Granular Team Q&A: WFH 2 Years Later

It’s hard to believe we published this blog more than two years ago, many of us naive to the fact the pandemic would last even more than a few weeks at that point. The months passed, remote working became the standard, and we collectively learned so much about ourselves in the process. In a COVID/lockdown/quarantine retrospective, we polled the Granular office on a few topics: the knowledge we gained, how we changed as people, and a prediction of the future. Here’s our responses: 

Q1: What was your favorite remote/social- distance-safe team activity?

  • Aislinn: Team trivia! I am generally horrible at trivia but fortunately there was a Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy question so I didn’t have to guess on every single question. I knew that “A towel is about the most massively useful thing an interstellar hitchhiker can have.”
  • Anna: The painting and pumpkin carving were probably my favorite! I did enjoy our first remote trivia, minus the fact my pretzel got stolen off my porch.
  • Chris: Renting out a movie theater for our annual company meeting then having the theater to ourselves
  • Emily: The 12 Days of Christmas! For twelve-ish days before Christmas 2020 the team would jump on a 15 minute zoom call at lunch and open a present.
  • Grant: My sample size is pretty small, but team trivia and the happy-hour/beer club has been solid. 
  • Ian: Pumpkin carving and trivia
  • Jenny: I’ve only done one happy hour but it was fun. No work talk is a solid rule to happy hour.
  • Jaime: Painting in the park at South Shore
  • Jeremy: The 12 Days of Christmas was super fun. Getting personalized gifts like a rum cake was pretty amazing. I will forever remember talking about Tiger King, The Last Dance, The NBA bubble, and Love is Blind season one.
  • Jordon: Painting in the park by Lake Michigan as a team was really fun. We’re not an artistic group by trade, but I was really impressed by all of the paintings the team did!
  • Justin: Virtual trivia. Themed “Beer Clubs” were great, especially during Fantasy Football season. Any of the outdoor, socially-distanced activities we did at South Shore Park were great, especially when COVID restrictions were more tight.
  • Mac: Pumpkin carving and virtual trivia were both fun. Also Christmas Cookie decorating, although I found frosting around my work desk for a while after that.
  • MacKenzie: My favorite was painting – I wish I would have been able to do it in the park with the team, but even remote it was fun. I also liked pumpkin carving, because I was able to do it with my 3-year old nephew. 
  • Mark: I liked anything we’ve done in the park. Nice to get outside during the day.
  • Meagan G: Virtual trivia and virtual game apps with family and friends. 
  • Megan A: Remote happy hour and trivia / Jackbox
  • Megan K: trivia, mainly bc i’m a big jeopardy & bar trivia fan
  • Mike: I had never carved a pumpkin until our outing by the lake, I didn’t win most creative and probably won’t do it again but I did have fun and that’s all that matters
  • Steve: I enjoyed our Tuesday morning team sync meetings. COVID-19 and the lockdown brought a lot of uncertainty. I find that people seek out routine and predictability in chaos. Every Tuesday morning at 9am central I could bank on our team getting together and sharing what each of us had going on.
  • Tim: I did enjoy the Beer club when I joined my first week. It was only a few people, but was still really fun

Q2: How did you stay positive during the dog days of quarantine? 

