Creative

The art of self-employment during a global pandemic

The Art of Self-Employment During a Global Pandemic

Six tips to help entrepreneurs from an experienced work-from-home mum. Quick links to help you jump around this article:

With the novel global coronavirus pandemic that began to unfold early this year, you don’t need me to tell you that pretty much everything we thought we knew has been turned on its head. Everyone is stressed, overwhelmed, and several are having trouble coping with the “new normal” – for however long that new normal lasts. For many, working from home on top of all the new stressors is the ultimate challenge. This article is not intended for you newbies; although you truly do have my sympathy, there are several articles and resources online already for helping guide you into what will hopefully be a reasonably productive work environment. This article, however, is for those of us who were happily working from home prior to the pandemic.

As an entrepreneur and at least half-introvert, I’ve been quite content working from home for over ten years. I jealously guard my work space, which I have to consider sacred – my home is not big enough to have a dedicated office, so instead I do share it with our “guest room”, which is the extent of my graciousness. From time to time others in my household (ahem, husband) try to use the available floor space to pile up various seasonal junk or projects, and I quite emphatically and ruthlessly chuck them back out again. 

My husband and I started our first business while I had a small toddler and was pregnant with a second child. Unbelievably to me now, we used to share an office, a fact which today makes me shudder! I started my own business when my youngest was five years old, and my home’s work space and time became even more critical. Working from a home office with two wee ones is definitely part of my history, and honestly I try not to remember those times too clearly – young families with one or more parents trying to work from home today have all of my sympathy. 

I certainly am grateful that during this pandemic my children are now 10 and 13 and therefore quite capable of respecting my office space and work time. I am ecstatic that my children are not in grade twelve and facing the loss of their senior year of high school; I am equally grateful that my family is far-spread and the sudden lack of in-person visits is not the shock that it must be for many families and loved ones.

So, this is a short compilation of tips from an experienced work-from-home mum who is also trying to incorporate some self-directed learning for her kids during the pandemic. These tips should work for most people, although the section directed towards self-educating are obviously targeted for those who have children the same as my own.

Tip 1: Routine

We’ve all seen it – memes with the old cardigan, unwashed hair, and Christmas PJ pants. The longer this goes, the more “day drinking” memes are popping up too – which I sincerely hope is just a joke. It’s okay to let it all hang out for the first week or so and treat it like a stay-cation, but after that you’ve got to pull up your big-girl pants. One of the best parts of a daily routine is that it allows you to control some aspects of your life during a time when you can’t control everything. Keeping to a routine can also help deal with emotions such as helplessness, despair, and frustration. With everything else going on and an overall feeling of lack of control, anxiety and stress will soon begin to spiral upwards.

What was your pre-pandemic routine? Write it out, if it helps, and then figure out which parts of it you can keep going now. Be realistic and flexible – if your family is now underfoot, you can’t keep it all exactly as it was, but you can probably identify the important parts that help you feel grounded and functional. If you woke up everyday at 6am pre-pandemic, then continue that now. If you like to exercise before going to work, then keep doing it – within reason and following the recommended safety protocols. If you like to dress up for work, then do that. If on the other hand you go into permanent vacation mode and allow yourself to sleep in every day, skip workouts, not get dressed, not shower, the “stay-cation” loses its novelty real fast and you start to feel, let’s say, out of place. 

One of the easiest tips for people facing anxiety or depression can be simple self-grooming – get up, have a shower and shave (or whatever), and you already feel a bit better about yourself. And if you tend to stress eat, try to be mindful of what you’re eating and how frequently – this situation will last for a while, and feeling crappy about yourself due to poor nutrition choices is not going to help. 

Be flexible.

Bear in mind that us self-employed mums have probably found their work time drastically reduced during this pandemic. With the additional demands of kids and family, the number of hours I can dedicate each day to so-called productive work-time has definitely shifted. So in keeping with my mantra, try to be flexible with what you define as your schedule. For example, right now I find myself waking earlier than usual each day because I’m sleeping less (due to worry, etc). I used to have a good chunk of productive work time after the kids went to school. That doesn’t quite happen now. Rather than stress about sleeping less, I’ve shifted that work block to my new early morning alone time. I’m drinking more coffee and it’s taken me several days to write this article, where pre-pandemic it would’ve been several hours, but hey, it’s done!

