest I've never felt more in touch with friends and family as right now.

How are you dealing with childcare, if applicable?

I have a lot of co-workers who are experiencing this and my heart goes out to anyone who is juggling taking care of or teaching their children remotely and managing their work too. What a huge ask, and the ones I'm in touch with are doing a tremendous job. Nia only needs to be run downstairs and back up again and lets me know when she wants a cuddle.

What are you reading?

My nightstand stack has been staring at me for so long, so I finally picked up Crudo by Olivia Liang, hopefully will get to Calypso by David Sedaris and want to read Jen Gotch's The Upside of Being Down, but have to confess I've read the first chapter a few times, finding it easier to browse the internet and read Vogue. Lena Dunham has created a serial novel for Vogue during her self-quarantine titled Verified Strangers, where each chapter is set to end with a cliffhanger and the readers get to decide which choice the character makes, and Dunham must write the rest of the story based on the final vote. It's a fun way for all to participate in the creation of this living novel.

What are you watching?

Catching up on recent hits like the Tiger King docuseries, The Outsider and waiting for each episode to drop of Little Fires Everywhere. Finally saw Alma Har'el's Honey Boy. And loving a lot of the theater movies making it onto Prime like Autumn de Wilde's rendition of Emma.

What are you listening to?

When I'm working, more mellow background stuff from classical to NPR playlists for each day to Death Cab for Cutie and Maggie Rogers, as I'm on video calls pretty much all the time. But some evenings I've been streaming Diplo's Daily Instagram Live Set and this weekend I'm going to tune into Virtually Nowadays to have a bit of a boogie and see who wants to join me!

How are you staying fit?

I used to be so fit and the past 10 months in a new job I just hadn't managed to squeeze it in. But I'm trying to take advantage of not having to commute and do something.

I've been using the Calm app on my TV to meditate and then a mix of The Body Coach on YouTube, 20-minute HIIT classes, and then when I can do a full hour, Taryn Toomey's The Class. It's a combo of endurance moves and dance. It really is the best release. It's the best music and I dance around probably looking crazy to anyone that can see, but I feel more alive and energized afterwards.

Have you taken up a hobby?

No. Between work, staying in touch, making sure my bathrooms haven't flooded, I just want things that distract me and don't take much effort at night and the weekends. I want to check out some of these museum virtual tours. I'd love to start knitting again or my lifelong hopes to start weaving… maybe… let's see how long this goes on for!

Any tips for getting necessities?

Someone tell me! Every night I seem to fall asleep just before midnight when the Amazon Whole Foods delivery windows open up. A good friend reco'd Mercarto app last night, that's all the good little grocers and butchers in my area, so going to try that today!

An awkward moment since all this started.

When I found out we likely wouldn't return to our offices in June and I was looking at all construction materials that are taking up half my apartment. And thinking, shit, two more months of this.

Best work email you got since all this started.

A thank-you email from a colleague. I gave one of my work coaching sessions to my colleague because I felt that in this particular week, they needed it more than I did. The email made me cry. We forget that in the midst of all of this, generosity to one another from far away can make a big difference to the person receiving, however small.

An aha! moment since all this started.

From a personal perspective, fitter than I went in. From a work perspective, this time has really surfaced every operational thing we were working on improving—time management, prioritizing, efficiencies. I really do feel like addressing them now, as painful as it might be, is going to only make things better for when we are all together again in one space.

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

A Vogue article on their passion for Phoebe Philio and how they described her start at Celine as navigating between vulnerability and strength—isn't that what we're all doing? "It's all going to be fine. Letting go ... Breathing." —Phoebe Philio

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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