Greetings from Our New Frontier
“Captain’s Log. Stardate May 8, 2020: Seven weeks ago, the SLS Enterprise embarked on a voyage into uncharted territory, boldly going where many of our crew had never gone before—home to work and shelter in place. Resistance was futile.”
Down here on Earth, daily life feels alien and otherworldly for almost everyone right now. Even actor William Shatner hasn’t been able to resist the temptation of chronicling the COVID-19 experience as if it were a sci-fi movie. He’s been tweeting Captain Kirk style about “self-imposed isolation” from his couch instead of the deck of the USS Enterprise.
It’s no different for the SLS crew. Street Level Studio temporarily closed up its workspace on March 16 and dispatched everyone to work remotely. Our mission: to keep being creative on behalf of our design and marketing clients—and ourselves. Though considerably less perilous than intergalactic exploration, this mission comes with its own set of challenges, discoveries, even moments of interspecies diplomacy involving our pets, who are probably quite surprised (and maybe a bit miffed) to have us around all day! Fortunately, no tribbles.
A quick survey of the crew revealed the adventure has affected us in both expected and surprising ways—enabling a few of our bad habits, emphasizing some of our strengths, even bringing out our inner teachers, artists, chefs, and game show hosts! Mostly, it has impressed upon all of us the importance of staying connected. So, since we are unable to perform a Vulcan mind meld, here are some highlights from several of the Street Level Studio team’s personal “captain’s logs” by way of a catch-up.
Viorel, Office Manager
Ever the engineer, Viorel analyzed and organized his experiences into categories.
- Practical—Saving time and money by not driving to work. I haven’t bought gas in more than a month, even with three cars! I use the extra time to read, sharpen my skill set, get more organized.
- Personal—Having more time to spend with my family. I am making up for lost time with my girls, like eating lunch together during the week. That’s never happened before, except on vacation!
- Professional—Mastering new communication channels for tutoring math in the evening—especially helping kids who are having a tough time with e-learning. It’s technology I’ll use in the future.
- Frustration—I can’t just pop in with a question and get a quick answer. Instead, I have to rely on asynchronous electronic interactions with coworkers and business contacts.
- Anxiety—Specifically, not knowing how and when we will get back to a “close to normal” state (business and personal).
- Isolation—We cannot go to church on Sunday or meet with our friends.
- Proximity—Of the refrigerator during the day; of the bar (inner-sanitizer) at night!
Lexie, Director of New Business Development
I have come to learn that I can do well with less. I won’t die from not going to Starbucks daily, stopping in at Einstein’s for a bagel with peanut butter and honey (yummy), or dropping into Lululemon to browse the on-sale section. Although I am subsisting with less and finding some joy in a credit card bill that amounts to ten dollars, what I really miss are the social interactions within these familiar encounters. So, I find myself seeking out the people I usually see walking and shouting out a “good morning” from afar until I get a response. I guess it boils down to the little things, the little moments, the things that matter, like friendship.
Melissa, Graphic Designer
I’ve been living/working from my one-bedroom apartment since March 16, and I’ve left my house just four times to go to the grocery store and once to make a contactless drop-off at a friend’s house. So, you might be thinking, “uh oh… this isn’t going well.” Quite the contrary. I’ve settled in to this new normal pretty well. I’ve dedicated one chair and about ten square feet of space to be my work area. I don’t watch TV during the workday. I do yoga twice a week, instead of twice a month, and I feel like it’s helped prepare me mentally for this—acknowledge your present and be okay with it.
My spirits remain high despite having to celebrate my birthday while sheltering in place. In fact, this might end up being one of my favorite birthdays of all time! I hosted a one day virtual Bingo Bash—with themes ranging from Kids Bingo to Surprise Bingo, Boozy Bingo (for the grown-ups), and Pay-Up Bingo, which resulted in a $250 donation to the Chicago COVID-19 Response Fund!
Grogg, Creative Director
Working from home is old hat for me. I’ve freelanced a lot, so there was no learning curve. Having a specific time to get to the “office” and a specific room or place to set up a workspace is key for me. The most important thing to me is always making myself available to coworkers. It makes working together so much easier. With today’s technology, it’s certainly more doable now. So many video chats, Skypes, and phone calls to keep one busy! And it makes working from home a lot less lonely than in my past experience.
I think the funniest thing is having the washer and dryer in a closet in my workspace. With everything within reach, it makes doing the laundry much more efficient! Now, I just need the ability to do dry cleaning and I could open Grogg Cleaners & Design—Where creativity meets ironing!
Christine, Account Manager
I think most people living in close quarters are learning new (and often very funny) things about their spouse, children, roommate(s)—even pets. I’m fascinated, for example, to discover how our dog, Bodhi, spends his time!
But I’m also learning a lot about my child. One might think working at home with a nine-year-old suddenly doing schoolwork online would add a layer of challenge. But it has been a joy! We work side-by-side on our computers at the dining room table. Who knew the two of us would need to coordinate the scheduling of our individual video calls so as not to disturb the other? The experience has encouraged us to become even more strategic with how we go about our day. We keep to a structured schedule. We stay very active, just not on the go. We eat better, exercise more, and rely on lots of laughter therapy.
James, Web Development Manager/UX Strategist
I do love not having to commute. Having an extra hour to sleep in the morning and an extra hour-plus in the evening to do whatever is really nice! But I especially love having more time to pursue my painting. Before the lockdown, I registered for a plein air painting competition. While the logistics for the actual event are still up in the “air” (see what I did there?), I’ve continued to prepare for the event by looking for painting locations within the event boundries (Schaumburg, Illinois).
With plein air painting, one of the biggest challenges is that the scene is constantly changing. As the day progresses, and the position of the light shifts with the sun moving from east to west, objects almost appear to be in motion, dramatically altering the way a scene looks. Usually within a couple of hours the lighting has changed enough that shadow positions are noticeably different—the side of a building originally lit is now in shadow (or vice versa). But this change in lighting also can make what was a dull scene at one time of day into a dramatic scene at another time. If I were a philosopher, I’d say there’s a deeper lesson there for what we all are experiencing right now.
Amy, Reporting Analyst
I have been very inspired by my teenagers throughout this. Teens get a bad rep. But boy, they have been so remarkably positive, adaptable, and resilient. My eighth grader is missing many highly anticipated events, including graduation, eighth grade day at Great America, class parties, etc. But she is taking it all in stride and is still so hopeful for the future.
Their lives flipped 180 degrees, as all of ours have, yet they show not one bit of resentment, disappointment, or pushback. They have been diligently keeping up with their virtual schoolwork (even though their grades no longer count!), sewing face masks, collecting canned food for the needy, baking for friends and neighbors, chalking positive messages on our sidewalk, painting, cooking, taking up new workout routines, and supporting their friends. They miss their friends and are more than a little sick of their parents, but they are much more accepting of this situation than their dad and I, who routinely fall into questioning the politics of all of it. I am blessed to have my girls to remind me of what is important. Find the Good is our motto these days.
Steady as We Go
History will eventually report exactly how we all did during the pandemic. But if these entries from the SLS crew are any indication, we should be able to navigate our way through together—even if it’s not at warp speed. Hope you enjoyed catching up with us. Let us know how you’re doing.
Live long and prosper.