Routines For Kids.

With kids, routines are always beneficial, and now keeping some kind of routine is even more critical. Their lives are turned upside down, they’re bored and can’t see their friends in person, and depending on their age they have no in-depth understanding of what the pandemic means. Their parents are likely stressed, cranky and irritable, and not in the frame of mind for constant play. 

After week two of being home from school, my own kids were already in permanent vacation mode. My youngest was sleeping in every day and staying up late at night, both wanted nothing more than prolonged video game time, and both were getting pretty bored and sniping at each other more than usual. When our province announced no return to school until at least May 1, the reality of the stay-home impact started to sink in for my daughter, who misses her friends greatly. I already knew they needed a new routine, so this was a good kick in the butt for me to get it started.

I’m a big googler, so I skimmed lots of online resources for kids’ homeschooling, remote schooling, even regular day planning schedules, looking for ideas and trying to find something that I didn’t have to make from scratch. I found some I liked, and lots that made me roll my eyes. I found one that I thought I really liked at kiwico.com, printed it as is and put it on the fridge. We didn’t last one full day. Maybe if I wasn’t also trying to work from home, this would have been fine, but whoa it’s too much scheduling for my family! I’m a pretty spontaneous person so rigid schedules don’t work for me. Turns out my daughter is a bit like me, although my son thrives on schedules and definitely prefers to know exactly what’s coming up when.

Printable Planners.

This is the kiwico schedule. This sucker is two whole pages long – for one day! For the record, it’s still really great, plus it’s really pretty and user-friendly. And I do absolutely love their activities list, which is at kiwico.com/kids-at-home. It’s just not a good match for my family (find the full schedule here): 

Part of the Kiwico learning schedule.

And this is the modified schedule that I ended up creating. This is a two-part schedule, one for daily routine and one for a weekly plan for activities and learning. The activities schedule design I stole from somewhere, probably Pinterest, that I can no longer find to reference (apologies to the original designer). The weekly plan is done on a weekly basis for two reasons: 1) I can’t possibly do this up every single day for a daily plan, and 2) my son in particular really benefits from being able to see what’s coming up. It also allows for easy modification if a new activity comes up for a day and bumps something shown on the list.

I put in learning activities (see list of links at end, if you’re interested) in each daily portion. The To-Do’s are chores, Options are reminders of things like YouTube yoga videos or other guided movements, Notes are for miscellaneous reminders, and Other Stuff is because I always need a catch-all spot for things that don’t seem to fit anywhere else!

Weekly Pandemic Planner (download link):

Weekly Planner

And this is our daily schedule, which was made in Google Sheets (download link):

Daily Schedule

I’m not including these here because I think everyone should use them. There probably are parents out there who can put more time into making and managing their kids’ learning schedules than I can, and there are probably others for whom even these are just too much. I’m including these here in case there are other self-employed caregivers who would find them helpful. If you’re lacking the software to modify these files yourself, feel free to reach out – I’m happy to customize them for you if desired 🙂 And by the way, there’s nothing wrong with handwritten schedules – there are lots of those on (of course) Pinterest too if you really need to balance the function and the “pretty”. But for whatever reason, my kids and I prefer more official-looking computer-generated versions.

Tip 2: Boundaries!

This tip is for both newbie work-from-homers and us more experienced ones too. Boundaries are important for work, time, and personal space. If your spouse and/or family is now in your home all day every day with you, chances are you’re feeling a bit pinched for space.

Work and Time Boundaries.

One of the easiest traps to fall into when working from home is to just keep working whenever you’ve got “free time”. If your business is project-dependent like mine, then sometimes a project deadline or urgent situation will require me to spend more time working. But giving up that free time is a choice that I can make on a case-by-case basis. Try to structure your day to include blocks of work time. If you have a spouse who’s also working from home, ideally you can both take turns at the work block so someone is always keeping the kids busy. 

