Take us through a brief overview of your remote workday.
My remote workday is a lot like it was before because I run my company out of my home but now my partner is working from home and that’s probably the biggest change. The start of my day now is a lot more relaxed as we get to sleep in a bit because my partner isn’t commuting. After breakfast I walk Legend (my retired service dog) which usually results in him lying down in the grass for a good 15 minutes, during which time I take a moment to mentally take a breath or reflect on what I need to accomplish that day. When I get home, I generally go through my emails and to-do list, which helps me organize my day. Then, I dive in! In spite of a busy schedule, I always try to finish each day around the same time for two reasons: (1) it’s very easy to let the lines between work and home life blur during this time; and (2) my dog get very cranky if I go back to work after his early evening walk (he can be pretty cheeky sometimes).
What are you currently working on from home?
I can’t share my current work project, but there is one project that required a complete rework due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Last winter, I worked with a Professor at the Rotman School to create an analog prototype pocket guide to assist her in teaching the concept and process of Business Design. Along came the summer semester and we realized that our existing prototype wasn’t going to work in a virtual platform. Over a 3-week period we created version 2.0, a pocket guide that is digital- and analogy-friendly as well as encourages learning through peer and technological engagement. It was an incredible experience thinking through the process of how more or less prescriptive a professor must be in a digital vs. an analog teaching environment. Currently version 2.0 has been through a 2-week intensive class with positive feedback from the students. The best part about this project is that it is an ever-evolving prototyping and refining process based on student feedback, ethnographic observation and information design. Our next testing group will be the Fall semester and I can’t wait to hear how the students respond!
The analog version of the Business Design Pocket Guide (Beta 2.0)
Since my business is in the beginning phases of development I’m also working daily on creating a social media and client recruitment strategy.
Have you found any helpful tactics or strategies for staying focused and productive?
There are a few tactics and strategies that I have for staying focused and productive:
(1) Creating a dedicated workspace.
(2) Sticking to a regular work schedule and not letting work time creep into non-work time.
(3) Taking breaks: this can be really hard when you’re working from home because it is easy to get completely absorbed in what you are doing.
(4) Making myself accountable by creating personal goals and deadlines even if they aren’t demanded by the client.
(5) Get outside! Relax/Meditate!
Legend enjoying a lounge in Queen’s Park
How do you combat feelings of isolation or disconnect from your team?
I am currently a design firm of one so this doesn’t necessarily apply to me. But I do find it very helpful to chat on video with clients to help them feel more connected to me and the work we’re carrying out together.
If applicable, how are you approaching working from home while your partner/family/roommates etc. are also home?
We’re both designers so we tend to get caught up in our work but our dog always makes sure to let us know that it is time to take a break or it is the end of the work day! One of the most challenging aspects is that we only have enough room to create one designated workspace to accommodate both of us, side by side.
Working side-by-side, literally.
Have you discovered any advantages or disadvantages to working from home? If so, what are they?
(1) Cooking dinner is way easier when you’re both working from home!
(2) More sleep!
(3) Easier to spend quality time
(4) For me, since I work by myself most of the time, it is great to have someone to bounce off concept and design ideas
(5) No commute time for client meetings
(1) Work creep (otherwise known as becoming a workaholic)
(2) Lack of personal time
(3) Managing meetings when both of you have them at the same time
Do you have a favourite playlist or podcast that you’ve been listening to while working from home?
I’m a true crime buff, so I’ve been working my way through a lot of these types of podcasts. To name a few: Uncover, Someone Knows Something, Detective Trapp and Crime Beat. Along the same lines, another podcast that I’ve been catching up on is Ear Hustle, it is about the realities of life inside at San Quentin State Prison.
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.
I think right now it is about being smart, thinking through your actions and not just thinking of yourself. It’s easy to think that you’re healthy and this won’t affect you, which can lead to reckless actions but we have to think about those in our community that are disadvantaged due to their health, age or other factors. 2020 has definitely brought to light the importance of thinking of others and those who don’t share the same social or economic circumstances. Reflect on yourself, your actions and the actions of those around you. Stay safe and healthy!
Michelle is Founder, Creative Designer and Information Specialist at Hopgood Creative. She helps researchers, academics and thinkers use the power of design to explain complex ideas. With over 15 years of experience in design, information, knowledge and information management, Michelle brings a unique perspective to clients and business. She holds a diploma from Sault College, a Bachelor of Design from OCAD University and a Master of Information from the University of Toronto. Michelle was a recipient of RGD’s In-House Design Awards 2016 and a speaker at DesignThinkers TO 2019. She has an unshakeable commitment to making complex ideas beautiful to help her clients get media attention, teach courses and reach a wide audience.