A Crisp Conversation by Ar. Shaymi Shah

Me: Hey wait! Where are you taking me? No! But I like it better out there. Please leave me alone. Stop! Please don’t take me away. Nooooo.

Few moments later.

Oh well! This isn’t that bad either. I am still breathing. Ah! There she is. My sweet friend, sipping her coffee and looking at the screen of the laptop. But today she doesn’t have her earphones on. Okay, this seems to be like an unusual meeting. One by one the faces come up on the screen. There’s six of them, and they all look so excited. I try moving a little closer so that I can hear what they are talking about. But I am helpless and feel paralyzed as I can barely move.

Person 1: Hello everyone. It feels so good to see you all! How is everyone doing? Do you miss office yet? Or is working from home new and interesting for you all too?

Person 2: I love it. I haven’t felt happier than this ever before. I am able to work at my own time and get to spend time with family as well. If I don’t feel like working in the day, I put up some music, make myself some coffee and work in the night, like the time we did in Design school. I have figured that it helps me work without any distractions.

Person 3: I feel so relieved that I don’t have to stress about starting the day early, getting ready and rushing to the office. I can be comfortable in my pajamas all day and work more efficiently without any impositions or instructions. I kind of like the flexibility of working as long as I can stay motivated enough. It’s making me want to know about all the technologies that are being used all over the world in our profession. I looked up videos and articles about how virtual reality and augmented reality will be used as tools to design in the future. I even signed up for an online course about the same. You all can check it out if it interests you. I shall send you the link. 

Person 4: Honestly, I was actually very annoyed when I first heard about my office changing to this system of working from home. My productivity reduced drastically. I felt really low and started getting a lot of anxiety due to the uncertainty of what time of the day I would spend working. I would try to concentrate on the video conference calls but I couldn’t wait for them to get over so that I could go to bed or laze around binge watching some series and movies. 

It made me realize how easily I get distracted and if I didn’t fix this now, it would just keep getting worse. I scheduled my meetings and conference calls in the mornings so that it makes me want to wake up, get updates about what everyone has been working on and then start my work for the day. 

Person 5: You know when I think about it, people like us, who are from some creative field, may find it easier to adapt to this change. Just like the time in college, we can actually make our own studio space and customize it, according to our taste- it could simply be posters or self-designed products of the things that inspire us. We spend a majority of our time creating, innovating, exploring ideas. Anything around us, at any point of time, becomes an inspiration for us. I looked up this form of art called Mandala art. I didn’t believe at first when it said that it’s like a meditative form of art. I was really surprised to realize how it helps refresh and recharge before getting started with work again. 

But you know what? Not everything is rainbows and unicorns for everyone out there. In one of the webinars I watched online they said that the mental health cases have risen to 20% and people are finding it increasingly difficult to stay home.

Person 3: Yes, even I read that the domestic violence cases have increased almost two-fold since men who aren’t able to go out or cope up with working from home take out their frustration on the women at home. It’s so sad. I can’t believe how one thing that could possibly work so well for some of us is just that horrifying to so many others. These things make me realize that we are all actually quite lucky to have been raised in such families and feel grateful for the same. I think the main challenge for us probably is to stay self-motivated and find the work-life balance. 

Person 2: Self-motivation, my friend, is easy if you don’t have a lot of people around you. So actually, to make sure I don’t get interrupted, finally after a week of mismanaged schedule, I set up my work space, near my balcony overlooking the garden, so I could be connected to the outside. You all know how connection to nature has always been very important to me. This way there were no interruptions during my work hours. I would take a lunch break, a small coffee break and the time after dinner was dedicated to family or reading a book or catching up with friends over video calls and so on.

Person 5: But can you imagine if you were married? Or had kids? Or had no house-help? What would happen then? One of my cousins told me recently how difficult it was for her and her husband to manage everything and still find the energy to finish up their deadlines. It makes me think about all those times that I have complained about having to go to work, but at least that’s the ONLY thing I really have to worry about. A lot of people out there are managing so many things all at once. 

