Our columnists and contributors weigh in on working from home

Working from home in pyjamas
Reading Time: 9 minutes

Doug FirbyThe COVID-19 pandemic has sent all but essential workers to their homes for self-isolation. This is forcing a lot of people who are used to working in offices to quickly adapt.

Our Troy Media columnists and contributors are no exception.

Some are among the many who are learning how to work from home. Others, we discovered, have been doing so for years.

We asked these writers whether this has changed how they work. Here’s a sampling of how they’re faring and what they had to learn about working in this ‘new normal.’

Rebecca Schalm
Rebecca Schalm

Rebecca Schalm, Strategic Talent Advisors
As someone who already works from a home office, there hasn’t been a lot of change in my daily routine. The difference is, everyone I’m talking to is now also in their home office. For some of my clients, this means a comfortable, dedicated workspace. For others, it means the corner of a bedroom closet.

I’m very curious how this experience will evolve the workplace and our expectations regarding the integration of work and life. Will those who have previously suffered long commutes now insist on remote work policies? Will the sound of children running around in the background be considered normal?

The longer this goes on, the more likely we will develop entrenched attitudes and expectations about where and how work is done in the future.

This has the potential to open up exciting new recruitment opportunities for companies located in places where relocation is a challenge, such as here in Vancouver. This period is an opportunity for us to both get more comfortable with the idea of a virtual workplace, as well as help us develop the skills we need to make it work.

Joni Avram
Joni Avram

Joni Avram, marketer
Not much has changed. I’m used to working solo with a big chunk of time at home. Big difference is having kids around full time and trying to be a homeschooler on top of everything else. (We are learning to share cables and chargers!)

The biggest unknown right now is where are the opportunities for new partnerships. Overall, I’m optimistic and hopeful that we will get through this together.

Gerry Bowler working from home
Gerry Bowler

Gerry Bowler, historian
As a historian, I’m fascinated by the way we’re reacting to this plague in comparison to the earlier forms of pestilence like the 1919 Spanish flu or the 1347-49 Black Death.

We haven’t come to the dangerous moment yet. That will occur when, out of necessity, social isolation will relax. I’m happy to snug in front of my computer and intensely grateful to those who are keeping civilization fed and the power kept on.

Sylvain Charlebois
Sylvain Charlebois

Sylvain Charlebois, researcher in food distribution and policy at Dalhousie University
Other than no travelling, it’s business as usual for me. My home setup is ideal: a closed office, private gym, a nice backyard. My wife is not working so she can manage our four children’s schedule.

My team, though, is struggling, which got me to go on Skype more often, just to talk to them. I must say that by the end of the day, I’m exhausted. Talking constantly on the phone, Zooming or Skyping is exhausting!

Gerry Chidiac working from home
Gerry Chidiac

Gerry Chidiac, teacher
For me as a teacher, this has been an opportunity to develop my skills in using technology to better serve my students. As a global citizen, however, this has been a time of great concern. Human rights experts have long been warning of the danger of the easy spread of pandemics among the most vulnerable people on our planet.

We are so connected globally that there’s no longer such a thing as ‘us’ and ‘them.’ There’s just a very large collective ‘us,’ and we need to take care of each other.

Cheryl Croucher
Cheryl Croucher

Cheryl Croucher, freelance journalist
Because I anticipated a long time of being shut in, I’m prepared to hunker down for several weeks. I make my own bread but, alas, no cow yet for the milk for my morning Nespresso.

I don’t know that this will really change the way we work. I’ve been working on my own since 1992 (I invented the gig economy). What this episode in our history will really do is help most of us become more Internet/social media savvy. And it has the wonderful potential of changing our political and economic system. We really are all in this together and dependent on helping one another.

I read something last night on Twitter. Can’t remember the author but I do remember the comment: “After this, those under 45 will never forget and never forgive.” Goodbye, the one per cent.

Dave Fuller working from home
Dave Fuller

David Fuller, business coach
I’ve been working hard to keep up as my clients are struggling with the economic effects of COVID-19. I’ve hired a couple more assistants to keep up with the demand and really help my clients in some of their efforts to stay above water. Much of this is gratis.

I’m also president of the Professional Business Coaches Alliance of Canada (www.pbcacanada.com). Our coaches have offered to coach business owners for free over the next couple of months to help them get through this.

I work from home but now with the rest of the family isolating, there has been more going on in the house and it has taken quite an adjustment to be around people 24/7.

I believe the long-term financial effects are going to be significant on the economy.

Michael Taube
Michael Taube

Michael Taube, syndicated columnist
I’ve mostly worked from home in my professional career, so it’s just been another day at the office for me.  However, some new tenants have moved into the “office building” – my wife and son. The walls are remarkably thin, and I may have to start charging rent!

All kidding aside, we’re managing as best we can – and we hope all of you are, too.

Lee Harding
Lee Harding

Lee Harding, researcher, Frontier Centre for Public Policy
The coronavirus has not changed my lifestyle much. I would have been going to church on Sunday and occasionally visiting a bar or restaurant, but no. Based on the 2010 document Scenarios for the Future of Technology and International Development, it seems the Rockefeller Foundation envisioned that a pandemic like this would lead to a halt to international travel and commerce, and even local business. This occurred, as did the expected imposition of more top-down government control. However, I don’t believe this will last. This experience will reveal to a few businesses and people that more work from home is possible, or even preferable. Other than that, governance and commerce will return to normal – except with more public debt and interest payments burdening everyone.

