#WFH Diaries: Nicole Laughlin of Havas Chicago

As the pandemic continues, and with most folks still working from home, we're continuing to check in with industry pros to see how they're faring. Below, we chat with Nicole Laughlin, president and chief client officer at Havas Chicago.

Give us a one-line bio of yourself. 

I am a mother of 11 (three humans, the rest are furry or feathered), wife, cowgirl, constructive instigator.

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

At home in western Michigan with my family. I have a husband and three kids, ages 14, 13 and 10. We are big animal lovers. We have four dogs, two horses and two parrots. Sadly, we lost a bunny and a hedgehog during quarantine to old age.

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

I have been working from my home office since March. Havas Chicago recently reopened office access on a voluntary basis, so I head into our office about once a week, which now feels so special.

When you do you expect a full return to the office?

There are no firm expectations at this time. We are taking it week by week and closely following guidelines from government and health officials. Havas has two locations in Chicago: downtown and the Annex in West Town. Currently our buildings are open for employees to access on a voluntary, as-needed basis in a limited capacity with new safety protocols. We've listened to feedback and heard that some employees prefer to stay home, while some miss the ritual of going into the office and crave separation between work and home life. We embrace either approach.

Describe your socializing strategy.

Our family and our college friends are mostly in Chicago or New Jersey, so we don't see them as often as we'd like, but we video chat a lot. We are lucky to have some friends in Michigan who have kindly adopted us as family. But I have to admit, we're homebodies and there's nothing I love more than being home with this messy crew.

How are you dealing with childcare?

Schools in Michigan are in-person, full-time. We are happy we delayed our family's move back to Chicago and enrolled our kids here, given the Illinois schools have not yet reopened for in-person education.

What are you reading?

I am reading Sideways Stories from Wayside School with my 4th grader. Her homework is to read 20 minutes every night, and she hates it unless I read with her. We alternate chapters reading out loud. I love reading with her because I pick my childhood favorites. We recently finished The Hundred Dresses by Eleanor Estes.

I just finished Between the World and Me by Ta-Nehisi Coates, and I've just started My Own Words by Ruth Bader Ginsburg with Mary Hartnett and Wendy W. Williams. I often drive my kids to school (thank you, WFH!), and I've found that to be a special time when we talk and pray about hard, important topics like racial injustice, the killing of Black people that continues nearly every week, and influential people like RBG. 

What are you watching?

The Morning Show. I'm late to the party here! And I'm eagerly awaiting the next season of Ozark. Talk about a cliffhanger.

What are you listening to?

I love guided meditation that focuses on the power of positivity and the law of attraction. It helps me to stay centered amid chaos and contrast.

How are you staying fit?

Running outside—it's when I solve problems and get some of my best ideas. Many of my co-workers have received my end-of-run texts or calls. If it's gross outside, I'll ride a spin bike inside. But if I rake leaves (which I love to do), I count that as my workout.

Have you taken up a hobby?

Horseback riding. I have two beautiful horses, Mario and Francis, whom I lovingly call my therapists. Being with the horses can feel like an escape from reality, a way to get perspective. When you are committing your body to the four feet of a 1,000-lb. prey animal, you have to be fully present in that moment, just as the horses are. I've learned so much from my horses about life and leadership. 

An awkward moment since all this started.

One of my pets is a rehomed parrot named Rio who talks and swears. His previous owner taught him how to say a lot of very funny and very inappropriate things to entertain her friends. Sometimes when Rio gets really loud, our dogs will start howling and everyone on Zoom can hear the total and complete insanity of all that. I then mute and excuse myself to say "Stop it," to which Rio often responds, "Shut the f* up!"

An aha! moment since all this started.

Constraints breed creativity. And leading with our hearts will never steer us wrong. We continue to experience and see evidence of this. Like figuring out how to have virtual all-staff meetings that feel human and connected. It is possible. Or the Colorado mom who just invented a front-yard "candy sticking" hack to save Halloween.

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

I do generally believe things are always going to work out, even if it might not seem like it in the moment. We are all experiencing a lot of discomfort right now, but I believe that being comfortable with the uncomfortable—running headfirst into the discomfort rather than avoiding it—is what leads to creativity, innovation and real change. 

As far as where and how we work, the workplace is changed forever. We've adjusted to working remotely and embraced the flexibility it offers, but technology cannot replace the magic of human connection in creativity. I believe the workplace of the future will become the most amazing hybrid model of home/office that is better and more flexible than we ever dreamed possible. 

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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