This article is written by Becky Chastain, Senior Art Director at Campaign Monitor. The article is based on a graphic she originally published on Linkedin.
A month ago, I had my daily routine down to a science.
See, there’s a stereotype about creatives: that we’re all easygoing, take-life-as-it-comes types. But that’s not exactly true for me. Sure, I love to relax or be spontaneous, but I also need a schedule, and, for a long time, I had the same one.
My schedule pre-quarantine:
6:00 a.m. – Wake up
6:30 a.m. – Meet my dad at the gym (My dad and I are workout buddies.)
7:30 a.m. – Shower and grab a breakfast bar
8:30 a.m. – Arrive at work
8:30 a.m.– 5:00 p.m. – Put in a hard day’s work filled with:
- Brainstorming sessions
- Reviewing work and providing feedback
- Socialization (AKA arguing over the best reggae music and discussing whether a female performer is an actor or an actress. You know, the important stuff.)
5:00 p.m. – Leave the office, relax with my family, and get ready to do it all over again the next day.
And then social distancing happened.
I feel like I should go ahead and say right now that I am pro social distancing. We should be doing everything we can to flatten the curve, protect our most vulnerable, and keep medical professionals from being more overwhelmed than they already are.
Still, social distancing sucks. And I say that as someone who feels very lucky—lucky to have a job, and even more so to have a job where I can work remotely from the safety of my home. I totally get how fortunate I am, and I don’t want to take that for granted.
But, even with that knowledge, social distancing has honestly been really difficult.
If I’m being real, I miss my team. I miss my family. I miss people. I’m an extreme extrovert who gets a charge from others and feels most inspired when I have people around me. My team and I try to create work that connects people; that’s our idea of a job well done—only there aren’t that many people around us now.
Okay, sorry, that got dark. I just mean I can’t walk up to someone and bounce an idea off them anymore. Now a “quick idea” involves connecting to Zoom or writing a novel in Slack, and that can definitely work—I’m not saying it can’t—but it takes some getting used to. When quarantine first started, I felt like I’d lost that freedom to connect.
Week one of quarantine
As you can probably guess, I struggled. (This article gets more positive. I promise.)
Quarantine week 1 schedule: non-existent
That first week, I didn’t have a morning routine, which meant my morning kind of bled into my workday. And my workday then bled into the end of my day. Nothing marked the beginning or end of my time to be “at work” and my time to be “at home.”
And this affected everyone in my household. My wife felt the effects of it; I felt the effects of it. Surprisingly, even our dogs seemed to struggle without their normal routine.
That’s when I decided week two would be different—mostly because it had to be, for the sake of my household and work life.
Week two of quarantine
I decided week two would not be a weird mix of home and work (more than it already had to be because, you know, social distancing). I realized that, without proper structure, my projects wouldn’t be their best, and I didn’t want my situation to affect the quality of my work. By Monday morning of week two, I had a new schedule.
Quarantine week 2 schedule:
6:30 a.m. – Wake up and do yoga with Kelly (my wife) and Adrianne
7:00 a.m. – Take the dogs for a long walk for better, calmer behavior
7:45 a.m. – Shower, put on real clothes, eat breakfast
8:30 a.m. – Start checking emails and get ready for the day
9:15 a.m. – Morning coffee with my team
10:00 a.m. – 5:00 p.m. – Put in a hard day’s work and set a timer on my computer for that work to end.
5:30 p.m. – Relax with my family and get ready to do it all over again the next day.
Right away, I saw a major difference in my efficiency and morale. And this didn’t just impact Kelly and our dogs—it impacted my whole team.
See, working remotely highlighted a lot of things our team was doing really well—which was awesome. It felt good to know that, even with all the wild stuff happening, we could still continue to function and work hard. But it also showed us the aspects we needed to work on. Changing my personal schedule also impacted how I approached our team and, in effect, changed how we worked together moving forward.
Let’s go over some of the ways we approached remote work, starting with week two.
Remote work best practices for social distancing (and life, in general)
As a disclaimer, these are the remote best practices our personal team has found to be most helpful. I’m a big proponent of information-sharing, so I hope these methods can be useful to you and your team too.
1. Create a routine.
By now, you already know schedules are a big part of my efficiency, but creating a routine also encourages me to stay focused during working hours, allowing me to relax during downtime.
Working from home can blur the lines between relaxation and business, so a schedule that resembles a “normal” dayjob provides the ability to say, “Yes, I can do that right now,” or, “No, I’m off work.”
