Adventures From Home:
Navigating Life During A Pandemic
BY THE FOURTHIDEA TEAM
The FourthIdea team has been working remotely since mid-March when the novel coronavirus exploded into a global pandemic and forced nearly everything to shut down indefinitely. We have been grappling with how to address this new way of living and working and thought the best approach was to give everyone the chance to tell their story from their perspective. Below you’ll find tips for staying focused while working from home, as well as insight into the new hobbies we picked up to pass the time until life can return to normal.
For me, the key to working from home successfully was to keep it simple and focus on doing three things that helped me advance intellectually, spiritually, and physically. Basically, if I did one thing for my mind, body and soul every day, I felt accomplished for the day. Now those three things can be defined however you want and should be integrated into your normal work schedule. In fact, work, especially for those of us who work in creative industries, can count towards mental stimulation and emotional fulfillment. Here are some things I’m doing to meet my three goals.
- Learn new skills related to work, for eg.
- Taking a MasterClass in advertising from Goodby & Silverstein
- Reading John Truby’s “The Anatomy of Story” to hone my scriptwriting skills
- Taking Adobe Premiere Pro tutorials to learn video editing
- Meditate; 5 minutes/day – there are guided apps like Calm and Quiet Mind that can help you get started
- Cook; I’m an awful cook, so I’m trying to learn a new recipe every week to expand my repertoire beyond grilled cheese sandwiches, omelets, and Velvet Mac and Cheese with cut-up hot dogs. The process of cooking is cathartic and engages the senses to create something that, hopefully, is greater than the sum of its parts.
- Virtual Happy Hours; An after-work activity, but it’s important to take the time to reach out and make human connections in this time of enforced isolation.
- Home Workouts: It’s important to keep the blood flowing, release endorphins, and work up a sweat to improve your overall mood. I’m fortunate to have an exercise bike and an app that streams spinning classes. However, there are days when I just put a mat on the ground and do some yoga, or pick up some resistance bands and try to get a little burn going. Point is, you don’t need a lot of room or time to feel like you’ve done something.
- Walk the Dog; If you don’t have a dog you can still just take a walk. But when it’s with a furry friend, this satisfies on the emotional front as well. You have to get up from your remote workspace and go outside to keep the walls from closing in on you. It’s a great way to collect your thoughts, breathe easier, and free your mind—which makes this simple thing everyone can do a triple threat.
Three things. Pretty simple. I think one of the lessons that I’m going to take from quarantine is not too overcomplicate, or overthink things—Because even when you can’t go anywhere, you can still move forward. Speaking of which, somebody is at my desk with his tail wagging, letting me know what time it is.
As I reflect on our 7th week of NY PAUSE and working from home there have been challenging moments but also many silver linings. Two of my three children (all in their 20s) have been with us during this time which is a gift I will always treasure. I would not normally have such extended time with them and the laughter and hugs and family dinners that go on for hours as we sit and talk about life are priceless. I love to cook and it has been nice to have a crowd to cook for again. The shared experiences of fear, uncertainty, and even hopefulness as we have faced the news each day have allowed us to find ways to be supportive in a new and meaningful way.
I think a challenge for me is that the office is “always open” while working from home. It is easy to drift into my office and work in the evening or on the weekend. I have needed to find a way to “turn off the lights and lock the door” so to speak at the end of the workday and week. As the CFO for our agency I usually deal with numbers and budgets and planning so it has been enjoyable to be able to watch the creative process and to even (occasionally!) contribute in our daily status and creative office hours meetings. I am proud of our creative team as I have watched them raise the bar during this unprecedented period of time.
For me personally, daily exercise and walks are an absolute necessity – sometimes with my husband and/or children, sometimes alone and often with my dogs (see pics) – the messages of hope I see conveyed with sidewalk chalk and signs in neighborhood windows inspire me that we will all get through this together.
This time to PAUSE and reflect has reinforced my priorities and also allowed me to reevaluate the things in my life that do not align with my core values. The things I have always held important have become even more so. And for that I am grateful.
Today marks day 49 of the 2020 COVID-19 quarantine, stay home life. Working from home has taught me to be a better communicator and more importantly a better listener. I feel like it’s brought our entire team closer together and has allowed us to come up with some of our most meaningful creations yet. For myself, I realized that I need to have a bright space to work in, or it greatly affects my mood. Moving my desk set up to the window area in our spare room was the best decision I made. Just being near natural light helped improve my mood and cleared my mind more than I realized. I also brought my diffuser from the living room into my “office”. My favorite scent is grapefruit, the smell of citrus is said to automatically make a person happier. It’s certainly helped me maintain a sense of calmness in an otherwise not so calm time. There’s a lot of pressure on us creatives to keep the world full of positive, uplifting, and beautiful works of art, while we too are trying to navigate life during a pandemic.