For me, a work block needs to be at least one full hour so I can focus in on a project and actually accomplish something – half an hour is just not enough for me to get my creative juices flowing, or even to start hammering through a to-do list. And as a get-it-done person, I need to be able to feel like I’m accomplishing tasks throughout the day, regardless of whether they’re work tasks, house tasks, or whatever category they fall into. But until there’s a routine or if your kids are too small to respect your time, you might need to accept that a half-hour work block is the best you can manage right now. And that’s okay! Be flexible. If it helps, pretend all the breaks in between work are actually intentional movement breaks, and do something with the kids. 

Be sure to keep personal time on the schedule for the day! Even if the day feels like it’s spiralling out of control – or especially when – please try to take the time to do at least one thing that’s just for you. One of the criteria for my 2020 mantra is to not be that mum who drops everything to help everyone else: I’m keeping time for me and my own good feeling. This new focus enables me to set aside time each day for a workout, and sometimes a run too, and not feel too guilty about it. Luckily this habit started in January, so I had a couple of months’ practice leading up to the pandemic, which makes it easier to stick to the habit. My kids quickly became accustomed to me saying “no” if they ask me for anything while I’m in the middle of a workout, although we’re still working on the notion that sometimes I can’t respond at all when I’m sweating like a madman and in the middle of something really difficult!

Having said that, I’ve had many, many days over the years where my only personal time during the day was walking my dog. Lots of dog walks with kids in strollers, or the always-dependable nap drive. One of my best discoveries as a mum of toddlers (other than the nap drive) was to plant them in the stroller with books, a snack, and even let them play a video game while I got out for a walk. Even with the best of intentions, sometimes you’ve just got to make do, and the dog always needs to get outside. Be gentle on yourself if you’re struggling to adjust.

Space Boundaries.

Can you separate your workspace from your living space?

Congratulations if you’ve got a whole separate room you can use – and if it’s got a door you can close, even better! If you’ve been working from home for awhile but don’t have a dedicated space, now’s the time. Your family is going to be on top of you all day, every day. You need some boundary to stop work time and downtime from bleeding together. It can also help create mental boundaries: your work space is where you “go to work”. If you only go there to work and no other activity, it will act as a mental trigger to help allow you to focus. It can also really help to mark the space for your family, so your kids know that when you’re in there, they are not to interrupt – or at least interrupt less.

Room dividers can work well for this. If you don’t already have one, you can make your own (like these on spruce.com), or even just hang up a blanket. Make it a nice blanket or sheet you don’t mind looking at, and you’re all set! If you need to video conference, the blanket divider can serve as the background of your video, so it’s less distracting for the other participants.

Choose a good location (aka don’t work at the kitchen table). If you don’t have a whole room dedicated to your work space, you might need to consider whether your space will be used by anyone else during your work hours. Try to find a spot that’s away from the primary living areas. Think about what you’ll need: do you need privacy? Quiet? Electrical outlets? 

I sometimes work at the kitchen table pre-pandemic, but only to change things up or if it’s particularly sunny outside and I want to bask while I work. With your whole family at home… all day… the kitchen is probably a high-activity zone, and therefore distracting and probably noisy. Plus, I’m lazy and setting up and removing the work space multiple times during the day would just tick me off. Never mind the problem of ergonomics, as below.

Tip 3: Pay Attention to Ergonomics.

Ergonomics diagram

There’s nothing worse than getting set up and cramping up after a little while because your chair’s the wrong height, or your posture is atrocious. It doesn’t have to be complicated, or an expensive solution. Put your laptop on top of a stack of books, if your ergonomic angles are wrong. And don’t forget, your kids are probably spending a lot of time online or working at a table doing schoolwork if it’s available. Try to provide them with a “work area” so they can use the same boundary principles that you use for your own work space.

Tip 4: Let in light! 

Many of us will be using spaces in basements or other areas with little to no natural light. I’m a huge fan of natural light, and although my home office is in my basement I have a window that saves my bacon. I know I would lose my mind if I had to work in a space with no windows at all. If you have limited light and need options, use the tips in this Inc.com article and consider investing in “daylight” bulbs that mimic natural lighting. Also, try to use task lights rather than just artificial overhead lighting. 

