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ICYMI: Breakfast Club 4.17.2020

In Case You Missed It!

Here are some of the things we discussed at our first Virtual Breakfast Club.

Jumping off from some of the issues discussed in the podcast series "This is Uncomfortable", we dove into our recent experiences balancing work and life - making hard choices, the good and the bad of working at home, and how we are managing our mental health. 

Picture this...8-10 ladies gathering in a coffee shop surrounded by tempting pastries and latte art before the start of the work day to discuss “Where Are the Women Architects” and their shared and varied experiences in the design industry. Yes, maybe a tad basic, but that was the plan…

We initially envisioned a much different inaugural W+iD Breakfast Club that would coincide with the author Despina Stratigakos’s visit and our Wikipedia Edit-a-thon. After a couple weeks of adjusting to WFH life, (and coming to terms with the fact that 2020 is canceled), we decided to embrace the challenge and reimagine what a Virtual Breakfast Club could look like. Having attended a handful of Zoom meetings at that point, we knew the difficulties of engaging attendees on a 30+ person call it’s easy to get lost in that gallery of faces and names. Then there are the inevitable virtual/tech issues like talking over one another, circles of apologies for talking over one another, or the fear of that apology circle leading to the awkward silences. How do you bring some of the comfort and ease of the face-to-face small group in a coffee shop to a virtual gathering in this quarantined world?

Having survived 3? 4? weeks (what is time really?) of quarantined life at that point, we decided a mental health check-in would be an appropriate, and possibly helpful, alternative to our initial plan. We encouraged participants to listen to episodes of the “This is Uncomfortable” NPR podcast related to Coronavirus struggles prior to the meetup, and we decided to embrace technology by getting interactive with polling questions (through Poll Everywhere) inspired by the anecdotes in those episodes.

We brought together a mix of digital designers, interior designers, architects, sales representatives, and leaders of local design organizations to share their experiences and feelings 3-4 weeks (what is time really?) into quarantined life. Some highlights from our polling and conversation follow (check out the full presentation with polling results here).

  • Our top pandemic coping mechanism is enjoying fresh air or using a home gym bring on that spring and summer weather! Notably, a shockingly low number selected bread baking and binge watching Netflix (this group gives us motivation!).

  • Rebalancing work and personal life when work is so easily accessible was a recurring topic throughout the conversation.

  • 50% “sort of” agreed while 23% felt this statement to their core: “I am not working from home; I am at home during a crisis trying to work.”

  • In the first few weeks, most seemed to have found balance in what their priorities should be and actually are while working from home mental and physical well being topping the list.

  • Some hard choices had been made including making pay cuts and layoffs, “being the bad guy” with friends and family not following guidelines, and most common not being able to visit at-risk family.

  • Our biggest fears included sickness, unknowingly spreading the virus, loss of loved ones, and the uncertainty of what lies ahead.

  • You’re seeking connections, and we heard you loud and clear! More virtual events (outside of the typical Zoom meeting) are in demand. (Have an idea? Let us know, and let’s make it happen!)

  • We overwhelmingly find comfort in our families and nature with a side of alcohol.

  • We speculated about what post-COVID life will look like and how we are tirelessly working on not touching our faces.

  • We love hearing “Some Good News,” the design adaptations companies are making, and all of the helpers joining forces during this crisis.

  • We are grateful for the connections, but long for a break from the screens who is down for a virtual walking club?!

While we cannot wait to get back to in-real-life connections and conversations, we’re thankful for this community that encourages us to thrive and adapt to these challenging times. Please join us for the next Virtual Breakfast Club featuring quarantined creative projects from your fellow W+iD members coming your way on Friday May 15th (register here.) Until then, stay healthy, stay creative, and remember to feel your feelings.

By Monica Blasko, AIA, Katie Walsh, AIA, and Cassandra Osterman, AIA

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