The WFH Diaries - Chris Freel at Unltd

By AdNews | 8 May 2020
Chris Freel of Unltd

AdNews brings the stories of those working from home (WFH) in the advertising and media industry during the coronavirus crisis.

Chris Freel is CEO of Unltd:

How are you dealing with the silence?
I’m trying to take advice from Depeche Mode and Enjoy the silence. It’s nice to have a little more thinking time each day and helps me to focus on the bigger picture. Mind you, with six and seven-year-old boys in the house silence is in limited supply.

For UnLtd, the reality was that incoming enquiries were fewer as our corporate clients focused internally, so we quickly positioned ourselves as a support service to help them in any way that we could. Whether that be by putting on regular mental health sessions for the industry, delivering our weekly dose of Good News or the weekly Backyard Trivia, or just making people smile through initiatives like #AdsAtHome, it’s important for the industry to know that we are there for them and can help keep people, motivated, inspired, supported and connected.

What’s the upside?
I think there is a lot of upside. Firstly there’s a focus on being healthy. I think the crisis has made people focus and prioritise, in business and their home life. A lot of businesses were in need of a significant workout and the only chance they get to have one is at a time like this. It forces everybody to take a good hard look at themselves and a lot of businesses will end up leaner but far more efficient and effective.

For people, I think it also makes us focus on what is actually most important in our lives. We are seeing people connect with family and friends that they haven’t spoken to for years, in new and more powerful ways. On Saturday I spoke to my 88-year-old Nana (who’s in the UK) on a video call. We have talked about doing this for over 10 years and finally managed to get to it!

She couldn’t believe that she could see the kids so clearly and it blew her mind. I think it’s also bringing many families closer together, being forced to spend more time together is making people reconnect, go back to basics and certainly in our case, realise that we actually do quite like each other (although we all have our moments!).

For communities, and the world in general, I hope that the renewed uplift in community spirit and support becomes the norm and that we return to a time where people look out for one another, support and help each other and think about more than just themselves. This is a chance for us to reset the way we live and interact with each other and with our planet and I hope when people do go back to "normal", the "normal" has been reset to one which is kinder, less greedy and more of a level playing field. This virus has brought every human together and we have fought it together from front line health workers to big business CEOs. I hope that sense of unity remains outside of "wartime".

The downside?
Personally, I miss people, most of my life has been based around being with people. From being with the team, at industry events, training my kids football team, being in the pub. I miss all of those things. I’m a tactile person, I miss hugs, face-to-face interactions, banter, not having to deal with the awkwardness of video conference speaking etiquette. All easy to deal with in the short term but still a downside for me.

On a more serious note, I’m worried about those who are isolated and those who are in vulnerable positions. A lot of the kids that we work with need the face to face interaction of our charity partners to escape their horror realities. Without that they are increasingly vulnerable. There will undoubtedly be a crisis that comes after this current one as a result of the impact on our mental health, domestic and child abuse situations. I hope that we still have enough charities, resources, and funding to be able to help our most vulnerable in society. It’s been such a difficult year in 2020 and almost everybody has felt the blow. I just hope we can get back up again and continue to fight as a nation to make things better.

How are you using the commuting time saved?
Combination of pleasure and pain. The pain of exercising and pleasure of that post-exercise feeling, the pleasure of a nice glass of Shiraz followed by the pain of feeling a bit dusty the next day. I’m also writing weekly trivia quizzes as a bit of a (non-paid) side hustle, using them in our Backyard trivia but I’ve also become a part-time quizmaster for all and sundry. If you need one just let me know, happy to oblige!

I am looking forward to being back in the office because…
I will be forced to remove this stupid, itchy and irritating beard that I have begun to grow and for some reason feel compelled to persevere with now that I’ve started!

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