Tip 5: Take Movement breaks.

We call them “go noodles” in our house, after the gonoodle.com website that my kids introduced me to when their elementary school used them during the school day. When my kids are plugged in to whatever screen activity, they’re required to “go noodle” every hour or so. Sometimes they’re in charge of coming up with an activity, and sometimes I’ll make up something silly for them to do, or I’ll do it with them. Having intentional movement breaks throughout the day is so helpful, and it doesn’t have to be jumping jacks – although any movements that don’t involve setting up anything and can be done right beside your workspace are great – there are loads of online resources that you can use for ideas.

Tip 6: Get Organized.

This is a good one, and deserving of more space than I’ll give it in this article. If you’re already a super-organized soul and have your own tools at ready, then good for you and you can either skip this part or check it out anyway cuz you never know. If you’re scrambling to figure out how to organize your time and projects during this new crazy era, then maybe this will be your ultimate relief. Two words: bullet journals.

I learned about bullet journals for the first time from one of my favourite new podcasts, The Perimenopausal Mamas (a client and good friend). As a result, I have signed up for the free bullet journal course myself; some early morning this week I’m even going to complete it. I confess that the idea of highlighters and multiple marker colours gives me the heebie-jeebies, but I suspect it will help. On a recent podcast episode, guest Nicole North of Whiteboard Consulting offers an article explaining bullet journals and how to get started using them.

Summary

I really hope you’ll find something useful in this article. If you’re also a work-from-home parent, feel free to share your own tips and resources here. You never know when some little piece of information will help someone else.

List of References:

These are some of my faves. I don’t benefit in any way if you click on these, but if you like them please let me know so I can pat myself on the back 🙂

  • Kiwico.com – at-home resources for kids and their grownups. Includes printable STEAM activities, Parent Toolkits, and all kinds of cool stuff (free and otherwise).
  • Scholastic Learn At Home – not Canadian, but I like how they’ve grouped their activities. My kids are currently following the daily schedule here, until our local Department of Education releases their own content.
  • Curiosity Stream – subscription website offering “thousands” of documentaries. Not free.
  • Khan Academy – A nonprofit offering “world-class education for anyone”. Free or by donation. Totally awesome learning website. They have recently added a student schedule that is customized by grade and is freely available, and which you might prefer over mine above.
  • Go Noodle – I can’t say enough about this website, I freaking love it. Movement and mindfulness videos by child development folks.
  • Perimenopausal Mamas Podcast – this is a new podcast for mums in their 40s offered by two Canadian naturopathic doctors. Since your own self-care is super critical right now, I highly recommend this podcast to help guide your own health.
  • The Spruce – neat ideas for stuff you can make, including room dividers.
  • Bullet Journaling – article by Whiteboard Consulting about how to get started with bullet journals. Free tutorials available.

It’s All About the Blend

Utopia: The Work-Life Balance

Source article here.

In this economy, you might feel pressured to sacrifice a work-life balance just to keep your job. But after you hear the trade-offs, you might reconsider.

A good work-life balance is one in which you work to live, not live to work. We all need to work to pay the mortgage or the rent, put food on the table, and provide for our families. But when you are working so much that you don’t have time to spend with the ones you love, what good is all that money and all those lost hours with your loved ones really worth? Sometimes we get so caught up in work that we forget about our lives and forget to prioritize what’s important. That’s normal. But you, and only you, are in charge of your work-life balance – not your boss.

Things that contribute to a bad work-life balance:

  1. Working for someone you abhor
  2. Working for a company you despise
  3. A long commute or a short one with hellacious traffic
  4. Working for a company that doesn’t value your values (e.g., vacation time, flexible schedule, recognition, pay)

Inter-office Stress

Let’s face it: working for someone you hate or for a company you despise is more stressful than you can imagine. You get worked up every time you open an email from your boss, or every time you walk into the office. You despise your meetings with your boss, and you do what you can to avoid him/her.

