Elixir Design Meeting Room for One Year In Lockdown Article

One Year Into The Pandemic: What Have We Learned About Work?

Taking a look at how remote work has changed our productivity and workflow

by Meagan Riley-Grant

One year has passed since we all moved to remote work. Before COVID, Elixir Design was a small but busy office in the heart of San Francisco. Our team filled up space, shouting questions at each other, passing by each other’s desk for a check-in or a quick pick-me-up. The kitchen used to be the place of our informal reunions. We’d gather, a tea or coffee mug in hand, and talk about our weekend, a Netflix must-watch, or the new incoming project.

These times are far gone. Nowadays, our workstations are more likely our kitchen or living room tables, maybe even our beds. We spend about 8 hours a day in front of our screens, going from one zoom meeting to another. The only people that we get to shout at are our family and our pets. This year has brought a lot of changes, and with it, a lot of valuable insights. 


Remote working allowed us to save a lot of commuting time. Not having to bus, Bart, bike, or walk to the office every day let us focus on things we’ve been wanting to do but never found the time to. Jen Jerde, our founder, spent her time volunteering for several nonprofits in Marin County and kept working on racial inequity, an issue very important to her. Our producer, Meagan, used her time puppy raising a service dog. Lockdown allowed our art director, Nate, to focus on gardening and spending time with family. A lot of us used our newly free time to start a workout routine. Overall, gaining a few hours a day allowed us all to have a healthier, more balanced way of living. And let’s not forget the precious extra time we all got to have with our pets. Our four-legged companions are loving this lockdown!


With everything closing around us, 2020 has been the year of savings. Between the money usually spent on commuting, dining out, clothing, coffee, etc. we’ve been able to pocket all that dinero. It also taught some of us the delights of a nice home-cooked meal, the challenges of a homemade haircut, the hard work of refurbishing furniture, or the art of loose leaf tea making.


Those days where we’d spend hours getting ready, making sure our outfit matched and we looked professional enough are dead. Sweatpants, for most of us, became our new work attire. This lockdown allowed us the freedom to wear what felt good and what was comfortable. No matter what happens in the next few months, this freedom is too good to let it go and return to our restrictive tight jeans. There is no turning back from the sweatpants era.


This pandemic put the Zoom software at the forefront of everybody’s remote work life. In many ways, it felt like a godsend, allowing us to be in touch with each other and our clients at all times. But in others, let’s be real, Zoom felt like hell on earth. We’ve all had the experience of our zoom window freezing, a zoom meeting not starting or ending abruptly on you, and the many audio and video issues that can and do arise. Zoom can be that person we desperately wanna hug or that piece of trash we can’t wait to throw out the window in desperation. Either way, we all can relate.


One thing we did notice this year is the importance of human contact. Even for the most introverted of us, being secluded from our peers for so long took its toll on our mental health. Therapists have been overbooked for months. The importance and necessity for connections made itself crystal clear in 2020. In those lonely times, our pets have been life-saviors. Our dogs, cats, or even goldfish, have been the only connection to a sentient being we’ve had for months. They delivered support and unconditional love during the hardest times. We are deeply social creatures after all.


While it did take us a while to get accustomed to a fully remote working situation, we are now well acclimated to it and, for the most part, enjoy it. One big realization throughout this pandemic was that, yes, we can work well remotely and be as productive as before. Our work efficiency did not suffer, and our workflow adjusted quite well to the remote situation. Once we are all safe and vaccinated and everything reopens, we will probably go back to work in the office, yes, but in a very different capacity. Some of us will probably go for a couple of days a week, and some others, only one, or up to four. The work schedule will be more relaxed and flexible to the needs of everyone in our team. This, we learned, truly allows us to be as efficient and productive as possible while keeping the connection with each other. 

Through this pandemic, we learned that working from home does not impede productivity. Instead, it allowed us to have a more balanced and healthy lifestyle. We saved on commute time and money, which in turn let us have more time with family, start a new routine, volunteer, or do anything that we kept putting aside prior to March 11, 2020.

Whenever the time to return to the office arises, we’ll come back with a more flexible and healthy vision of our work schedule, and will keep up with everything we learned during the quarantine. There is no way to go back to the way things were before. All we can do is move forward, and forward looks pretty good right now.

Meagan Riley-Grant started her career as a screenwriter and film producer, acting as Executive Producer of the Academy Award-winning film, Monster. Passionate about communication in all forms, her film roots and working on dozens of features now serve her working as a producer in brand strategy and design, which she sees as visual storytelling for organizations. Meagan holds a BA in Film Production from NYU Tisch School of the Arts, and joined Elixir in 2014.