Roslyn Kunin working from home
Roslyn Kunin

Roslyn Kunin, business consultant
Since I’ve worked from home for the last 27 years, the change to my work life is barely noticeable. Except I’m now much busier than I used to be with lots of work and no social or other events to take me away from work for a while. Once this is over, both work and education will no doubt have a much bigger virtual component, given that we’ve learned that there is no essential need for an office or a classroom to get things done.

Joseph Micallef
Joseph Micallef

Joe Micallef, international relations analyst and wine writer
I’m home, just finishing up two weeks of self-quarantine after returning from the Norwegian Arctic.

All the events I was supposed to attend, mostly wine and spirits judging, are cancelled.

This is the longest I’ve been home since my college days. Otherwise, it’s all surreal. Dealing with it one day at a time.

Maddie Di Muccio working from home
Maddie Di Muccio

Maddie Di Muccio, paralegal
If I could describe my current mood in one word, it would be: overwhelmed.

I’m in the legal profession, and so I’ve been deemed as an essential service in Ontario.

I’m going to my Toronto office daily but it’s just two other colleagues and myself. Our clients continue to need us.

Pat Murphy
Pat Murphy

Pat Murphy, historian
Being retired, hunkering down is a less drastic imposition than it would otherwise be. You might even say that it’s just a moderately straitened extension of normal life.

Despite being in our 70s, neither of us feels particularly threatened by the virus itself. Our underlying health is robust and we do all the recommended things, including diligent adherence to the social distancing bit. Still, it’s weird.

Toronto is very different. The streets remind you of what it’s like early on a Sunday morning except now its eerie rather than peaceful. Some people find aspects of it quite unnerving, particularly things like empty shelves in the supermarket.

I don’t think it’ll have a profound effect on how people work and interact in the future. Human beings are generally social animals and will revert to form in that regard. Hopefully, though, it’ll stimulate rethinking of some aspects of globalization.

Greg Gazin
Greg Gazin

Greg Gazin, syndicated tech columnist, facilitator, podcaster

While some people have experienced a full 180-degree change to their work day, it hasn’t been so drastic for me. My in-person leadership training has been postponed indefinitely of course, but I’ve always written and produced my podcats right in my home office.

However, I can no longer go out for meetings or head over to Southgate Centre in Edmonton for coffee and my daily walk. So I make my brew at home and head out into the neighbourhood to get in my 10,000 steps bundled up to protect myself from the elements.

What has changed is the way my meetings are being conducted. As an early user of Zoom, it just means using it more. I can understand, however, that for some it’s a huge paradigm shift and a step outside their comfort zone. In fact, I’m finding I spend an inordinate amount of time enlightening folks on how to use the technology, offering best practices tips and how to cope working from home.

But I will admit to experiencing a little more cabin-fever than in the past. I overcome this by spending a little more time “off-line,” less social media and I often turn off my iPhone and computer. My spouse and I spend more quality together, and we watch streaming services and read actual books.

Once this pandemic has passed, I think we will see more people working from a home office and using tools like Zoom, GoTo Meeting, Webex. They are becoming more acceptable and familiar and have been proven to work.

It’s only been a couple of weeks, of course, so who knows what my mindset will be like in another two weeks?

Ted Laturnus working from home

Ted LaturnusTed Laturnus, auto journalist
For me, it’s pretty much business as usual.

Just about everything is closed and the streets are less busy, but we’re managing okay.

Never been much of a party animal anyway, so social distancing is no biggie. At last, I fit in!

Ken Reed
Ken Reed

Ken Reed, sports policy director, League of Fans
I’m taking this opportunity to enjoy more quality time with my family.

I’m also watching movies I’ve wanted to watch for a long time.


Faith Wood working from home
Faith Wood

Faith Wood, consultant and professional speaker
I feel like some things haven’t changed, other than the incoming revenue piece. With all my engagements cancelled, I’ve been refocused on projects that have sat on the edge of my desk for a long time.

Productivity keeps me sane and brings a measure of control to a chaotic and uncertain environment. By focusing on the things I can do and create, I’m keeping my creative juices flowing. Innovation happens in a time of crisis.

Peter Menzies
Peter Menzies

Peter Menzies, Senior Fellow at Macdonald-Laurier Institute
Professionally, this is probably the hardest thing I’ve ever done.

Adapting to the reality that retirement is no longer an option. Feeling for those less fortunate.


Kerry Diotte working from home
Kerry Diotte

Kerry Diotte, MP (CPC – Edmonton Griesbach)
As an MP, I’m largely working from home and have been most busy lately helping constituents who are outside of Canada try to get back to the country.


© Troy Media

working from home

The views, opinions and positions expressed by columnists and contributors are the author’s alone. They do not inherently or expressly reflect the views, opinions and/or positions of our publication.

By Doug Firby

Doug Firby is an award-winning editorial writer with more than four decades of experience working for newspapers, magazines and online publications in Ontario and western Canada. Previously, he served as Editorial Page Editor at the Calgary Herald.

Leave a comment

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.