  • Aislinn: The one thing that was nice about quarantine was that your friends who lived down the block felt as close as the ones who lived across the country. Facetimes and Zoom chats gave me a chance to “hang out” with my friends and family who live outside of Wisconsin more. Connecting with friends kept me *mostly* sane.
  • Anna: I tried to make time to reach out to my work friends, friends and family and talk to them over zoom/chat to “see” each other. Sticking to a routine, like I would in the office, helped me keep more structure to my days.
  • Chris: Anyone who knows me knows that I’m always positive no matter what; I don’t need anything extra to maintain my perpetual positivity.
  • Emily: Endlessly scrolling through the hilarious videos on Tik Tok.
  • Grant: I sadly lost my contract job at the start of the pandemic, so I got to spend the “primetime” of quarantine living at home with my parents. Overall it sounds like a bummer of a situation, but at the end of the day it was pretty solid to spend quality time with them, cook with free groceries, and explore more of Eau Claire as I did not growup there. 
  • Ian: Reading, working out, playing with the dog
  • Jaime: watched all seasons of Survivor, read a lot of books and all but stopped cooking to keep Milwaukee restaurants in business by ordering delivery.
  • Jenny: I was in my own personal heaven staying at home. Got myself addicted to Tiktok and completed a ton of house projects. Spent a ton of time with my kids finding all kind of fun things to do to keep us entertained.
  • Jeremy: Basically a combination of what Emily and Mike did, but I also welcomed the birth of my daughter which was awesome – now I’m in full dad mode. My wife also threw me a successful surprise Zoom birthday party!
  • Jordon: Lots of time with the dogs, plenty of trash TV, and supporting local restaurants with too much delivery certainly made the time more enjoyable. 
  • Justin: I kept too busy to be negative. For about three months our kids’ daycare was closed so my wife and I traded off work and childcare duties, essentially every waking minute 7 days a week. It was brutal. 
  • Mac: A lot of Zoom calls with my friends and family and a lot of playing Animal Crossing. The pandemic never quite reached the shores of my Animal Crossing island so that was a nice place to hang out.
  • MacKenzie: I made an effort to reach out to my grandmas on a weekly basis, and building those relationships has been really meaningful to me and helped me stay positive.
  • Mark: Video games, wife, scale modeling. Having hobbies and taking walks outside/gym have helped.
  • Meagan G: Got way too into Stardew Valley to the point where it infiltrated my dreams. 
  • Megan A: Lots of Jackbox with friends and various other video games. We did a Movie League with a big group where we chose a theme (bad movies, scary movies, etc.)  and everyone picked a movie accordingly. We watched two movies every Saturday night on Zoom and then vote, with matchups and a winner chosen bracket-style. We also watched every Marvel property under the guidance of our own personal Stan Lee. It was a journey.
  • Megan K: I live in Florida so it’s a little different but going to the beach, backyard bbqs with friends (bars… idk it didn’t really change here)
  • Mike: Watching the most trash TV possible with my now wife, I’m talking about every Real Housewives franchise, Below Deck, Summer House, anything Bravo produced basically. Those shows truly allow you to unplug your entire brain, forget about the doom and gloom in the news, and focus on things like what was going through Potomac Housewife Monique’s head when engaging in a fistfight with castmate Candiace. 
  • Steve: I focused on the factors in my control. For anyone on our team, I reached out to see where I could personally help. Whether tactical or strategic. Any of our clients (old or new) that needed guidance on how to use digital ads to reach their customer and grow their business I made it a point to connect with them. The world may have changed, but the fundamentals of running a great business didn’t. In our business, focusing on our customers, focusing on our team and having a determined focus to grow Granular gave me clarity. Seeing how much our team grew, the success our clients had and our business growth were the positive outcomes of the work put in. It was hard not to be positive when keeping this all in mind.
  • Tim: I started a new job at the beginning of the pandemic so not much changed for me since my last position never went remote. I got back into quite a bit of anime and Disney plus, tried put play some Nintendo games as well when I had the fime.

Q3: Any new hobbies or habits since remote work at Granular started?

