Welcome back: BBDO New York CEO chronicles her return to the office
BBDO New York President and CEO Kirsten Flanik, craving in-person work experiences since Labor Day, has returned to 1285 Avenue of the Americas for the first time since March 15.
“While collaborating remotely has been quite seamless—and birthed some amazing work for our clients during this challenging time—there is something to be said for the energy you get from being around other people,” she says.
BBDO's New York office has been open since July—with a maximum capacity of 25 percent, observance of CDC guidelines and preregistration to allow for proper spacing. But, says Flanik, most employees are still working remotely.
On Sept. 14, Flanik ditched her sweatpants for office apparel and braved the subway. Here’s a look at her first day back.
I woke up and hopped on the Peloton, just like I do every day.
Just kidding. This is when I actually woke up, and I have only used the Peloton once in 2020. I didn’t roll out of bed, I hopped —somehow already feeling a little late, which was a familiar feeling that I welcomed. The sweatpants weren’t going to cut it today, and I had laid out something the night before … just in case I forgot how to get dressed for the office in the morning.
I cautiously entered the subway station a few blocks from my home in Brooklyn and used hand sanitizer before I’d actually even touched anything. I hadn’t been on the subway since March 15, when I came home from work thinking it might be a few weeks before I returned to 1285 Avenue of the Americas. What I found surprised me: A cleaner station than I’d ever seen before and a few commuters on a platform usually filled with 80-plus passengers. My shoulders relaxed and my AirPods went in. I didn’t have to strategize for a seat, as the car was at half capacity. A straight shot to Rockefeller Center came quickly, and every person I saw enter or exit wore their mask consistently. I couldn’t help but smile behind my disposable mask, proudly and humbly thinking, “We’re all in this together.”
My favorite Dunkin’ within the subway station at Rock Center had no line. I was elated and ordered “my usual” from someone who I pretended knew me very well and had been waiting for months to see me again, too.
I sanitized my hands again while checking in at the new front desk experience. I boldly answered “NO” to all of the COVID questions, had my temperature tested, and was on my way.
Over the past few months, we had rearranged our office space, which meant I was also making my way to settle into a new office, now on the seventh floor. A bit smaller, but a cozy new home that I knew I would make my own in no time. After moving filing cabinets and chairs around a bit, I decided it was time to get to work.
Walk-bys. I had forgotten what these felt like. Oh, “Hello, Andrew Robertson.” Andrew [president and CEO, BBDO Worldwide] had been coming in for the past few weeks himself, and it was like seeing a long-lost family member when he casually strolled into my new pad, offering his signature smile and, “Hello K-Fla,” from a safe distance.
Pitch meeting. Can’t tell you about this yet. Though I can say, it’s a whole new ball game winning business over a video conference, but we’ve gotten that down by now.
Time to see what the outdoor lunch scene in midtown was like. I was pleased to see that a regular spot of mine had their socially distanced dining experience all set up, so it was a no-brainer. Over lunch with St. John Walshe, our CEO of the Americas, we discussed really important things like the new biz pipeline, but we also enjoyed just catching up about life.
Town Hall prep with Managing Director Steven Panariello. We have started doing these monthly on Microsoft Teams.
I left a little early for my 3 p.m. meeting to walk the halls. I passed three or four other BBDO-ers working at their desks, which are now more than six feet apart, and saw a few people meeting in the lobby at a distance—all of us with masks on. The halls obviously weren’t crowded like they were pre-COVID—but still, we have a lot of signage, PPE and hand sanitizing stations located throughout the office to help people feel safe.
I had a meeting with Jason Rosario, our new chief diversity, equity and inclusion officer. He was in the building that day, too, getting set up, so we got to chat in his office from a safe distance. Our key topic for the day was how we are reimagining and evolving our Creative Residency Program.
Back onto the train I went—still cautious, but more confident than before. I snapped a photo of myself heading down my usual steps and spent the ride home crafting my caption. I wanted to let people know that it’s OK, that New York is strong, alive and full of hope. Just like me.