I did try all sorts of tricks to keep my self-motivated and even set up my office space, but somehow while working in my own space seemed exciting at first, it sometimes does get boring and makes me feel irritated to stay in one place. You know how something new always seems exciting at first but then you need to do something “NEWER” so that it doesn’t get monotonous like any other day at the office. I think that’s what’s happening to me right now. I am constantly in search of something new to do. 

I need the human connection. I need the interaction and sense of connectivity with another person in order to discuss the ideas; otherwise I feel lost and lose the will to work on it further. I even participated in a competition project to keep my creative mind working, but somehow discussions over video calls and phones don’t appeal to me as much as those actual brainstorming sessions with my team for hours. 

Person 6: Maybe that’s exactly what you need to explore then. All your life you have been around so many people, you never ever really have had the time to pursue something you like. Take this as an opportunity to get to know yourself better. Think about the things you missed out on doing in college, due to the pressure of the deadlines, make a list, pick any one of those things in a week and take out time to do that. You might feel better, be able to work more efficiently and also start enjoying your own company. I sort of have this new-found love for non-fiction books, I am reading like three different ones and they are all so interesting. I also tried to develop a habit to take out time and meditate every day; it’s been a great help to control my stress. 

Me (thinking to myself): Where’s this cool air coming from? I am not even outside anymore. How can the wind feel so cool even in this heat? It’s coming from the opposite direction. I think from that white box hanging up on the wall. How magical is that? 

Person 1: I know right! I just recently started playing the piano again. It’s been years since I did that but it’s so much fun. I had wanted to learn a few of my favorite songs and never found the time but now I finally started practicing again. The online tutorials really are a wonder. I mean I know it’s not probably possible for everyone to do the same thing because our situations are very different, but the idea is to try and adapt to the change. Right now, the change is to try working like we haven’t tried before. Maybe a few years later, with the upcoming technology, this style of working would cease to exist as a new reality would come into existence. The truth is that nothing is permanent and what we live in right now is just as temporary as we want it to be. If you try to change the way you want to live by doing something that excites you, you may actually be able to live in instances rather than a monotonous routine. Your book of life could just be different short stories written from time to time instead of one long endlessly boring novel.

Person 4: Yeah maybe. I took it up as a challenge but eventually realized how much more liberal it is to work like this, at my own time and pace, in my space, without the stress of “dress to impress”. Once I realized that I was in complete control of my day and my time of working, I started seeing its positive side. I used to crib about not getting enough time to do what I like to do as office hours and the time of commute took away most of the time of the day. But like you said, it’s all about finding the right balance here. 

Person 6: So, I guess we can all agree that work from home really does Work for us. Most of the work we do is in our imagination and how to get it out of the head and onto the paper is really up to us. I sort of wonder how this so-called “challenge” actually turned out to be such a liberty for us. 

Me: Wow! That was well said. I used to crib about the time when the sun was too harsh, the wind too dry or I didn’t get enough water. I got sad even when I got to live in the shade and be taken care of because I missed being outside. Living inside is new for me, but I think it’s going to be a new and different experience altogether. A little change is needed for everyone to keep going. Though I can’t speak for everyone. But I like how this change only needed ACCEPTANCE and a new perception to be taken positively. I wish I could make them all understand this. But how? I am just a plant on her table. 

Personal Bio

Architect Shaymi Shah, is a graduate from Navrachna University, Vadodara, Gujarat. She completed her degree in the year 2018. She interned at Kapadia Associates, Mumbai, and worked at KMS associates, Vadodara, and eventually established herself as a freelancing architect. In the year 2019, she, along with two of her partners- Urmil Shah and Sagar Parmar, co-founded Open Workspace- a venture for designers in the city of Vadodara. Open Workspace is a learning and sharing platform in Vadodara. It’s a venture for designers to come together, learn, share their experiences, collaborate, and form a network. The idea is to build a Design Community.