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Creatively Working Through COVID Part 12

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Thanks, Jen, for the nomination. When reading your blog post, my initial thought was, “Oh, come on…that has to be a staged photo of your kids working with you at the kitchen table!” However, since we work closely, I know for a fact (video call evidence) that is your new normal.

Tell us about the quirks of your new co-workers

I wouldn’t call them “new,” per se. All my kids have been my “co-workers” their entire lives because I have worked from a home office since 2009. Back then, my office setup was not as ideal — imagine Chicago urban jungle 2 bedroom timber loft with my other co-worker, (cough) … aka my wife, who also worked from home at that time. Luckily, due to many moves later, I have slowly-but-surely learned that the home office needs to be secluded from the rest of the family and have natural light. With a recent move to Grand Rapids, Michigan, I now have a room — I call it the “control tower” — where I have 3 walls of windows and I look over our backyard.

Throughout my day, I get to see my family play in the backyard. My sons — Bryce (almost 9) and Theo (almost 6) — will be hitting golf balls that whizz by my window. I may yell out my window, “Too close to the window!” or “Low hands on the take back,” (I’m a wannabe golf coach). They both play competitive golf and practice in our lawn about 2–3 hours a day. The days of beating them on the golf course are numbered!

If you ever see me wave while on camera, I’m most likely waving to my beautiful “lady pack”: my wife and twin daughters. My girls — Tessa and Emery — are turning 2 this week. They have reached peak cuteness and it is such a blessing that we have them in our lives. Their appearance and personalities are so different, yet they are the best of friends. They make the hard pandemic days literally melt away with their smiles, giggles, and kisses.

Having twins is like preparing for a pandemic lockdown. I feel like we have been training for this day for 2 years. We have been hunkered down since August 2018 and were planning to emerge sometime later this fall, but depending on how long this craziness lasts, our “family go-live” date may be delayed further.

And then there’s my wife, who manages the craziness. Don’t get me wrong, my kids are cute and amazing when in a good mood. The issue is that this only happens about 5% of the time. The rest of the time, someone is crying, yelling, punching, or stomping around the house. My wife has to deal with THAT! Sorry babe! I’ve been known to invoke the “Uhh… I have an important video call in 5 mins, sorry!” Her job is NOT easy. However, when she calls in the “TV Nanny,” there is something magical about how calm it is in the house. Sigh and pour that glass of wine!

One of the many good things that has come out of this pandemic is that we are all in a similar boat. Family “interruptions” are now super in-vogue! Prior to the pandemic, I felt like “working from home” was almost a stigma. Like, “Do you have a real job? Oh, you don’t have a real office here, I see.” Now, it is super cool and everyone realizes that working from home (if your home office is not in the middle of the kitchen — sorry Jen!) is actually pretty amazing! The excuses of,“I need to turn down the volume of the baby monitor,” or, “I need to go get a package at my front door,” don’t need to be hidden any more.

Describe your new normal

The biggest change for my wife and kids is that I haven’t traveled since March. My kids are probably like, “Who’s this guy?” Kidding aside, I have been traveling near-full time since 2002 when I started as an IT consultant living in Houston, Texas. So, not being on the road feels weird. I’m concerned my wife is getting used to having this extra set of hands all the time — will she ever let me go back to traveling?!

I told someone the other day that I miss hotels and getting on airplanes. To be honest, I miss eating out on an expense account. There is something about the food that makes it taste better when it is not your money. For those of you that know me, I’m a knife and fork kind of guy. I seek out good food and wine wherever I am. However, in these pandemic days, I haven’t eaten out since March (no joke).

Besides spending more time with my family, I would say another great thing has been establishing routines. I started intermittent fasting (not eating between 7pm and 12 noon ) in January and that is WAY easier to stick to when not traveling. Also, I bought myself a Peloton for Christmas. It was one of the best-timed purchases I have ever made.

Having routines allows you to set goals. I’m a very goal-oriented person. I set myself the goal of working out 60 days straight on the Peloton (@wherry — follow me!), then, 100 days straight. I got to 120 before having to travel out of town for July 4th. Now I’m working towards my 400th ride, which I’m doing this week with some friends and co-workers to celebrate my 40th birthday! This aerobic exercise every day has been great to relieve stress and also stay in shape, which has helped my tennis conditioning.

The only work related change is my poor computer which has come close to burning a hole through my desk. When on video calls for 6–10 hours a day, my computer no likey! When the CPU fan starts moving so fast that my computer starts to levitate off my desk, I know it’s time to stop working!

What do you miss about the office?

My “office” is usually “on the road,” as they call it in “the biz.”.

I miss seeing people face to face. Nothing replaces that in-person interaction. Especially in sales, I feel like it can be an advantage to sell in person. This telesales thing feels weird, but I guess it is a level playing field. The scary part is if our customers are barely letting their employees back into the office, when will that actually let ME back into their office?!

I also miss commuting to Detroit, where I usually spend a lot of my time. It’s a 2 hour drive and it’s when I catch up on all things: call co-workers, listen to recorded meetings I missed, call my parents, listen to music, etc. There is something zen about 4 hours per week of not staring at a screen.

Last summer while in Detroit, my technical counterpart, Mark, and I tore up the Detroit golf scene. We figured client meetings last until 5pm, and, therefore, we have about 5 hours of sunlight left; how many holes can one wedge into that time period? I still play a decent amount of golf, which is one of the few things that still feels normal, but I miss my 18/27/36-hole marathons with Mark.

Watching or reading anything new?

With 4 kids and a lot of hobbies who has any extra time for TV or reading?! By the time I’m done serenading my twins with my ukulele, my wife and I talk for about 10–15 minutes before one of us falls asleep. I used to be a night-owl, up until 1am every night, but no longer — I’m 40 with 4 kids in a pandemic!

So there you have it! I’m nominating Mark Matheos, Appian’s Corporate Controller, who I’m sure is happy these days from the lack of my travel expenses since March!