Working from Home

Spark at Home: What We’ve Learned

Working from home has always been an important element in the way we practice at Spark LLP. But although we were all equipped to work from home and our technology was set up to make working from home as seamless as possible, we have learned in the last month that working from home one or two days a week is markedly different from working at home All. The. Time.

We know that many of you have never worked at home before, or if you have, it has been infrequent and perhaps frowned-upon by your employer, many of which still have firmly-held beliefs about the importance of face time (and we don’t mean the video-calling app). We don’t have quite so far to adjust, although resisting the siren call of the refrigerator continues to be a challenge.

Some of us here at Spark live alone. Some of us have families. Some of us have pets. But all of us have learned a little about ourselves and about working from home in the past 437 weeks that working at home has been the default. So we thought we’d share a few things about ourselves: biggest lessons learned about ourselves and about working from home, techniques or routines that we have discovered work (or don’t work), what we have enjoyed most about working from home as a default, and the things that we most look forward to once it is no longer the default.

Sarah

  • Biggest adjustment: Working exclusively on a laptop and not having access to my huge dual monitors and full office equipment.
  • Coping mechanisms:  Online shopping, FaceTime.
  • Thing that is most amusing and annoying at the same time: Watching people learn how to use Zoom or Teams (it isn’t that hard, people!).
  • Biggest challenges: Having a significant other who lives in the United States.
  • Best lesson:  Don’t stop wearing makeup if it’s part of your normal routine. It makes you feel like a million bucks (USD) even if you’re sporting lounge-wear.
  • What I miss: Bars, restaurants and non-essential services.

Jeff

  • Biggest adjustment: Communicating without being able to read body language. Trying to maintain some measure of concentration with an inquisitive seven-year-old around.
  • Coping mechanisms: Streaming Sci-Fi in the background while working. Gaming with friends. Heluva Dip (in moderation). Wine (also in moderation). Not necessarily in that order.
  • Thing that is most amusing and annoying at the same time: The “my phone is on my kitchen table, so just look up my nose for the next 45 minutes” angles on video calls
  • Biggest challenges: Maintaining moderation in consumption of Heluva Dip and wine. Working to monitor and foster the positive mental health of both my home and my work families.
  • Best lesson: Even after 17 years of marriage, Elisa and I still have loads to talk about and have, I think, become even closer during this pandemic.
  • What I miss: The energy of the SparkTown community of lawyers, those days when everyone is in the office.

Bita

  • Biggest adjustment: Not being able to be with or care for my parents who are in long term care. The hardest thing is not seeing them and living with the knowledge that they are part of the most vulnerable population impacted by this pandemic.
  • Coping mechanisms: getting them on face time, this was fun. Our elliptical machine at home works. Astrological forecasts can be a great distraction…when things trouble you on earth.
  • What I love most about being at home: I often work from home but having my son home has allowed us to spend more time together and with our non-human friends. My dog, bird, and fish don’t know what’s going on but whatever it is, I see the gratitude in their faces (ok, maybe not so much with the fish).
  • What I miss most: People.
  • Best lessons: Any situation will have disparate impacts, on people, wildlife, our planet. This pandemic has been tragic and trying but it has shown us that mass mobilization is possible and can be done quickly; that our non-human friends may benefit from human isolation (both at home and in the natural world); that people are generally cooperative, loving and kind; and, that governments can find the resources to do what is necessary, attendant with legal reforms, and do so quickly if there is the political will (some are better than others). This is a collective moment for self-reflection and a forced reset to show us it is possible to do things differently. Slow down. Be kind. Stay positive. This too shall pass but the question will remain, how has it changed us for the better?

Alex

  • Biggest adjustment: Not being able to pop into my colleagues’ offices to talk about files, brainstorm ideas, or share funny stories (instant messaging doesn’t feel quite the same). And not being able to bake freely… where did all the flour go?!
  • Coping mechanisms: Taking a page out of the parenting handbook – hide and alternate toys/activities from toddlers or fur-babies so that they don’t get stale. This strategy also works well on adults who get bored easily (i.e., me). Currently in rotation: ukulele, playing Bastion (NG+ completion), and learning High Valyrian. 
  • Thing that is most amusing and annoying at the same time: How people react to physical distancing, especially at the grocery store. At one end of the spectrum are people who won’t even make eye contact from six feet away. At the other end are those who will sidle up right next to you to grab stuff from the same shelf. 
  • Biggest challenge: Remembering what day it is. The days are either “weekday” or “not weekday” at this point.

@CollegeStudent via Instagram

  • Best lesson: Being more-or-less isolated can have adverse effects: struggling to draw boundaries between work and home can lead to burnout, not being able to read people from emails and texts can lead to second-guessing and doubt, not being able to visit family and friends can lead to frustration and loneliness. These effects might not be immediate, or even perceivable at first. But it’s more important than ever to make sure negative feelings don’t get the best of us or the people we know. Look out for each other, understand that everyone has a different way of coping with difficult times, and carry forward that compassion even when things go back to normal. 
  • What I miss: The office, concerts, and other gatherings of more than five people. 

Sanjay

  • Biggest adjustment: Having to adjust to Zoom video calls instead of audio conference calls. What do you mean I have to shave everyday?!
  • Coping mechanisms: Spotify playlists. Wine, beer, scotch, rinse & repeat. 
  • Thing that is most amusing and annoying at the same time: This whole sourdough bread baking thing. I mean I love me some sourdough but why is everyone seemingly in a Twitter sourdough bakeoff all of a sudden?
  • Biggest challenge: Figuring out how to get consistent with at home workouts.
  • Best lesson: The simple act of “checking in” with a friend is very important to both people. While it may not be the same as physically spending time together, the “check-in” is good for mental health. Also, #supportlocal. I fear for the restaurant industry out of this so I’m trying as much as possible to support local food and beverage vendors.
  • What I miss: Massages.  My body feels like a pretzel! And dining out. Foodie experiences with takeout just aren’t the same.

Jacqueline

  • Biggest adjustment: Not working from Toronto during the week. 
  • Coping mechanisms: At-home yoga and long (like, really long), physically-distant walks. Social Zoom calls with friends.
  • Biggest challenge: Remembering the day of the week.
  • Best lesson: Green bags for storing produce are a lifesaver! They’re on Amazon and will save you from extra trips to the grocery.
  • What I miss: People! People at yoga. People at dinner. People at the office. People on the plane. And planes. I miss being able to fly.

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