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Outbreaks|March 27, 2020

Getting Good at Working from Home: What Panorama has Learned

Panorama Team


Our team is based in Seattle, the original epicenter of the Coronavirus outbreak in the U.S., so we transitioned to remote work in early March. Now approaching the end of week three of social distancing, we have done what initially felt impossible: Adjusted to the new normal. For those of you struggling, we assembled tips that helped us be our best selves in this time of great uncertainty.

Create Space for Your New Lifestyle

“Create a space for work that sparks joy!” – Brenda

As tempting as it may be to work from bed or the couch, creating a dedicated workspace is important to productivity. Add plants, pictures, candles, or diffusers, things you might not be able to surround yourself with in your “real” office.

Since you are likely spending hours on video conferences, get a monitor with a webcam. “For the first days of WFH, I was using my laptop for everything so I was craning my neck to look down for 6 hours a day. My body quickly told me that was not going to work. With my new system, I'm able to look straight ahead all the time - no neck pain!” – Linda

Acknowledge that work and life are going to collide now that everyone is confined to the home. Rather than trying to hide them, introduce your colleagues to your pets, your kids, your partners. “It helps sustain personal connections when you show your colleagues a bit of what you are dealing with in your new "office." – Linda

shlomoNaomi introduces Shlomo to his new coworkers

That said, it can be a challenge to find a quiet corner for a video conference when your entire family is stuck at home. So if you have “stuff” in the background you don’t want your coworkers to see, you can blur your background on Microsoft Teams.

Care for Your Body

In week one, you’re likely to forgo regular showering and wear your pajamas all day, but we’ve learned that sticking to your normal routine and dressing for work really does make you feel better. That does not mean you can’t be comfortable. Brenda loves leggings from the Girlfriend Collective that are made from recycled plastic bottles, and Abbie recommends the Zoom “touch up my appearance” option so you can skip wearing makeup.

With nowhere to go, and many of us under orders to stay at home, physical activity has never been in such short supply. Prioritize it by blocking time on your calendar. Mary takes a walk around the block before she even opens her computer in the morning, while Naomi takes a long break over lunch to walk or do yoga.

Drink plenty of water and eat nutritious food, to balance out the entire cake, pan of brownies, two dozen cookies, etc. that disappeared over the weekend. We have a Teams channel just for food, where we share recipes and pictures of what we’re cooking and eating.

ShwarmaChicken Shawarma on Homemade Pita, made by Anjali: Recipe from Joy the Baker

Keep a Schedule, and Schedule Social

Without the typical structure to our days, commuting, meetings, lunch, etc., days can stretch on forever, but you can also lose track of time? Is it Tuesday or Thursday? We recommend putting everything, you have to do on your calendar. We’ve found that if you don’t block the time, it doesn’t get done. Cate took a cue from her kids’ preschool schedule and built in time for snacks and outdoor playtime.

We have all been stuck with back-to-back meetings, so limit calls and videos to 25 or 50 minutes so everyone can use the restroom, grab a glass of water, or stretch in between. And because the days can seem long, when everything but work has been cancelled, plan an activity for after work to keep you motivated. Amy recommends Bala Yoga Studio, which streams classes online. Sarah is learning Spanish by listening to the Coffee Break Spanish podcast.

Schedule remote coffees with colleagues to check in and see how everyone is doing. Our party planning committee hosts an informal FriYAY video conference where we talk about what we’re watching on TV (hello Tiger King), sip cocktails, and introduce our dogs to each other.

Share What Makes You Smile

At Panorama, we have adopted the daily practice of sharing what keeps us smiling and laughing. Each morning, one staffer sends out an email with links to videos of cute penguins, superheroes dancing the “Corona Foot Shake," or tips for parents who need quiet time or to get work done. Have you ever wanted to attend the Opera in your pajamas? Now you can. Do you want to adopt or foster a pet? Now's a great time.

Support Initiatives that Matter to You

It goes without saying, but given the circumstances there is no amount of advice we can give that will supersede this rule: Be kind to others and yourself. Everyone is struggling in their own way, to make ends meet, to keep the kids entertained, to find toilet paper. If you are able to, support local food banks, homeless shelters, or school districts.

Panorama is setting up monthly recurring donations to COVID-19-related funds – CDC Relief Fund, COVID Solidarity Response Fund, and Seattle Foundation’s COVID-19 Response Fund – for as long as we are out of the office, in order to support those that are both dealing directly with the health effects of the pandemic, and to support others who are in great need.

So again, be kind to yourself and others as they navigate this new normal and stay well.

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