#WFH Diaries: Ted Wahlberg of gyro

As the Covid-19 pandemic continues to upend life across the globe, we're checking in with creative people to see how they're faring. Here's an update from Ted Wahlberg, executive creative director of gyro's Chicago and Denver offices.

Give us a one-line bio of yourself.

ECD at gyro Chicago, Denver, copywriter at heart, trying to stay consistently calm amidst the chaos.

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

I'm in my house west of Denver, close to Red Rocks if you're familiar, with my wife, Jenny, two teenage boys, Harry and Charles, three cats and our dog.

What's your work situation like at the moment?

I was already used to working with my team remotely as I'd frequently bounce back and forth between Chicago and Denver. So, we're managing the day-to-day stuff admirably. But the urgent need to quickly re-evaluate what we're doing and saying across all of our clients, with constantly changing inputs, has been intense. Also, it's way ruder to ignore my family from the next room versus being miles away at the office.  

Describe your socializing strategy.

Nonexistent? I've actually found some good strategies in this column that I'd like to adopt. But other than checking in on Mom and a few active text threads between friends, I've socially regressed.

How are you dealing with childcare?

My kids are older and, thanks to Jenny, self-sufficient. It'll be interesting to see how a four-day virtual school week is going to impact their overall education. In some ways it reminds me of college, where the onus to learn is on the student. Might be a good thing. Or maybe when I think they're learning algebra, they're actually watching Pew Die Pie videos. Time will tell.

What are you reading?

I'm all stocked up on reality, so I prefer fantasy and sci-fi. I'm currently reading The Blade Itself by Joe Abercrombie. My co-worker Rafa gave me Einstein's Dreams by Alan Lightman, which is so short I have no excuse not to read it. And I want to read Dune before the movie comes out. The recently released logo for the movie is killer, btw. I actually have a substantial wager with both my boys on who can read the most books by the end of the year. I am losing.

What are you watching?

Devs is incredible. So is Dave. Both on Hulu. Similar names, very different. I thought SNL at Home was one of their best shows in a long time. It felt like the constraints they were working with forced some refreshing perspectives and brevity into their sketches. There's the Orson Welles quote, "The enemy of art is the absence of limitations." Our isolation is obviously creating challenges. But you solve those challenges through creativity. All that said, my thoughts are with the entire production community, and I'll be thrilled when it's up and running again.

What are you listening to?

A lot of metal. High on Fire, Orange Goblin, Kyuss, Abbath. It's what I listen to when I write, and I've been doing a lot of writing. I've also been into soundtracks. I loved Watchmen on HBO, so I've been going back through the Trent Reznor and Atticus Ross catalog. And I have some comfort-food podcasts, like The Flop House and My Brother, My Brother and Me, that make me laugh and clear my head.

How are you staying fit?

Dog walking. Wishful thinking. 

Have you taken up a hobby?

My younger son started toy photography (@ctw.gravel) so I've been his photo assistant and part-time retoucher. We're also into table-top gaming. Dungeons & Dragons, Warhammer 40,000, Risk Legacy. Massive time killers.

Any tips for getting necessities?

Feels like the initial insanity is over and it's normalized a bit. I'd say just strictly follow the necessary safety precautions. Masks, wipes, hand sanitizer, hand washing, etc. But that's Denver. I'm sure it's different everywhere.

An awkward moment since all this started.

Not realizing I had a Snap Camera filter on during a Teams call that gave me wolf eyes. The awkward part was nobody said anything. That, and every game of Quiplash we play during virtual happy hour.

Best work email you got since all this started.

I don't know if there's been one specific email, but it's been nice getting random notes from people you haven't talked to in a while, just making sure you're OK. Or a note from a client recognizing the work we've been putting in to help them figure it all out. People still need and want to feel human. The fact we're isolated seems to be forcing us to be more thoughtful, virtually. Whether we realize it our not.

An aha! moment since all this started.

That unprecedented moments in the course of human history still happen. We're living through one that has changed the world forever. Hopefully, we'll be stronger for it. But it's still going to take a lot of work, sacrifice and compassion to get there.

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

How will the global pandemic play out? I'm not qualified to guess. As it relates to my small corner of the marketing galaxy, I do think we will be working in a profoundly more digitized world. But I won't be surprised if the pendulum takes a big swing back to physical experiences. Or analog. Or brick and mortar. I miss human-to-human contact. I genuinely miss being around my co-workers. I miss walking the aisle of the local game store, or sitting in a movie theater, or going to a concert, or grabbing a beer. I know I'm not alone. 

It reminds me of living most of my life in Chicago. I love Chicago. Especially, the summer. And my theory is, Chicago summers are so amazing because the winters are so bleak. Windy, gray, bitterly cold. All you can do is hunker down and muscle through. By the time spring hits, there are millions of people with all this bottled-up, potential energy ready to explode. Well, now it's as if the entire planet has been forced to muscle through a bleak Chicago winter. That's a lot of potential energy. It's exciting to think what will happen when it can finally get released. 

See the full #WFH Diaries series here.

Tim Nudd
Tim Nudd is editor in chief of the Clio Awards, editor of Muse by Clio, and host of the podcast Tagline. He is the former creative editor of Adweek.

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