Working together while apart.
We’ve surpassed six months of working remotely. That’s half. Of. A. Year. Members of our team weigh in on how this shift has led to adaptation and evolution, both personally and professionally.
We’ve surpassed six months of working remotely. That’ s half. Of. A. Year. In March, we all thought it would be a matter of weeks, perhaps a couple of months at worst — but certainly not this long. As a team that literally designed and remodeled a building to accommodate our working style and collaborative/teaching approach, this shift has represented the ultimate in adaptation and evolution both personally and professionally. Our experiment is not unlike tens of thousands across the country, but we’re diving in to see how it’s going from a number of team member perspectives.
Jim Hume, Principal
Thank goodness for the deep cultural groundwork we developed during the years leading up to the pandemic. By pre-defining and living our values through structure, daily habits, and rituals, working remotely became a natural transition. However, you never know if your culture will hold up under pressure until it is put to the test — and ours certainly has come through in flying colors. I knew the team would be engaged and ready to get stuff done. But what I didn’t expect? The human connections and support that have happened along the way. This has elevated our work, our relationships with one another, and our connections with clients. It has been truly inspirational.
Valentina Silva, Senior Copywriter
Acclimating to pandemic life hasn’t been easy, but working from home has been the simplest transition for me. With the systems we already had in place, we always know what daily and weekly priorities are, so “self-starting” is just what we do. On an interpersonal level, I think getting a glimpse into people’s home lives has created a more compassionate work culture. There seems to be more motivation to go beyond the scope of individual responsibilities in order to make our co-workers’ lives easier. Plus, there’s a sense that we’re all in this together, and each of us needs to do our part to make sure that the work we’re producing is better than ever for the good of the business. The last six months has given me more appreciation for how hard our team works than ever before. I’m really proud to be part of such a resilient and human organization.
Kristen Violetta, Director of Project Management
For the past few years at Phire, we have created, finessed, scrapped, and restructured processes to work best for our team. With these guidelines in place, we have been able to transition to working from home in a near-seamless manner. Of course, we’ve run into those occasional remote server VPN issues or spotty WiFi connections, but because of our handy project management system that houses any/all tasks, we have been able to maintain a familiar cadence, even while apart. In fact, our team has proven that determination will not be swayed due to a change in office location. The work itself and sheer amount of materials completed while in quarantine has been nothing short of impressive!
Alex Schillinger, Director of Media
There’s a certain level of uneasiness that can be expected with any transition, and this is no exception. Collectively, we’ve faced something we’ve never seen before, and as a result, we’ve been forced into personal/professional coalescence. But, we’ve adapted, breaking through any unfamiliarity or discomfort and proving the importance of hustle, determination, and compassion. What started as an awkward blending of personal and professional lives has turned into welcoming our bosses, colleagues, and clients into our whole worlds. And we, too, have been welcomed into their homes, hearing children running down halls, birds singing, dogs barking. Not because of the pandemic, but in spite of it.
Maria Newton, Media Planner/Strategist
“Doing the best we can.” This phrase often means accepting that someone is doing the best that they can under certain conditions and settling for the work they are able to give. As a team, we are understanding of everyone’s circumstances and are ready and willing to help out. We are empathetic and accommodating, as we always have been, but it’s magnified in this new world. And somehow during this pandemic we have truly been able to do our best work yet under the most challenging circumstances. Being understanding and recognizing everyone is “doing their best” has created an environment where we are doing the best, full stop.
Emma Leising, Graphic Designer
I joined Phire in May of this year! Starting a new job can be nerve-wracking under normal circumstances, and 2020 has obviously been anything but normal. Without the small things such as handshakes, body language, and lunches with coworkers, I was worried I would feel disconnected and in over my head as a new designer. In retrospect, it’s calming to know that my worries were unnecessary.
In odd ways, I felt more acquainted with the Phire team right off the bat than coworkers I’d previously shared workspaces with for much longer. I don’t know the physical height of some of our team members to this day, but during my first week at Phire, I realized who among us had kids, pets, partners, and roommates. The personality of our team also radiated through my screen. For example, Kurt and Melissa prefer to work outside in nature when possible, Valentina has a gorgeous bookshelf, and coffee is a part of Jim’s daily ritual, but not Kristen’s.
The vulnerability of welcoming work life into home life goes both ways. On a certain level, I felt that I didn’t have to explain my personality, because during those initial meetings, we were essentially chatting in my room! I didn’t have to mention that my pink roller skates are my pride and joy — Alex noticed them in one of our first meetings, and I was obviously happy to elaborate. Ironically, something I was so worried about up until my first day turned out to be something I will continue to treasure.
Melissa Cho, Graphic Designer
As someone who started working at Phire just six months before the pandemic, I’ve been surprised with how painless and easy it has been to connect with members of our team. It was important to me that I made personal connections during those first six months, yet I was unsure how real and honest connections could be made virtually. However, during our time working remotely, I have seen more conversations guided by intention and people reaching out to one another to catch up “just because.” I never expected to learn so much about our team in the past few months, and I’m grateful for the individual connections we’ve been able to make despite the physical distance!
Matt Crigger, Interactive Media Director
When I came to Phire 15 years ago, I was leaving a life of freelance web work. I loved the work, and was good at it, but I did not like being alone. I hated working in the basement. All alone. No one to bounce ideas off of. And no one to work with. So, when we decided for the health and safety of the people of Phire that we should enforce a WFH policy, I was dreading it, even though it was the right thing to do (since our WFH policy was enacted before it was mandated). I knew what this looked like. I knew what it felt like. It was horrible, but it wasn’t going to be long. It would last maybe a month or two? And while it has lasted much longer, it wasn’t horrible at all. We stayed connected. We stayed together. We hung around virtual meetings a little longer. Told jokes. Laughed at the noises in the background. Got to see people’s homes, children, pets, partners, and significant others. We used Google Hangouts to chat about something rather than email. We set up Google Meets for 5-10 minutes to do the things that would normally require a quick walk to someone’s desk. It has been great! I honestly think I have grown closer and understand so much more about my coworkers and their lives than I even did before. Is that weird?
Lina Brda, Project Manager
The past few months have been challenging, to say the least! I’ve always been able to handle high-stress situations at work, and at the end of the day, I could shut down my computer to set work aside and focus on my family. Now, working remotely during a pandemic has required me to grow in a whole new way. I’ve had to learn to ask for help, both at work and at home. I’ve also had to learn to embrace the chaos and realize that I can’t do everything. I’ve begun to appreciate the small wins and see them as achievements. I’m getting better at pushing negative thoughts away and being kind to myself. I think that this growth is something that will continue, and now, I’m even more thankful to work at a place like Phire. Our group has helped me laugh when things are crazy, offered help when I’ve been spread thin, and even entertained my kids when they were fussing while on video chats. This work environment has given me the needed breath of fresh air when I feel overwhelmed.