Of course, I understand that children, pets, and spouses can heavily impact your schedule and your work life. The purpose of the routine isn’t to make you feel guilty, but to help you create something that works for you, allowing you to focus and feel good about the work you’re doing. (Maybe this means your most productive hours are during naptime or early in the morning.) Whatever your schedule is, let it help you rather than hinder you.
2. Morning coffee.
Morning coffee is less about pouring a cup and more about sitting with my team on Zoom for a few minutes each morning. We have a chance to wake up, drink something warm, and discuss project updates, concerns, highlights, and, maybe most importantly, what’s going on in our respective lives.
These can be serious conversations (How’s your family doing? What’s the hardest part of isolation?), or they can be light (Listening to anything good right now? What’s the best movie you’ve seen lately?).
If you have the opportunity to do this, I highly recommend it. Once a day or once a week can be a great time to connect with your team and communicate what your barriers are, what your successes have been, and how you’re doing.
3. Check your tech.
Technology is obviously a game changer for those of us working remotely, so awareness is crucial right now. If you’re not a tech person, you don’t have to suddenly be a pro, but checking your notifications may keep assignments from slipping through the cracks.
Collaborative tech has united our team members during quarantine—by this, I essentially mean anything that allows multiple people to view a project, comment, and provide feedback.
Tech I recommend for creative teams:
For site design and prototyping
For staging and feedback
What tech should you lose?
Only you know what’s working for your team and what isn’t. My advice? Keep a complete list of all the programs you’re paying for, regularly noting whether they’re helpful or not. When it’s time for the next monthly or yearly payment, you’ll know how best to spend your resources.
4. Communicate recognition.
Recognizing successful, hardworking team members is important, but how you communicate that recognition is equally valuable because different people prefer different forms of praise.
For instance, one person on your team may love public recognition through Slack or a department-wide email. For another person, though, this could be embarrassing, discouraging them from standing out. For that team member, a simple bit of praise in a meeting could be just as gratifying.
As a manager, it’s top priority to know what motivates and drives the individuals on a team. Pay attention to people’s personal interests, providing them with opportunities they want. For the right person, that’ll leave a lasting impression.
5. Encourage human connection.
I mentioned I’m an extrovert, so I look forward to meetings and morning coffee dates with my team. For a more introverted person, however, a less required social option might be best. That’s part of the reason we created our weekly #freaky-friday Zoom call.
#freaky-friday is a totally optional Zoom happy hour, where we log in, catch up, and play trivia. We also have an affiliated Slack channel where I post cocktail recipes.
When the office was open, I would occasionally make tasty concoctions for people in the office on Friday afternoons. I really miss this interaction, but the online version we created keeps that tradition alive. As with happy hour, of course, drinking is totally optional and not at all expected. Above all, we’re there to enjoy each other and keep that interaction alive.
While a happy hour isn’t for everyone, you might do something similar, like a game of Zoom trivia or a table-top Skype session. This weekly meeting has been something many of us look forward to, and it’s interesting to see what we’re all doing as we live through this historic moment.
6. Stay grateful.
I know “staying grateful” could seem insensitive at a time like this, but, honestly, this experience has made me truly appreciative. This may sound cheesy, but my wife and I have been saying “Thank you” to everything we took for granted before (even inanimate objects, Marie Kondo-style). In a way, more things are sparking joy for us these days.
Personally, I’m really grateful for my health, my loved ones, my coworkers, even my yard. I actually thanked a box of wine recently, just because I didn’t know when I’d be able to go back to the store to buy another one.
And, even if thanking objects isn’t your thing, this attitude goes beyond the people (and things) in your personal life. I’ve tried to implement a grateful attitude in my work life as well.
Ways to broaden your work attitude:
- Check on peers and coworkers who are heavily impacted and be aware of what’s going on in their city.
- Spend time researching how different industries are affected. This may provide a more keen understanding of how the pandemic is creating a ripple and why certain people are being impacted more acutely than others.
- Reach out to customers in order to understand what they’re going through and how you can help.
While I can’t pretend self-isolating is perfect now, or that I have all the answers, I can honestly say I’ve improved my work process for the better. But, like everybody else, I’m taking things one day at a time, and some days are better than others.
On behalf of all of us here at Campaign Monitor, we hope you’re staying safe and finding ways to manage during this strange time. And, if you have your own tips or best practices for social distancing, feel free to share them with us. We’d love to hear how you’re doing.
Becky Chastain has worked in digital marketing for nearly a decade, with extensive experience in data-based marketing and advertising. She currently leads the creative team at Campaign Monitor. You can learn more about her here.