We all know that a surge in adrenaline caused by severe emotional stress causes the blood to clot more frequently, which increases the risk of having a heart attack. So wouldn’t you want to reduce your stress level by working in a better place or for a better boss?

Commuting Stress

A long commute is another detriment to your life. Even if you’ve managed to mentally deal with road rage, embraced public transportation, and reduced your carbon footprint, you are still robbing yourself of time – your precious time. Eight or more hours in the car or on the train is the equivalent of working an extra day per week, but you’re only getting paid for five, not six.

You can talk yourself into it any way you want by claiming to multitask from the road, by taking phone calls, having meetings, texting, shaving, putting your makeup on – whatever. But you are still robbing yourself and the people you are interacting with of your full attention. Not to mention that if you are driving while doing these things, you are a danger to society.

Prioritizing Your Time

Time is a precious thing that we all take for granted when we get into a groove with something. But life can change in an instant. Remember 9/11? Or how about the 1989 Loma Prieta earthquake? Life happens, and sometimes we don’t get to do it “tomorrow.”

Your inbox and email will still be there tomorrow. You can miss that supposedly important work meeting and catch up via meeting notes or via a co-worker tomorrow. The point is that until you set boundaries, no one else will respect your time. Only you control your work-life balance, so decide how you will react to things, and know that only you can set your boundaries. Take charge of your life again.

Only you control your work-life balance, so decide how you will react to things, and know that only you can set your boundaries. Take charge of your life again.

How to encourage creativity

Creativity is such a buzz word these days, and as always, the internet is full of useful (ahem!) information. Advice is often directed to corporate workspaces and a manager’s responsibility to enable and encourage creativity among her staff. As an entrepreneur, that kind of advice doesn’t apply to my situation. Instead, I’m going to include some of the tips that work for me here.

There are many definitions of creativity. For the purposes of this short article, I’m using the term creativity in a generic problem-solving sense. For me, that’s what creativity boils down to: solving problems by finding news ways to express or do something.

Just as art is in the eye of the beholder, the process of creativity itself can be pretty subjective. If you’re a creative person, you might find that getting out of your studio or workspace helps to get your juices flowing. Or you might find that burrowing into your studio and being hands-on in your materials and tools is the best way to come up with new ideas or solutions. The important thing to remember is to find what works for you.

And if you’d like to switch it up and read about how to destroy creativity, try this article here.

7 Inspirations to help you become more creative

  1. Change your daily routine. Go somewhere new in your neighbourhood. Walk a different path. Talk to someone you’ve never spoken with before. You don’t have to fly across the world to have a new experience.
  2. Document everything. Photos, notes, collectables, memorabilia. Even if you’re not sure, tuck it away. (This advice is tricky for me, as I’m a purger – I have trouble storing things. And if it’s not well-organized, my “documentation” intentions are doomed.)
  3. Give yourself a phone-free hour. If you’re a single parent and worried about notifications from your kids, then remove or mute any notifications from anyone but your kids’ schools or caregivers. And spend that hour doing something you enjoy. It could be a walk outside, reading a book, picking up a paintbrush or your knitting needles, whatever – just don’t plop down in front of the TV.
  4. Tend to procrastinate? Give yourself a deadline. Some of us need a little bit of healthy stress from a reasonable deadline in order to produce anything useful.
  5. Don’t think about past actions. Don’t get stuck in older ideas, no matter if they’re good or bad. Regrets, past glories, doesn’t matter. This is a moment you are giving yourself to be IN the moment.
  6. Don’t talk yourself out of it. Sometimes you look at what you think you need to have in order to be creative, and forget to use what you have. It can be easy to say, “Oh I can’t possibly make that because I don’t have [ fill in the blank: proper studio space, the right tools, etc ],” thereby giving yourself an easy excuse.
  7. Stay yourself. Don’t always follow the rules; allow yourself space to maintain your individuality as a person and as a creator. As Anthony Burrill says, Conformity is the enemy of creativity.

Traditional office or coworking?

Is the traditional office a thing of the past?

