by Marc de la Querra (@Clockwork_Media) These are trying times, and working remotely doesn’t make things any easier in an industry built on casual coffee-break brainstorms. Anxiety is at an all-time high. Leading creative teams during the covid-19 pandemic, then, is a fine line to walk between keeping everyone focused on work delivery, and being realistic of the world-shaking circumstances they’re operating in.

Creatives can be sensitive souls. It’s the nature of the job, exploring emotional reactions and societal moods to make relevant, meaningful work. I know first-hand we tend to need more nurturing. However, with clear direction and reassurance, creatives are frequently innovators in the face of adversity. It’s an ability honed by the daily juggle of deadlines and projects.

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The following points are helping me achieve that difficult balance.

#1. Trust your team

It’s hard to trust when you feel out of control. Working remotely, it’s harder to get a sense of how your team is progressing with a task and reorientate work in progress. You’ve got to trust, anyway.

Your creatives are adults and professionals. They will step up. Showing a lack of trust leads to animosity and undermines the united business culture every company’s striving to maintain right now.

#2. Avoid the micromanagement trap

Lack of trust from a leader may manifest in many forms. One of the most-common, and -problematic, is micromanagement of employees. With its intrusive pings, remote micromanagement is even more suffocating.

For creatives to produce their best work, they need the space to explore and express ideas their way. It’s difficult but leadership here means allowing autonomy. In short, support your team. Provide guidance as necessary. Just don’t do their work for them.

#3. Extend empathy beyond work

Be empathetic to your team’s human needs, not just their work ones. Check in daily, ask how they’re doing, and really listen. Help where you can and be a friend where you can. Even in a household full of people, remote working cultivates a sense of loneliness, and should be taken seriously.

Keep everyone working together as a unit with loads of verbal communication. It’s easy for people, especially quiet employees, to disappear in the flood of Teams notifications and words on a screen.

#4. Now is not the time for “always on”

Type A personalities (and advertising is full of them) thrive on it, but it’s essential to shun “always-on” work culture. It’s unrealistic and promotes an unhealthy work ethic. People need to feel that they can leave their machine and not stress about the repercussions of a single missed Skype call.

At the same time, keep proactivity within reason. With teams struggling as it is, now isn’t the time to heap on additional pressure with endless pitch work. Encourage creatives to focus on existing clients and pour their energy into wowing them.

#5. Cut yourself some slack

Finally, look in the mirror. Remember you’re also human and going through the same hardships as your team. It’s fine if you make a bad call. Own it and never ever throw others under the bus.


Workplace negativity is arguably as contagious as the novel coronavirus. Effective leadership today is about keeping politics off the radar and relieving pressure where you can — for your team, and yourself.

See also


Marc de la QuerraMarc de la Querra is a multi-award-winning creative and business unit director at communications agency, Clockwork. He has led various teams to create outstanding content for Netflix, Microsoft, E! Entertainment, LG, Comedy Central, Standard Bank and Jagermeister, among others.

This MarkLives #CoronavirusSA special section contains coverage of how the novel coronavirus, SARS-CoV-2, and its resultant disease, covid-19, is affecting the advertising, marketing and related industries in South Africa and other parts of Africa, and how we are responding. Updates may be sent to us via our contact form or the email address published on our Contact Us page. Opinion pieces/guest columns must be exclusive.

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