#WFH Diaries: Stephanie Nerlich of Havas Creative

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 Stephanie Nerlich, CEO of Havas Creative Network, North America.

Give us a one-line bio of yourself.

Mom, wife, CEO, dog lover, frequent flyer, weekend farmer and home cook.

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

From March to September, my husband, two daughters and I holed up together in our 1902 stone farmhouse outside a small Ontario, Canada, town called Grand Valley. When the world was going into isolation, we were lucky enough to escape to the country—isolated together with miles to roam. Since September, we've been going back and forth from the city, as WiFi fights with four of us working from home became too much to bear.

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

We are all parents, children and siblings first; and when the pandemic struck, the most important thing we did was remind ourselves of that fact. We immediately moved to a flexible mindset to ensure we could each bring our best selves—even in uncertain times. As the world faced learning how to best work from home, we committed to making the transition as seamless as possible for our people and our clients. It evolves daily as we learn new ways to tackle challenges.

When you do you expect to return to the office?

I think what's clear from this pandemic is that the future of work and the workplace have been forever changed. Our Villages were never factories with punch clocks as the norm, but we've now learned that our offices will need to function like clubhouses or town squares—where we come together to grow, inspire and collaborate, then flexibly move apart when the work requires individual solitude and thinking time for the activities that are heads down.     

Describe your socializing strategy.

In the beginning, like everyone else, we regularly held Zoom cocktail hour with our friends; but spending 10 hours a day on Zoom for work made enjoying cocktails virtually after hours less fun. We still play the online card game Euchre with friends, but we have tried to find creative ways to safely meet in-person—go for walks, meet for dinners on cold patios, etc.

How are you dealing with childcare?

My girls are teenagers now. Riley is in ninth grade and Livie will be graduating from high school in June. In some ways, the silver lining to 2020 has been all the time we've spent together. They keep asking me when I'm getting back on a plane, but I'm secretly enjoying these months where they haven't been out of arm's reach.

What are you reading?

I'm a design (shelter) magazine junkie, so that's my go-to in quiet moments. Like many others, I have also been transfixed by Jeanine Cummins' American Dirt.

What are you watching?

I think we've exhausted Netflix, Prime Video, Apple TV+ and Disney+, having been engrossed in series like The Queen's Gambit, The Undoing and others.

What are you listening to?

We are a music household, as my father-in-law is a musician and my husband is a music industry executive. But I'm not ashamed to admit I've been listening to Christmas music for a few weeks now. Michael Bublé, Bing Crosby and Kelly Clarkson make it feel like all is safe in the world.

How are you staying fit?

Like millions of others, I ordered a Peloton. I'd like to say I use it regularly, but that would be stretching the truth.

Have you taken up a hobby?

I love to cook and garden, and both have provided respite for me during this crazy year.

An awkward moment since all this started.

Who hasn't been on a Zoom call with a roommate walking through the frame in boxer shorts or a toddler peeing his or her pants?! The awkward moments have brought us closer together.

An aha! moment since all this started.

Despite all the world's woes, the climate crisis, severe income and race inequality, a divided electorate and more, Zoom has allowed us to see into each other's worlds with more clarity—kids crying, dogs barking, turkeys burning … I hope these moments ultimately give us all greater empathy for each other, and we come out of this with a world ready to embrace more humanity—differences and all.

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

A vaccine will be in wide distribution by late spring, early summer, but it may not be as effective as hoped. I think we are in for bumps along the way, but we are in this together and will recover together.

See the full #WFH Diaries series here.

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Tim Nudd
Tim Nudd is editor in chief of the Clio Awards and editor of Muse by Clio. Previously, he was creative editor at Adweek.

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