Original article Oct 25, 2017. Updated January 2021.

The traditional office: a place where employees congregate Monday through Friday for 40+ hours per week to produce work for a company. Articles used originally in the research for this writing claimed that estimates were that by 2020, more than 40% of the American workforce (60 million people), would be freelancers, contractors, and temporary employees. This is, by the way, NOT necessarily the same thing as a “gig economy“, which has its own risks.

Now that it’s 2021 and we’re into nearly a full year of a global pandemic, how did these estimates hold up?

Evolving Environments

The traditional work environment was changing even before the pandemic. Companies were moving away from “Cubicle Land” environments or private offices with long, echo-y halls and fluorescent lighting, and into more open office designs.

Open offices – In 2016, Microsoft redesigned part of its campus into “neighbourhoods” – they switched from largely private offices to teams with their own customized, open common room, dedicated focus and meeting rooms.

Other workspaces were pretty radical compared to the old days of Cubicle Land, without necessarily being Microsoft-scale. You’ve probably heard of tech companies whose amazing working spaces included ping pong tables and sleep pods, play areas, adaptable work spaces that could suit an individual’s working method, and flexible working hours.

Activity-based – Another design, originating in the Netherlands, is activity-based, to best suit the type of work being done on a given day. For example, writers all sat together, and for every person there might be three places in a building where that person could sit. Gathering spaces are available for staff to come together as an organization. Check out this case study from Veldhoen Company.

Other open offices based their “neighbourhoods” by client industries – for example, people who serve the food and beverage industry work in the same space, creating a kind of brain trust of people with the same expertise.

Hot desk – Hotdesking or hoteling is another concept, albeit with mixed success. This environment is where people work where they want, without an assigned desk. This is a great concept for equalization, as partners sit in the same desks as everyone else.

What About Productivity?

Regardless of your company’s layout, there does remain an argument for some kind of private office. According to this article, some research shows that worker productivity depends upon the environment they’re in; globally, 39% of workers felt most productive at their own desk (Canada was at 50%). So perhaps the best scenario is a flexible one, with a combination of open plan and private office availability. In my own home office scenario, although I love to work at the kitchen table when everybody’s out and the sun is shining, I do in fact feel more productive in my actual office area.

Co-working

The rapid rise in co-working, defined as “the use of an office or other working environment by people who are self-employed or working for different employers, typically so as to share equipment, ideas, and knowledge,” also started to change the way we work. Co-working was a way to escape the isolation and loneliness of working at home, and offered the possibility of interaction with other people in a public place.

Co-working isn’t just a thing for companies and their new corporate vibes, either. You could reserve a dedicated desk in an office, or hot-desk in a shared office, and you could have them available in a range of settings and for a range of rates. With the flexibility of short-term use and the ability to work with other human bodies nearby, co-working spaces offer an experience that many self-employed folks can’t otherwise have.

Some managers and companies have noticed that their workers have turned out work just as well, if not better, while working from home. Of course, not every job can be done from home. But, for those that can, it seems that some companies recognize that working from home can provide some great benefits to their workers – and maybe to their own bottom line. But for companies looking to design a flexible work practice, the initial motivation can’t be about cost-cutting but rather about a purpose-designed perspective.

Some Impacts of Switching Away From Traditional Office

Even before the pandemic, lockdowns, and shutdowns, there were concerns about the risk to real estate and other considerations if big companies realized they no longer needed to rent or lease large commercial spaces. There are too many impacts to list them all here, but here are a few that would impact the individual worker perhaps the most:

Overhead Costs – Most companies don’t own their office buildings; instead, they might lease from a real estate company or other building owner. If your workers can do just as well working from home, and you don’t have or need a storefront, does your company actually need a commercial space anymore? Downsizing so workers share a smaller workspace on a rotating schedule, or even removing that cost entirely is possible for some companies. Any overhead costs that are theoretically saved could then be passed on to the workers in the form of more compensation, or other benefits – or investing in the virtual meeting technology you’re likely to need.

