Assorted thoughts about working remotely during COVID-19 at BrightWave
Many of you who have spent the last month or more working from home may relate to this quote from one of my BrightWave coworkers:
“I thought I had a lot of sweatpants until we started working remotely full time.”
Thankfully, my years as a freelancer and the motto “All you need in this world is love, music and a large collection of pajama pants” have served me well during the current crisis. But the sentiment got me thinking. What have I learned?
An obvious learning was that our email focused agency has always been set up in a way that has helped make the transition to full-time remote work a lot easier than it may have been otherwise. Before COVID-19 changed life as we know it, the entire BrightWave team worked from home every other Friday and did so without missing a beat.
Thanks to tools like Slack, Google Hangouts and Zoom, we maintain that same collaborative and communicative spirit every day and connect over virtual group activities and cocktails during our monthly happy hours.
But what else have I learned? What about my coworkers? What has worked? What has been difficult? What do we miss? And, seriously, how are parents staying sane during all this?
I started asking around and it didn’t take long for themes to emerge. It also didn’t take long to learn the answer to the question about the parents. They aren’t.
Good communication skills are essential to the success of any business or relationship. It can also be one of the hardest skills to perfect. So how has communication fared while we’ve been working remotely?
“I’ve really enjoyed the ease of communication. I would have expected a harder time to get people’s attention, but it has been the opposite. I also think the positive attitudes have been inspiring.”
“I feel like collaboration has been even better because everyone is trying so hard to over-communicate.”
“Communicating design direction is hard remotely. It’s very visual and hands-on. Talking face to face with whiteboards or paper is more effective. I’ve even sketched stuff on paper and taken a photo to slack it to someone multiple times already.”
“I’ve learned how hard it is to pitch creative ideas on video. It’s really very difficult to not be able to read the room.”
“I’m very proud of how we as a team have come together and really stepped up to make sure we’re over-communicating. It has been amazing to see.”
Even though it can take a while to get used to working remotely, there are certainly some benefits to it.
“I’ve really, really enjoyed the lack of commute and extra time that gives me in my day, which I’m spending on drinking beer outside and doing yoga.”
“I can sleep an hour later in the morning, so yay!”
“By not having to get up early, I’m able to have that extra glass of wine once in a while. I couldn’t be more thankful for that.”
“I met a neighbor the other night on a walk that I have NEVER even seen in the six years that I’ve lived here. That kinda made my night.”
“My quarantine Friday nights look surprisingly similar to my non-quarantine Friday nights. I guess I really am a homebody.”
Oh, the joys of working from home full time with kids who can’t even hang out with their friends.
“I’ve reached a new level of multitasking that makes me feel like a superhuman.”
“If I had a dollar for every time I heard the word ‘snack,’ I would be rich.”
“I have never felt so much like a failure and a success as I have trying to work full time and parent full time. Burnout is real.”
“My child had Cheez-Its for breakfast today. I’m so tired of fighting that fight. She’s also had mac and cheese and a hot dog as her first meal of the day. I do not care anymore. As long as she’s eating, I’m calling it a win.”
“I think I’m ready to cave and just let the little sh*% have chips for breakfast. Just eat the damn banana!”
“The only way to get through this situation is to compare notes with fellow parents and commiserate together. Without friends in the same boat, surviving this would be impossible.”
While your first inclination when working from home may be to just “go with it,” it takes routine and discipline to get the most out of the experience.
“Finding a balance between work and life was difficult the first few weeks. It felt like I was constantly on call or I was always thinking about the next deadline. I had to give myself a schedule and now I physically close my laptop and leave the room or go outside even for a few minutes, to help make that mental shift to non-work time.”
“Keeping a routine has been the most helpful thing for me. Especially acting like you’re going to work each morning, even if your office is in your bedroom. Going on walks during the workday also helps me get through each day and I know the dogs love it!”
“Having a routine is crucial, I wake up and get going like I am going to work. I have also had to prioritize outside time so I don’t turn into a vampire.”
“I miss my train commute because it got me outside and walking around, so I’ve been going on long walks every day.”
“Taking an actual lunch break is essential – even if it is just to eat leftover spaghetti!”
“I’ve found it helpful to pack/unpack my desk each day. I put everything away when I’m done for the day. I turn the monitor off, store peripherals, etc. Then, in the morning, I pull it all out again when I’m ready to start my day.”
HYGIENE AND WARDROBES
When you don’t have to go into an office, the first things that can fall by the wayside are showers and clothing.
“If I take a shower before three o’clock I feel proud, like I’ve accomplished a great feat. Pathetic, right?”
“First week or two, I did all the right things. I had a schedule, I was showering first thing in the morning. Cut to now and I’ve stopped caring. It has actually been weirdly liberating.”
“It’s going to be weird when we do go back in the office and I have to wear pants again. For the last few weeks it has been business on the top, party on the bottom.”
Weird, indeed. But, a little weirdness is a small price to pay for that moment when we get to return to our offices once again. That moment when we get to collaborate in person and produce the best work we can for our clients and each other. Pants or not.
Illustrations provided by Brent Taliaferro, Senior Designer