A COVID-19 diary

Apr 23, 2020

Since March 16, the Roleplay team moved home and started working remotely. Like with most, if not all, companies in design, tech, architecture, engineering, advertising, video etc, this decision is aligned with the public demand for distancing and health protection against the spreading of COVID-19. After more than a month in voluntary quarantine, this is a brief account of —mostly personal— observations of what seems to be the new normality.


Work from home

Our home offices swiftly became our personal booths of creativity. Luckily our team was already equipped with the technology and the culture of remote working (video calls, shared documents, cloud storage, messaging platforms etc) due to our previous efforts to establish co-working standards, reporting habits and communication with clients and collaborators from abroad. We also quickly introduced new routines to substitute the lack of physical presence including a daily catch-up and planning session (instead of the weekly one we had established since last summer), a weekly lunch-over-Skype. Well, this new distanced condition seemed to work quite fine in terms of creativity, productivity and accountability.

The office culture we were striving to establish was significantly enhanced by the fact that people got to know what others had been working on better, directors were more available and there was actually more communication between team members than when at the office.


Less work vs Work less

Most businesses found themselves with frozen, postponed or even cancelled projects while clients —depending on the industry they were active in— were busy dealing with the prospective uncertainty in the economy. We were lucky to be faced with a less busy yet still busy timetable for the coming months. At the same time, having more flexible deadlines and fewer incoming requests allowed for a new, manageable workload equilibrium. What seemed to be elusive after the most comprehensive planning now just landed naturally in our everyday. Especially those of us with young kids resulting in fewer hours available for work were astonished to notice that our 4-5 hour daily shift has been enough to keep things moving.

Punctual and relatively shorter meetings (everybody’s on-time and almost nobody can stand a long video-call), less distractions (fewer phone calls, isolation in a private room instead of our otherwise lovely open-plan office space) and the blessing of being busy during a time of professional turmoil has resulted in less yet more productive office hours per day.


Versatility pays back

Since the very beginning we have employed a multi-disciplinary generalist approach to our business deciding to open up our services spectrum rather than focus in one field. While this versatile profile has been at times hard to defend and practice —and surely there have been times we flirted with specialisation in order to save ourselves from creative fragmentation and workload vertigo— it’s proving to be a wise business direction during the COVID crisis.

Not done really intentionally in the first place but rather out of our multifaceted backgrounds and diverse aspiration, it’s true that not all can go wrong at the same time. A creative office with a wide range of client and output types can always setback to one objective or industry when the other collapses.

Off screen work

Already spending too much time before screen displays, it was almost a necessity to get our hands creatively —and literally— dirty. So we decided to realise that lettering workshop we had been postponing for weeks. We sure had to keep our screens on to call this a workshop but we definitely kept our eyes of the screen for most of the time.

Eye contact

Speaking of eyes on the screen, we noticed that even though we are able to see each other on the screen it’s impossible to have eye contact through it. The moment you stare at your webcam so your interlocutor gets your direct glance you can’t view their face anymore. So, everyone is gazing a little bit off, in a tv show fashion were the members of the call are presenters and spectators in rotation.


Life/Work balance(d)

The #stayhome quarantine has a lot to deprive as well as to offer depending on your marital status, age group, professional modus etc. Some of us finally enjoy the place they enjoyed to call home just to spend a few awaken hours in it. Others are already missing the daily routine of commuting to and from work —the obligatory interval any journey provides. Many have finally found the time to start that personal side project that was always left behind. More have failed in actually starting it. For the ones with kids, the current inconvenience of having to occupy their little ones day-in, day-out, might later prove to have provided a priceless bonding time when most young families suffer from modern life disruptions.

In any case, observing this international turmoil via articles, videos, the news and statistics has become the new addiction possibly letting us with less time to watch the movies and series we’ve been listing for a while. Sooner or later, this passiveness is evolving in reaction —be it a creative project or a life decision.


The end of circular time?

Many find themselves working constantly from home not being able to prioritise the time and the place. In a personal note, it has been important setting up a daily routine so that self-isolation didn’t feel like an endless weekend. However, it’s been as important keeping a weekly routine and reinvent the weekends by adding special treats such long walks, personal projects, housekeeping and meet-ups with friends for a wine —over Skype of course! The new daily routine has seemed to raze our perception of time, the passing of the days, the weeks, the months.

The extraordinary experience of the Greek Easter attended by most city residents through their balconies demonstrated a strong affection to the customs that celebrate the passing of the seasons. During these flat and dangerous times, let’s fight for the endurance of circular time :)