POV (Perspective)
The New Normal of the WFH Life
  • Monday, May. 18, 2020
Sam Penfield

Three words of wisdom for fellow creatives during this unprecedented time:

Structured Schedule
I’m currently operating remotely from home with my 12-year old son, Max. Also, we have a friend visiting from Mexico, Karen, who came for her first trip to NYC just before all of the travel restrictions and social distancing measures took place. The first days being home, I was dealing with shoots and cancellations. Members of our crew and staff had been exposed to the virus and I was working 14 hours a day to mitigate these issues. I had to take stock of how I was going to get through this. The best advice I got was from my therapist who reminded me this is a marathon not a sprint. I decided to structure my schedule as closely as possible to “normal.” I get up at the same time: exercise and meditate. Max starts virtual school at 8:30am so we all sit down then at a large dining room table. Karen has been kind enough to pitch in as his tutor. Thankfully, we all share a mutual understanding about wearing noise-canceling headphones. Sticking to a schedule also means taking a lunch break and “clocking out” at the end of the work day to decompress with a glass of wine and check on friends and family. Without structure, it would be too easy to work myself into the ground. For others, the structure may help them not waste precious time. Creating some sense of “normalcy” feels important to me and for my son. So my first advice is if you are having trouble finding the motivation to do the work, try approaching each and every day as if you’re still going into work.

Listen and Vent
We have a number of projects going on at 1stAve but we have all moved to WTF.... I mean, WFH. We have four offices that work closely together so the adjustment hasn’t been too difficult. We also share many animation projects so our remote systems are already in place and have been “stress tested” for years. This can be tricky because some meetings feel so familiar that it almost feels like business as usual. But it’s not. People are struggling and there is no water cooler to gather and share. I take a moment at the beginning of each call for an employee or a client to ask the person how they are coping and then LISTEN! Take a moment and let the person share their fear, their struggle and don’t be shy to share as well. This is crucial to our psyche and creates the much-needed feeling of connection. If you ask me how I am doing, I would say, “pretty well, considering, but I miss my darling husband who is stuck in L.A.” 

Do Your Part To Help Out
I won’t lie, I’m filled with stress over what’s happening out there, but I know that I would be feeling much worse if I wasn’t doing my job - having the mission of protecting our company and employees the best I can gives me purpose each day. Seeing how people are helping each other is inspiring. My best friend, Laleh, has turned her art studio into a face mask factory which she is donating to healthcare providers. Karen, who came to sightsee in NYC, has--without being asked or the slightest  hesitation--taken up the much-needed role of Max’s tutor allowing me to focus on my business. Max, of his own accord,  reached out to our neighbors to see who needed a grocery or pharmacy run. These spontaneous acts of love and compassion keep me going. Focus on the positive and if you can’t find the positive… Go out and make it! Helping others is a tremendous way to stave off depression. So my final advice for my peers is - do your part to help out - we are all in this together.

Sam Penfield is a partner in multidisciplinary production company 1stAveMachine.

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