  • Aislinn: PLANTS. I always thought that I couldn’t keep a plant alive but now my apartment is full of them. I have even replace my kitchen lights with grow lights so that I can have even more plants.
  • Anna: Waking up earlier and getting a longer walk/run in. I also had way more time alone so I read more books than my English major past as well.
  • Chris: Believe it or not (I still don’t), I started reading! Granted, I’ve only been reading Star Wars books, but it counts.
  • Emily: I actually have time to make breakfast at home and watch the Today Show every morning. 
  • Grant: I have always been a morning person but I have started taking more time in the AM for myself too slowroll and enjoy the mornings. Read the news, tackle part of a crossword, take the dog for a decent walk and coffee. 
  • Ian: I moved into my first home. I’m filling my time with home ownership responsibilities
  • Jaime: Not a whole lot changed for me as far as office life goes, I was remote for 6 years prior to starting work at Granular. I guess the biggest thing was having another person at home working while I was working.
  • Jenny: Slowed down drastically since the morning and evening rat race was eliminated from my life. I’ve become much closer to my kids. Became a DIY novice and pet parent.
  • Jeremy: Walks with my daughter in the morning before work and sometimes during my lunch – again, full dad mode (but no white Nike Air Monarchs or New Balance 644s yet)! I also get to spend time with my two cats and it’s pretty hilarious seeing how little they do in an 8-hour workday!
  • Jordon: Well I stopped a lot of things, like going to the gym 5 days a week but I don’t think that counts! A new habit was going to the office 1-2 times a week to make sure plants were watered and the office didn’t collect too much dust! 
  • Justin: I’ve started golfing, or at least going to a driving range, more frequently. 
  • Mac: To get out of the house my wife and  I take my dog Josie for a walk to the park at lunch everyday. Josie’s a big fan of remote work. 
  • MacKenzie: Renewed love of reading and I started embroidery.
  • Mark: Watching crappy British reality TV. Reinvigorated my interest for military history into a passion for scale modeling
  • Meagan G: Started actually reading books for fun and to learn more about things I’m interested in. Also got a lot more into casual video games. It’s also really nice to take the dog for a walk at lunch to get some fresh air and sunshine. 
  • Megan A: Houseplants, cross-stitching profanities, trying (and failing as of this writing) to learn how to crochet
  • Megan K: I got a puppy & a kitten (also started to garden but that’s “podricks” garden
  • Mike: Purchasing a Peloton (creative, I know) changed my entire way of life, I don’t think I’ll ever go back to a public gym again. 
  • Steve: I took on a regimented approach to every day. Prior to the pandemic, I was much more loosey-goosey with my daily routine. The combo of being a new dad and working from home during a pandemic meant I had to apply a more rigid framework to my schedule. It was that or not meet the obligations I committed to. So the change to how I manage my time is the biggest positive new habit for me coming out of the pandemic.
  • Tim: Since I started at Granular, I’ve relly enjoyed the flexibility of remote work. Just being able to make lunch in my kitchen, go for walks with my girlfriend, and not having to commute makes a huge difference.

Q4: What’s your number one Zoom (Teams/Google Hangouts too I guess) tip?

  • Aislinn: If you have a lot of background noise, try Krisp. It’s a noise cancellation app so your coworkers don’t have to be startled every time your dog freaks out because another dog is daring to exist on the public sidewalk outside your building.
  • Anna: Add cohosts or you’ll be stuck not being able to screenshare!
  • Chris: Make sure your headphones are on before blaming the other person for having their sound off
  • Emily: If you’re looking to throw off your co-workers, take a picture of their Zoom background and set it as your own.
  • Grant: Don’t have the same artwork insight that can also be found in the bathroom at work. 
  • Ian: invest in the best internet you can get.
  • Jaime: Stay on mute whenever possible, you never know when a delivery guy might set off the dogs. Also, screenshots from meetings can come in handy later, I use this Mark Lee/Nick Cage one a lot. It’s something you can’t really do in in-person meetings.
  • Jeremy: turn on the setting to make a sound when somebody joins the waiting room. 
  • Jenny: It’s awkward for everyone, don’t sweat it.
  • Jordon: Wired headset. I can’t stress enough how $300 luxury wireless headsets and earbuds pale in comparison to a $30 Logitech wired headset.
  • Justin: Make sure you have a decent headset and microphone. I was using a crappy microphone that rubbed against my shirt and caused annoying sounds for other Zoom participants for embarrassingly too long.
  • Mac: Take a quick look in a mirror pre-meeting. Since starting full-time remote work my hair can be pretty wild in the mornings and I’d rather find that out before jumping into a client call.
  • MacKenzie: If you’re still working from home and sharing an office space, set up a separate area to take Zoom calls. I like to take them from a separate room so that I can control who/what is in the background, have less noise in my background, and have less distractions. 
  • Mark: Check your mic quality. Does it sound terrible? Probably time to check your settings or upgrade to a new mic. 
  • Meagan G: Turn on the face blur feature so you never have to wear makeup again! 
  • Megan A: Get at least one pet in the frame at all times and never apologize for it
  • Megan K: keep a bag of dog and cat treats next to you and off camera that you can toss to the kids when they get rowdy 
  • Mike: Always look behind you before entering a meeting, no one wants to see your dirty laundry in the background! 
  • Steve: Start the video on your camera and keep it on for the duration of the call. 
  • Tim: Look at your background and make sure you are presentable during. The blur feature in Zoom helps others avoid distractions when you are talking during meetings.