For me, keeping up with my fitness has been absolutely essential. My boyfriend and I work out just about every single day for at least an hour, focusing on a different muscle group each day so it’s easy to keep on track. Finding the ambition to do it is the hardest part, but once it’s done, I feel like I am ready to tackle whatever comes my way next. We do A LOT of in-home workouts, but when the weather is nice we get outside and hike, run or take bike rides. It’s been a nice change-up incorporating outdoor activities into our in-home routine–it keeps us from becoming lazy or complacent. Bonus with all of this is that I couldn’t do pushups before this–like, at all. I can now get in at least 40 pushups per workout. I also could hardly do a burpee and I am proud to say I have done more burpees in the last 7 weeks than I have in my entire life (insert cheers and claps here). There is no book on how to live your life through a pandemic (minus all of the CDC rules of course). I have found that keeping a routined life as much as possible and finding joy and appreciation in the little things have helped me push through each day of this crazy, unprecedented time.
Work has been very different in these last weeks, just like everything else. I’ve set up an office in an old bedroom and have grown fond of daily video chats with the FourthIdea crew. I have found myself using my Moleskine for work more than I usually do to keep track of thoughts and notes. Working through this crisis and helping formulate clients’ responses have helped me deal with COVID-19 on a personal level. Some things that have helped me pass the time through the last month:
- I’ve been crushing puzzles
- I installed a bumper hitch on my Outback
- Once a week, making Detroit style pizza (recipe here)
- Dusting off my Stratocaster from high school, free guitar lessons on Fender play
- I’ve found Oatka park has been a favorite hiking spot
- Zelda Twilight Princess on the Wii
Anyways, I can’t wait to see you all and go on adventures, hopefully with some updated guitar skills. Let me know if you want to start a band.
The height of the COVID-19 outbreak began while I was in Vienna, my first vacation since I started working at FourthIdea almost a year ago. Watching international news change by the hour when you’re far away from home was the opposite of relaxing, but I was grateful to return safely before the borders closed. Luckily for me, FourthIdea decided to shift to remote work at the same time that I had to enter mandatory quarantine for two weeks, not able to leave my property for anything, not even a walk. To say that working from home during a pandemic is strange is an understatement. However, I’m grateful to work for a company that pushed remote work as quickly as possible and remains transparent about this situation. Retaining a sense of normalcy is key since I want to make the transition back to working in the office as smooth as possible–whenever that happens. I still wake up at the same time I usually would, and setting up my desk in a quiet area and keeping a daily checklist help me stay on track. In many ways, I feel I’ve been more productive working from home. I got a lot of practice editing video in a short period of time, and am staying up to date on the latest approaches to thoughtfully addressing the pandemic.
Aside from putting my skills to the test, I’ve finally had time to learn new things and find new ways to be creative. I could barely cook a few years ago, yet I learned how to make sourdough bread, bagels, and pizza from scratch during quarantine. This has been the perfect time to experiment with colorful makeup palettes, perfect my kombucha brewing process, and rediscover my love of drawing with chalk pastels. I’m even thinking about adopting my first cat since I’ll have time to set everything up and see what kind of trouble he would get into while I’d normally be at the office. I also celebrated my birthday in quarantine, which was pretty different than other years but gave me some perspective on what’s really important. I’m trying to let go of the things I can’t control and embrace the silver linings of this strange time, no matter how small.
After 49 days in the COVID-19 quarantine, things have gotten a little crazy in my house. Not only are my husband and I both working from home with an 18-month-old, but we’ve unfortunately had the experience of moving out of our first home into our dream home during this very strange time. Working from home has taught me I need boundaries and a schedule. It is easy to be distracted by the toddler running through the house like a wrecking ball, but every morning my husband and I discuss our daily work schedule and put together a plan on times each of us has quiet time and times each of us are in charge of the toddler. Staying busy during a quarantine with an 18-month-old has been pretty easy. We’ve spent our days outside in the bounce house and taking long walks in the wagon. We have been able to see the positivity in this situation because we are so lucky to be spending all this quality time with our son.
What this experience has taught me
When I think about what this experience has taught us, so far, it’s been about re-framing priorities. Using the additional time that we all have to reflect on what is truly important in our lives.
A few things I’ve leaned on…
- Learn: Masterclass is an amazing resource and taps into some of the greatest talent alive, take advantage of its bite-size class format, and learn a new skill.
- Get inspired: let online artists inspire you—there have been so many incredible performers that have found ways to create, inform, bring joy—proving that you can shut society down but not creativity.
- Reconnect: Normal life can get really busy. Heck, even this isolation period can get busy with work and trying to figure out shopping, food prep, the everyday things. So using some of the extra time you have right now to make the connections with friends and family that are maybe overdue. It will feel good, I promise.
This experience, locally, nationally, and globally will change things forever—and it’s going to be up to us to make sure that the ‘new normal’ is a better normal.