A Virtual Day in the Life: Chaza Abdel Samad Provisional RGD

Chaza Abdel Samad Provisional RGD, Innovation Designer, Employment and Social Development Canada, shares her WFH experience.


The Basics

Job Title: Innovation Designer
Take us through a brief overview of your remote workday.
Every morning, I start my day with a cup of freshly-brewed coffee and a notepad. As I sip on my coffee, I think about the day ahead of me. I use my notepad to write out my personal and professional goals for the day. I do all of this before checking my phone or going on social media. I then do a quick online search for podcasts, ted talks and virtual events related to my goals. I use my breaks to listen to them. In this way, I can accomplish my personal and professional goals in parallel. I then proceed with my workday, which is usually filled with virtual meetings.
No matter how busy the day gets, I always make an effort to end my work day on time. This balance keeps me refreshed and energized for the next workday. In the evenings, I go for walks along the water. The fresh air and physical activity are very refreshing. Just as I started my day on paper, I end my day on paper by sketching. It is great to end the day doing something I love. 
What are you currently working on from home? 
Currently, I am working with my team on implementing Human-Centred Design in the policy making process.
Have you found any helpful tactics or strategies for staying focused and productive? 
Some of the strategies that I have found useful in staying focused and productive: 
  • Keeping a consistent routine with regular work hours and ensuring I take daily lunch breaks, which I used to skip quite frequently in pre-pandemic times.
  • Reaching out to my colleagues to bounce ideas off one another when I am experiencing a creative block. 
  • Getting inspiration from others by unplugging myself out of the routine and plugging myself into different conversations, events and webinars. 
A tactic that has worked well for me is accepting that in these unprecedented times, where social distancing has become the new norm, productivity levels may fluctuate. Ensuring that I communicate this to my team as it occurs and that I am more forgiving of myself, has helped me to keep going. 
How do you combat feelings of isolation or disconnect from your team? 
In my opinion, combating the feeling of isolation and disconnect from the team is a joint responsibility between individuals and management. I am fortunate that my management has set the tone for staying united and connected since the beginning of isolation. Every week, there are two division meetings and one team meeting, in addition to social chats at the end of the week. This keeps the lines of communication strong and open among the teams and their members and allows us to check on each other. I am truly blessed to be a part of this team. 
Have you discovered any advantages or disadvantages to working from home? If so, what are they? 
Advantages: I had to develop a new set of skills. Presenting and facilitating workshops, ideation and brainstorming sessions virtually meant learning new skills and strategies to first, grab and hold the attention of the audience and participating members and second, to ensure the outcomes generated are fully captured. 
Disadvantages: Shifting from in-person to virtual sessions and workshops meant that we lose the dynamic that can exist in a room. I miss the experience of improving morale in a workshop by moving around the room using sticky notes and white boards.
Do you have a favourite playlist or podcast that you’ve been listening to while working from home? 
Music is a very important part of my day. I always have it playing in the background. I can’t say I have a favourite playlist, as part of the fun of music for me is listening to new songs and discovering new artists. 
Podcasts, on the other hand, are a part of the structure I set for myself each day. I make sure to choose them in such a way that they are applicable to my personal and professional goals. One of my favourite ones is The Future with Chris Do, as it discusses a diverse range of topics.
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. 
Considering that our screen time has gone up significantly, so has our exposure to distractions and negativity on social media and television. We need to become more conscientious of what and who we are listening to and strengthen our ability to distance ourselves from all the noise that surrounds us constantly. Within these unprecedented times, we have to strengthen our ability to control the noise so as not to let it consume us.

Chaza is an OCAD U alumna with a passion for design and the endless possibilities the application of its principles has across different sectors. Chaza loves designing experiences and telling stories using various mediums and platforms. Currently, she works as an Innovation Designer at Employment and Social Development Canada (ESDC). She joined the ESDC family as the first designer to be hired within the policy development branch. Chaza is always striving to do work that is meaningful and impactful, which she has been able to achieve in her present role. She is currently expanding her knowledge in behavioural insights to improve her experience design skills.


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