Q5: Predict the future of work-life 2 years from now. Will it be all remote, back to the office, hybrid?

  • Aislinn: I think remote but with social events in person. That would be my ideal scenario. 
  • Anna: Hybrid – I think a lot of business folk learned that remote work can be done and that employees like the flexibility that comes with it.
  • Chris: Well, two years ago I wouldn’t have expected us to make a massive life shift in a matter of a couple of days, so I couldn’t possibly imagine what things will look like two years from now
  • Emily: Hopefully hybrid. I do like the flexibility of working from home especially with bad weather and work-life flexibility, however I do miss the socialization that comes with working around other people in an office setting.
  • Grant: Flexible Hybrid – Like the others who have picked hybrid I think the fact that you get the best of both worlds is the sweet spot. 
  • Ian: Hybrid or fully remote
  • Jaime: Remote or hybrid with the knowledge that there is a space to host meetings or events, do activities or just get away from the house whenever needed. 
  • Jenny: When possible companies will move to full remote or make that an option. 
  • Jeremy: Remote with the option of working in the office. I hope employees will continue to have a say in where they work from. The office is cool, but the flexibility is cooler. 
  • Jordon: Whatever my team wants.We’re keeping all the office perks “active” but also trying harder than ever to support fully remote employees. A mix seems to work.
  • Justin: I think most companies will go back to primarily in-office, but the cool companies that people enjoy working for will stay hybrid/wfh. We’re already seeing the trend with bigger companies making employees go back to the office, which is understandable when these companies have invested so much money into their office facilities. But I think WFH will continue to be a thing, especially as companies continue to struggle to fill open positions.
  • Mac: The commute from my house in Nashville to Granular’s office is quite the trek, so I’m going to predict I will still be remote for the foreseeable future.
  • MacKenzie: Hybrid.
  • Mark: Hybrid or fully remote
  • Meagan G: Hybrid or fully remote. Companies have the advantage of hiring from anywhere in the world when they allow employees to be remote. However, I think local people will start to want some office time to be able to improve the social aspect of work. That’s what I miss most – casual chats with coworkers, lunches out, margs after work, etc.  
  • Megan A: Fully remote but able to go into an office or meet in a public space if needed. Commuting is the WORST, no matter how many podcasts you have.
  • Megan K: I hope I’ll still be remote, the commute from FL to MKE would be wild unless i had a private jet
  • Mike: Employers across the country will have to understand people like working from home and hybrid will become the new normal. Additionally, more companies will be more willing to hire beyond the confines of a city or state. 
  • Steve: I can’t speak to all industries or companies. I can only speak to my prediction about digital advertising agencies like Granular. Unless we see a significant competitive advantage to being back in the office full time, I don’t envision us moving back in that direction. I would have to see a sustained pattern of clients choosing in-person agencies over Granular. Or I would need to see talent quitting in a systematic way or choosing to not work for Granular in the first place because of our company choosing to not be mandatory back in the office. Until that happens, remote with a heavy dash of selective in-person meetings, client kickoffs and team outings is in our foreseeable future..
  • Tim: I think the flexibility of working remote is very appealing to many people, but I think it just depends on the industry if it makes sense to be remote. Any job that just needs a computer to do your work should be remote or at least hybrid. Companies should start giving people more flexibility to work how they want to and it would provide a better quality of life for employees.

Life looked a lot different during these “unprecedented times” (most overused phrase during the pandemic?), as you can see. But as more things change, the more they stay the same. We got married, had children, explored the world, and most of all we stayed healthy and thrived doing so! 

About the Author

Mike Schuerman

Mike Schuerman is a Senior Paid Media Manager specializing in ecommerce growth as well as social media paid advertising. In his seven years of digital marketing experience prior to Granular, he worked at a few Milwaukee advertising agencies as well as in-house for a large ecommerce company. He graduated from the University of Wisconsin-Madison with a degree in journalism and mass communication, returning to the campus regularly to cheer on his beloved Badgers. He enjoys spending time with his wife and Australian Shepherd Millie, furiously cheering on the Milwaukee Bucks, and obsessively curating his wardrobe.