A Virtual Day in the Life of an RGD: Tom Browne

Tom celebrating Tartan Day on April 6 in his home office, wearing ancient hunting tartans of his family clan, Mackintosh

In a new spin on our "Day in the Life" series, we're asking RGD Members to take us through their days as they work remotely during the COVID-19 pandemic. Up next is Tom Browne RGD, Art Director at Ontario Ministry for Seniors and Accessibility.


The Basics
Name: Tom Browne RGD
Company: Ontario Ministry for Seniors and Accessibility
Job Title: Art Director

Take us through a brief overview of your remote workday.
My daily activities look the same as when working in the office. I get up at the same time, go through the same morning routine, including riding my bike to work. However, rather than riding downtown to the office I ride around exploring the city, ending back home to my basement office. I try to ride 10-12 kilometres a day. 
What are you currently working on from home? 
Most of the jobs I was working on at the office are still moving forward, but slower. Our ministry has some urgent matters regarding the COVID-19 pandemic and I need to be very flexible and switch projects and priorities at any time, including applying new skill sets or helping other ministries.
Have you found any helpful tactics or strategies for staying focused and productive? 
I’m fortunate that I have over 10 years experience of being self employed, mostly working at home. I learned to focus on the job during business hours through trial and error in the past. My wife is working exclusively at home these days and she has similar hours as me. Our kids are at home wrapping up their year at college. So the distractions are minimal, mostly just the cats wanting attention, food or to sit in my work chair, like they usually do.  
How do you combat feelings of isolation or disconnect from your team? 
Lol. I’m a loner and introvert by nature. I have no problem with the current work from home situation. The work phone, workplace Adobe CC account and all the Microsoft tools on my iMac help me keep connected to my colleagues, management and internal clients. That all keeps work moving smoothly, but maybe a bit slower. I choose to use the work Window laptop for any video conferencing to help keep the iMac more secure.  
If applicable, how are you approaching working from home while your partner/family/roommates etc. are also home? 
My studio space in the our basement office/studio. We use an old dinning room table as the work desk – enough space for two to work comfortably. My wife and kids have laptops and work in the living or dinning rooms or their bedrooms. On warmer days my wife can work on the back porch. 
Have you discovered any advantages or disadvantages to working from home? If so, what are they? 
With working from home we are saving money by not purchasing coffee, lunch and gas. Good or bad, on my bike rides I’ve found a couple neighbourhood bakeries still open with curb side pick-up. The loner introvert thing I mentioned earlier … I also learned a long time ago I need to force myself to socialize. So I’ll need to work hard on that when things start to go back to normal [like 3 feet of snow over night, this is NOT the new normal, just a temporary inconvenience that will go away]. I always try to separate work from life as much as possible, which is a bit hard when your office is in your home. 
Do you have a favourite playlist or podcast that you’ve been listening to while working from home? 
As a former DJ, I love music and have a big collection. My iTunes library says I have 3,585 songs for 11.9 days of playtime. I also have several decades of records, including 78 rpm clay disks from my grandparents, I can play on my USB equipped turntable [even the 78 rpm ones]. I usually play what I call the "Echo and the Bunnymen and friends’ playlist". Recently, at an office team meeting I played a bit of Sweeney Todds, Foxy Roller for my colleagues.
Though seemingly contradictory, social distancing and community are intertwined. Do you have any thoughts or insights you’d like to share with other designers during this time? We’re all in this together.
When being self employed I learned, the hard way, how important it is to separate work from life. For the most part, work is there to subsidize the rest of my life. That’s why in stick with the same daily rituals as working in the office. When I walk away from the computer at the end of the work day I look forward to interacting with my family and friends, on the phone mostly, as well as having some personal time.