Quarantine Diaries—Volume 12

The Quarantine Diaries are an attempt to turn social distancing into a shared experience.

We’ve been asking people to tell us everything from their best working from home habit (and their worst) as well as their go-to selections for books, music and TV.

We’ve been publishing new volumes every few days, and we’ve incorporated an incredibly eclectic Spotify playlist that we’re updating with each submission (see below).

You don’t have to be invited to share your diaries: we want to hear from all of you. And please remember to send us your quarantine selfie or portrait—special thanks to Edelman for sharing three of our favourite portraits to kick off our last three volumes of QD.

Anyone interested in sharing their own diaries with us, contact either David Brown or Chris Powell.

Brian Rosevear, Edelman (above)

Have you developed any good habits about working from home? After the first week, I stopped wearing wigs and silly hats on video calls. I think people really appreciated that. I’ve given up socks.

Any bad habits? Cocktail hour seems to get earlier and earlier each day. The each day thing is also not a good habit.

Favourite quarantine meal? My wife and I both work in the industry, so we’ve been enjoying being able to cook at home more and tending to fresh things like mango rice bowls when we have the supplies. That and ordering from our favourite local restaurants like Tabule, Kinton Ramen or even Buca for a treat.

Thing you miss most about the office… Everything is so much more scheduled now, and when you’re on a video call it feels so purposeful: I miss the unprompted hallway conversations that are so valuable to moving things forward and sparking creativity. That and the constant supply of cupcakes.

What books are you reading? Loving it? Hating it? I like speculative science fiction and so am really enjoying Fall; or, Dodge in Hell, Neal Stephenson’s most recent book, which is about the idea of uploading consciousness to the cloud. Total geek.

Any TV, Netflix or streaming recommendations? I’m definitely craving things that are easy to watch and comforting. We just powered through the last two seasons of Schitt’s Creek. My wife had already watched earlier episodes and I loved it, so will probably go back and watch it from the start. It’s perfect for now.

What song best represents your current state of mind? Or what is on your quarantine playlist? Fatboy Slim did a live set at small club in Australia at the end of January to raise money for the Australian Bushfire Relief Fund and it’s downright killer, especially if you were part of that particular music scene. It’s a three-plus hour live recording, so it gets you through the day in one go.

Advice you’d give to yourself six months from now… Brian: I think it’s time to stop the daily 2 p.m. cocktail hour tradition now. Also: save some money.

Any technology challenges/triumphs? I’m very proud of the house I’ve built in Animal Crossing, and have enjoyed playing the game with my kids (5 and 11, the 17-year-old: not so into it). We cut down trees and catch butterflies and stockpile random household items. It’s surprisingly satisfying, and has given us something to do together when we need a break.

Angelina Cho, FKA

Have you developed any good habits about working from home? Funnily enough, I have been finding a much better work-life balance working from home. Obviously, there are days that require longer hours, but I’ve really gotten into the practice of trying to end work at a reasonable hour so I have time in the evening to decompress. That wasn’t really the story of my life pre-pandemic.

Any bad habits? Other than excessive snacking, I don’t think so!

Favourite quarantine meal? I have developed an addiction for chicken fajitas. I never really ate fajitas until quarantine.

Piece of advertising that can always make you laugh… I’m not sure why this spot always gets me, but the Mr. Clean Super Bowl commercial that ran a few years ago makes me laugh every time (below).

What books are you reading? Loving it? Hating it? The Subtle Art of Not Giving a F*ck. I’m a person who tends to worry, or think a little too much about things, but the book talks about not worrying about things you can’t really control—and this pandemic is definitely one of those things you can’t control. It’s okay to not be okay during this crazy time, and we can’t worry too much about things that are out of our hands, we’ll get through this. So, we have to be good to ourselves and others.

Any TV, Netflix or streaming recommendations? I personally watch a lot of Korean shows, movies, etc. I’ve watched a little too much on Netflix..

What song best represents your current state of mind? Or what is on your quarantine playlist? My go-to playlist has been John Legend radio on Google Play. Of course, there are John Legend songs in the playlist, but there are a bunch of current and old school songs that come up—some good beats that get me through the day.

Advice you’d give to yourself six months from now… Although these have been challenging times for everyone, there’s some real positive learnings from it all. First, never take for granted a hug, handshake or physical time with family, friends and loved ones.

Secondly, there are some truly amazing people out there—appreciate and recognize the greatness of everyone around you. Last but not least, be so thankful for your life.

I’m super grateful for still being able to work through the pandemic and having healthy family and friends. I am super grateful for many things in my life, but this pandemic has brought light to many of those things.

Any technology challenges/triumphs? I honestly thought working from home was going to be tougher than it has been. FKA has done a pretty incredible job ensuring that we stay connected through this all. Google Meet has probably been our life-saver enabling us to do video calls with clients, agency wide and virtual team lunches, and all that fun stuff.

Sylvie Pelletier, Food Banks Canada

Have you developed any good habits about working from home? My colleague—a certified meditation teacher—got me started and I now (try to) meditate every day and go for a short walk. These two breaks throughout the day have been a lifesaver.

Any bad habits? Sitting too long without stretching equals many body parts now hurting.

Favourite quarantine meal? Grapes? As in crushed and fermented… but only at the end of day (mostly).

Thing you miss most about the office… The lunchroom chats and walks with my colleagues (we’re a close bunch).

What books are you reading? Loving it? Hating it? On the Plain of Snakes by Paul Theroux, because of my love of Mexico, and Braiding Sweetgrass, by Robin Wall Kimmerer, for some indigenous wisdom. Both are a wonderful escape from my current reality.

