I didn’t type this. At least, not exactly.
Instead, I wrote it by hand in the passenger seat of my car as we drove to a park so my daughter could hang out with her cousin on a sunny Sunday morning. For someone who doesn’t put pen to paper much anymore, beyond birthday cards and signing the occasional contract, longform writing is pretty difficult, but doing it on a Note 20 Ultra in a moving car is a particularly fun challenge that I wanted to explore.
The idea of remote work has become pretty familiar to everyone over the past six months, even if only certain categories, particularly those who occupied offices in some form prior to the pandemic, have changed to makeshift home offices. But for many people, including someone like me who’d always technically worked from home, remote work has a completely different connotation when you factor in all the other parts of our lives the pandemic has shifted around.
Between March and July, I found myself working from my phone while my daughter drew or read a book next to me. Work involved taking important Zoom meetings, video disabled, while I pushed a stroller to the park. Or it meant, like today, trying to write a weekend column in the passenger seat of a moving car with a stylus.
There’s something reassuring about how adaptable we are; I can’t speak for the rest of you, and I can barely remember April through July, yet I’ve not only survived but figured out a form of work-life balance that, while certainly not healthy by pre-pandemic standards, is keeping me employed and relatively productive.
Baby walking dog, or dog walking baby?Source: Daniel Bader / Android Central
I’ve rediscovered the joys of sports, like cycling and tennis, that I hadn’t done in years, while also trying to remember that reading a book isn’t the same as endless Twitter doomscrolling (I’m still working on that one).
I remember one day in mid-May when the weather here in Toronto had finally warmed up enough to leave the house with a t-shirt (don’t laugh, it’s currently 90-degrees here just everywhere else). At the time, my wife and I were splitting daycare between morning and afternoons, and I had the latter, so off we went to the park, a stroller replete with every imaginable toy, book, and ball, along with me and my Galaxy S20+ and my Jabra Elite 75t earbuds.
I didn’t expect to be working during that time, but some internal crisis called my attention, and I spent the next three hours trying to prevent my recently-upright toddler from killing herself while also putting out fires over email, Slack, and our content management system.
There were moments during this period that I felt like a bad father, and I can feel judging eyes reading this telling me to put my damn phone away, nothing is more important than your kids’ safety. There were also moments where I was angry for being in this situation, two months into a pandemic-enforced daycare closure and no external help from family and friends. I was also embarrassed that I wasn’t doing my job to the best of my ability, unable to give it my full attention during that afternoon and the ones before and afterward. I always planned to work in the evenings, but after putting the kid to bed and scrounging together an edible meal, I was ready to pass out by 8pm and start the whole process again the following day.
Things are a little different now; daycares are back open and here in Toronto cases are low enough that we can once again use the playgrounds at our local parks. I’m back to working full days (and, like many workaholics, most evenings). I can look back at those four crazy, intense months as a period of anxiety-ridden survival. And for many people, that time of crisis is still very much ongoing.
But through it all, I’m legitimately surprised that, when I absolutely needed to get something done, I just did it, with whatever tool I had nearby, which most of the time was the phone in my pocket. As many times as it took me out of the moment, which I regret, it saved me, and potentially my job. It let me perform triage and defer disaster just long enough to get back to my desk.
Getting back to the Note 20 Ultra, I’ll admit that I didn’t write this whole column on the phone — that would have taken far too long — but the experiment of writing something longform and using OCR to convert my scribbles into usable text is definitely something I want to explore more. The tactility of a pen and paper, or the digital equivalents of each, force you to tackle the words you want to say more judiciously, and I think right now, when we’re all racing to complete one thing and move onto the next one, we could use a little more of that.
What’s your remote work situation like, if you’re in it? What are you using to get stuff done? Sound off in the comments — I’d love to hear from you.
Have a great rest of your Sunday.