Commuting Time – Traffic accidents are all too common in the US and Canada. Many of them occur during the commute to and from work. If you’re working (or learning) from home and cutting out the need for that commute, that risk of accident is significantly lower.

The fewer people that are on the road in the mornings and at rush hour, the better. By removing many commuters from the equation, those who have to commute to work should have an easier drive.

Having that time back in your life has its ups and downs, of course – some commuters are thrilled to regain that “book-end” time (at the beginning and end of the day) and fill it with other activities. Others, particularly those who could ride public transit, miss that time they would spend prepping or decompressing, listening to podcasts, or just relaxing down time.

And of course, fewer cars on the road should be great for the environment. Remember the first month or so of the pandemic, when news reports were observing how the environment was changing in response to our human activity changes?

Comfort and Accessibility – For some people, working from home just feels better. They love not having to rush around in the morning, not needing to fight traffic, not needing to meet a specific dress code, and the ability to work from a safe space. Workers with mobility issues can benefit greatly from telecommuting. And there is an argument that working from home could be a great equalizer – provided, of course, that high-speed internet is made available to all, never mind the equipment you need to be able to perform the work itself.

Where is co-working and the traditional office at now?

It can’t be overstated: This has been a truly bizarre year. Due to the pandemic, there has been a huge shift to working (and learning) from home. COVID caused major changes in workplaces, and many people still wonder if they’re ever returning to the office. Now, in January 2021, we are well into the global second wave, and these questions are still just as relevant.

Many offices have reopened. Many continue to be closed, as their staff settle in to the new normal of virtual meetings, a laptop squeezed into a corner of a family area at home, and a neverending supply of tracksuits and yoga pants. Some offices are rotating employee schedules to minimize the risk of exposure, while simultaneously enabling staff to have some regular office access. And unfortunately, some offices won’t even have the luxury of considering reopening. Hopefully, for the companies who do survive and can revamp their strategies, they will be able to keep process design in mind, rather than just cost-based.

A quick online search indicates that there are a few co-working spaces in nearby (for me) Halifax that are still open and available. As I’m not in the market for such spaces right now, I haven’t verified that information, but I hope those spaces are still accessible for my fellow entrepreneurs and contractors/consultants.

My Own Nomadic Experience

Home to shared to back home again… In 2017, I divided my time between my home office, and local coffee shops for meeting spaces. Because my work office is portable – I am very much a nomadic worker – I can literally work from anywhere as long as my mobile hotspot could provide me with a decent internet connection. When my kids were participating in activities in the city, I often spent time working at public libraries, art galleries, and anywhere that offered good natural lighting and reasonable parking.

However, I was beginning to tire of coffee-shop meetings and hustling clients through the family disaster household to my basement office. I was also beginning to consider the benefits of sharing work space with other humans, to gain some social interaction back into my work life – interaction that can be lacking as a self-employed entrepreneur. In late 2018, I began sharing a work space with a small group of other local businesspeople, in an arrangement that worked beautifully for us. But it didn’t last long – thanks, global pandemic.

Now as we enter the second wave, we are very lucky in Nova Scotia to have maintained record low numbers of COVID cases. As the rest of this country endures severe lockdowns, our own lives continue without much visible disruption. With my own children in public school, easy access to high speed internet, and a spouse who continues to work outside the home, I consider myself extremely fortunate to be able to continue working from my home office much as I have for several years. In fact, the only real difference between my work setup now and my work setup of five years ago is the normalization of virtual meetings. Video conferencing was barely on my radar in the pre-pandemic days, yet now it’s become almost more common than a telephone call.

So what’s next?

It will be very interesting to watch the continuing evolution of workspaces over the next few years as the pandemic moves further away in our rearview mirror. With the proper integration of technology, collaboration and creativity can be off the charts. It’s impossible for construction techniques to keep up with the pace of technology – you can design a building with all the latest techie things, but by the time the build is complete, those latest techie things are not the latest anymore. It will always be critical to design a workspace based on how people will interact with the technology. For the companies and offices that do survive this global pandemic, and whether you and I continue to work from home or not, I hope that underlying thought process will be at the heart of any design or strategy.