When we received word that we would need to work from home, I was concerned. So much of my work stemmed from my fellow designers in the Cincinnati office. The elevator doors would open and I’d be instantly hit with the smell of fresh markers and hot coffee, and hear the buzz of creative conversations. The office was what made me a stronger creative. Sketches and retro packaging stapled to the walls, co-workers teaching me design tricks, and other inspirational interruptions seemed to help guide my work. How would I recreate this creative environment at home?
If you are working alone, the creative inspiration you get from your team can diminish, especially when you are looking at the same walls for months. Your playlist sounds the same, and you have exhausted Netflix. Because I knew remote working would last longer than what the news was saying, I dressed myself as a bandit looking to rob the midnight train. But the train was the office this time. You know what they say, getting the proper tools for the workspace can be challenging. The office was quiet and everything was empty as I grabbed my monitor and desk chair to take home. Without adding these two additions to my work setup, it would have been very hard to accomplish design work efficiently.
I was grateful for these life-savers, but it still took a few weeks to fully adjust and embrace new benefits. My fiancée and I started a mini-garden of tomatoes and some random plants we found on the balcony. I am now a gardener and designer. Now that I no longer commute, my new rush hour consists of watering the garden on time. It helps me get some fresh air and wakes me up for the day. Without our office’s coffee kiosk, I drink Four Sigmatic Mushroom Coffee for my focus and health. Now that I am home and not around my co-workers, I listen to several different podcasts to keep me motivated and inspired. I realized I do not like the quiet and need some sort of background noise, so I work with the sounds of the conversations and debates going on. Even though I only pay attention half the time, it keeps me focused.
In terms of communicating with my teammates, in-person meetings switched to Zoom and Teams. Cincinnati meets at 9am and 5pm to catch up on design projects and take a moment to share our personal stories—what we did over the weekend and what we have planned for the days ahead. Now that we’re working remotely, we’ve initiated daily (okay, almost daily) emails to inspire each other. It’s very fun to see each quote come through and reveal a little bit about the personality of who shared it.
As a company, Kaleidoscope has also engaged in weekly lunches for the design team for both Cincinnati and Chicago offices. I honestly didn’t know what to expect having lunch with both design teams. Especially slurping a bowl of chili over the mic. Thank God for the mute button. We meet every Friday at 1pm to take a break from our busy day and these lunches have been a fun way to maintain the in-person connections I value so much. We discuss a little bit of everything, mostly it’s how we keep ourselves entertained, what I may have missed on Netflix, book recommendations and recipes. Some people talk about their experiences going outside after weeks of being quarantined. It’s great getting to know my teammates in Chicago and to communicate more with them since all of this happened.
I have realized pets make the best and worst distractions. My cats have replaced the stress balls on my desk. Sometimes I’ll look over and get a meow of encouragement. Or it’s “Feed me more of those treats you got in the cabinet.” I’m still learning to speak the language. They are a great distraction to have. When I need a break from a design problem I am trying to solve, I’ll walk in the other room and see Wade and Whiskee hanging off the cat tree or taking a nap. I’ll pat them on the head and talk to them for a second. They always seem to know the right thing to say and give me fresh ideas I can apply to my work. I suppose inspirational interruptions are everywhere—and sometimes they have whiskers.