Any TV, Netflix or streaming recommendations? If you haven’t already, catch up on the Schitt’s Creek series. Absolutely wonderful, and funny, Canadian series. And if you haven’t seen Stronger Together/Tous Ensemble, it’s worth a watch (available on demand on CBC Gem, Crave, GlobalTV.com, and more).

What song best represents your current state of mind? Or what is on your quarantine playlist? Lots of chill, meditative kind of music to put me into a flow when I work.

Advice you’d give yourself six months from now… Always remember to not let the small inconveniences overshadow all that is right in your life.

Stacey Masson, Cossette

Have you developed any good habits about working from home? Absolutely. Our team is even more connected than before. We have daily check-ins and end-of-week cocktails, not just locally but with colleagues from all offices. On a personal level, I have been cooking a lot more, which means using things in my kitchen that have never been used before and making healthier food choices. I may also be learning how to “smize” to convey my emotions while wearing a face mask.

Any bad habits? I am exercising waaaaay less than usual.

Favourite quarantine meal? Dark chocolate and port. Wait, that is a healthy meal, right?

Thing you miss most about the office… The unexpected little chats with colleagues and play time with the dogs of Cossette. Also, the contagious energy that you feel when you walk through the door. There is nothing quite like it.

What books are you reading? Loving it? Hating it? I read a loooot, and always have a handful of books on the go. Right now, I’m alternating between:

  • Severance by Ling Ma, a beautifully written modern-day apocalypse story that hits very close to home right now;
  • Week Light by Donna Hay, the inspiration behind many of the healthy meals mentioned above;
  • The End of Night by Paul Bogard, a look into the impact of artificial light on our health and an homage to darkness; and
  • Alchemy: The Surprising Power of Ideas That Don’t Make Sense by Rory Sutherland, a deep dive into the age-old battle between reason and emotion.

Any TV, Netflix or streaming recommendations? I watched Contagion and Pandemic Explained during the week following March 13, which may not have been my best move. Since then, I have kept it on the lighter side thanks to Ali Wong, Katherine Reitman and Eugene & Daniel Levy.

What song best represents your current state of mind? Or what is on your quarantine playlist? I have a playlist called car karaoke filled with all of my favourite songs. I have put on some of my best a cappella concerts while driving between Toronto and Montreal. Now, I’m sharing this unique treat with my neighbours while I cook. It has the added bonus of drowning out the saxophone lessons someone has started.

Advice you’d give to yourself six months from now…  Don’t let anyone tell you that change is too complex or costly. If we were able to transform our entire way of living in a week to protect our health and safety, we can create a world that is more sustainable at will. Also, think about getting a hairstyle that does not require maintenance every two weeks.

Any technology challenges/triumphs? Given that I have been travelling for work for the past decade, adjusting to working remotely was not a major challenge. That said, moving our all staff meetings to virtual ones has been tricky. Nothing really beats having all of your people together in the same space.

Chris Stefanyk, Wattpad

Have you developed any good habits about working from home? I’ve tried to keep my “regular” routine as much as possible, so I still get up early(ish), do something athletic (shout out to Fuel Training Club and their virtual classes), get properly dressed, and set up shop in my office (ie. den).

Keeping up with good habits has been important, so this combination has been key to staying as productive as possible.

I’m also trying to create new good habits: I’ve rented a rowing machine—so you know, that’s become a good habit, too.

Any bad habits? Like many on the quarantine diaries before me, I’ve been doing A LOT of eating and snacking throughout the day. Although, my team would argue I’ve always had that bad habit, enabled by Wattpad’s great office snacks selection.

It’s also been difficult to wrap up the day at a normal hour. It’s easy to get into a working groove and find yourself still online well into the evening. It’s something I’m actively working on.

Favourite quarantine meal? Baking has become a new hobby, and we’ve been making some amazing banana bread at home.

We also just bought a pizza stone, so the homemade pizzas are a big hit. We’ve been experimenting with different kinds, from deluxe to meat lovers, even Nutella & banana.

Piece of advertising that can always make you laugh… I love that Budweiser brought back and made a quarantine-era version of the classic Whassup ad. It brought me a lot of nostalgic joy seeing this new version for the first time.

Also, I think the State Farm commercial (below) that was done as a part of The Last Dance doc was also very well done.

Thing you miss most about the office… My amazing team! We’re in constant virtual contact, but our wins and celebrations just aren’t the same when we can’t all be together.

What books are you reading? Loving it? Hating it? I’m loving Kitchen Confidential by the late Anthony Bourdain. I’m also reading Brick by Brick: How LEGO Rewrote the Rules of Innovation. It’s interesting but a bit dry a times, like a 200-plus page Harvard Business Case.

Just before quarantine started I finished The Boys in the Boat by Daniel James Brown. This is an incredible book and I’d highly recommended it to anyone who likes a mixture of history, sport and an underdog story.

Any TV, Netflix or streaming recommendations? McMillion$ on HBO was a fun watch a few weekends back. If you couldn’t tell from the mention of the State Farm commercial above, I’m absolutely loving The Last Dance on Netflix / ESPN.

What song best represents your current state of mind? Or what is on your quarantine playlist? “Got To Keep On” by The Chemical Brothers,” or Fisher’s “Losing It.” Depends on the day.

Advice you’d give yourself six months from now… Appreciate all the small things in life: the small wins, the high-fives, the hugs, the delicious Thursday lunch from your local restaurant that you may have taken for granted. The small things matter!

Any technology challenges/triumphs? We’re a global company and my team is distributed across different countries and time zones, so we’ve always been set up for remote work and collaboration. This has helped keep our team and business running smooth. But there’s still nothing like a face-to-face meeting for many situations, and I can’t wait for the chance to connect with people in person again.