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Today’s Office: Chemistry’s Tim Smith on finding time for work and play

Tim Smith in a near-empty Chemistry office

Chemistry’s Tim Smith is working out of Atlanta, which is re-opening slowly. He talks us through his day-to-day routine right now, which has seen him park up to work everywhere from his local park to a near-empty office. Lockdown, he says, has also given him more time to spend on his true passion: painting.

I’m based in Atlanta, which is slowly re-opening with precautions. With this in mind, I am either working from our Atlanta office, my house or somewhere outside depending on the weather. Grant Park in my neighborhood is one of my favorite spots right now – the fall has been great to sit outside until my computer battery dies.

My days are a lot more relaxed now than they used to be and I’m exercising at the end of the day which wasn’t possible pre-pandemic. I always had to make sure to get any physical activity before work as there would always be something keeping me late. I can manage anything remotely now, which makes my routine more flexible.

My painting has also benefited. This year has given me more time dedicated to creating and marketing some of my art, even reinvigorating a New Year’s resolution of putting some paintings online and selling them. I was able to sell a few via Saatchi Art. I am not sure I actually have more time, but I have been able to shift and create a schedule that allows me to stay longer in the studio.

The start of my day was much more chaotic this time last year. My daughter is now at college and my son just goes to the kitchen table for school. The traffic is minimal and I actually have the option each day of ’will I go into the office or work outside?’

I love our office, but I also love the people that make the office. These days I’m usually looking at empty desks around me, but we have a handful of rotating folks that visit on various days of the week.

Since lockdown began, communication across offices, between creative, account, media, strategy, is tougher. Folks in every group are talking all the time, but implementing interaction across groups is key. Client interaction outside of the timed-focused Zoom meetings is challenging. We have great relationships and enjoy going beyond the work deliverables, but just hanging out is never on the video call agenda.

I miss the energy and buzz of the agency on full ’push mode’ and feeling the adrenaline. I am very ready to go back to normal and incorporate some of what we have learned about how people can and prefer to work. I love what I do and enjoy the mingling of work and play.

One thing I’ve noticed about this new way of working is that It’s hard to accept change when you have been successful. So the challenge has been how to work differently with the same results. The uncertainty makes it hard to plan, which can create apathy. We are built to make quick decisions and react nimbly to fast-paced client needs, so we have had to implement the same thinking for our own agency needs.

The energy and passion here are inspiring to me and it’s tough to feel the pulse of the agency over video calls, so in October I decided to meet with each person individually, including interns, either via Zoom or safely in-person. I have learned a lot about what inspires others and that, in turn, has inspired me. There are certainly a lot of big dreams in this agency.

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