April 22, 2020
The global health crisis of the coronavirus pandemic has overturned every moment and corner of our day-to-day lives. In this new micro-series, Shop Talk: Home Work, we turn to our network of friends, colleagues and collaborators for comfort and community, and discuss how they’re adapting to work and life in this unprecedented era of uncertainty.
As a co-founder and principal of the San Francisco–based lighting firm PritchardPeck, Kristin Peck was suddenly tasked with not only readjusting her own workday, but those of her team and staff, as well, as the city’s shelter-in-place order quickly took effect last month. Here, she shares how she’s managing the responsibilities and pressures of running a business—all the while strategically balancing it with motherhood and finding time to squeeze in a self-care ritual each morning.
Kristin Peck is an engineer by training and an artist at heart. Combining mastery of lighting as a craft and the uniqueness of a project’s architecture allows her to unlock a unique lighting story for each project. She believes the process of design and the relationships built along the way are just as important as the end result.
Can you tell us a bit about your firm’s work, and how you’ve found ways to adapt your business with the ongoing COVID-19 closures?
We’re lighting designers and specifiers. I co-own our company with my partner, Jody Pritchard, and we have a total of 13 people on staff. We started our firm nine years ago, and being immersed in San Francisco, we built our company on tech and this idea of flexibility. Everyone on the team works on laptops, we do everything in the cloud, and use programs like Slack. Those aspects of workflow and structure for the operations side of our company made it really seamless for us to just take our laptops home and keep things running.
Logistically, we are all set up; emotionally, it’s been a much different scenario. Our team works very collaboratively, everyone gets along and hangs out together for fun, and we really enjoy each other’s company—so despite having all the technology, it’s not exactly as it was before, and we’ve had to change the way we work a bit. Each morning at 8:45, we all get on a Zoom together, to just kickstart and bring a little structure to the workday. You can be in your pajamas or we have some show up in costume—it doesn’t matter—but to come together and get focused for the day has been great.
Are you also scheduling time in for more casual hangout time, to foster the strong social bonds of your team?
In terms of the one-on-ones or casual chats we’d normally have—we’re doing more of those, but online. We’re also doing virtual happy hours pretty regularly. Those have been great! People take their laptops into their backyards, and we just try to unwind together. Staying connected now is more important than ever in this strange, different dimension we’re currently in. A lot of people can feel very camera-shy in meetings—about half will usually turn them on. We decided as a firm that human contact, now, is really visual, so we’re being huge advocates for turning on the cameras during video chats. Using Zoom so much now, I think it’s really easy to click into one meeting and into another without any transition or break. There’s an intensity to the day that we just didn’t have before, so we’ve also been encouraging our designers to take more 15-minute breaks, especially between meetings to decompress.
Pictured: The PritchardPeck team showing face on Zoom
As living situations can vary from person to person—whether it involves multiple roommates or being a parent—what are some ways you’ve been able to stay flexible and adjust workloads, while also ensuring the work gets done?
Essentially, we’ve all been stripped of our resources by the pandemic: No one has access to nannies, childcare, school, or grandparents. On our part, we’ve just been doing our best to be very empathetic and flexible to everyone’s needs because we’re all in the same boat. Both Jody and I have kids—I have a five-year-old and a nine-year-old. We are home-schooling and running a business all at once. We’re a very, very family-friendly firm. We know it’s a pretty rare thing for design firms to promote, and we embrace that.
People can work at the times of day that best suit their schedule, and that’s fine with us, as long as the time is accounted for. Everyone’s still targeting their hours, and we check in every day just to make sure that the company is healthy, and that our employees are healthy, and able to get the work done. But everyone has a bad day, whether you have or not have kids, everyone’s normal has been disrupted. It’s important to be careful and not feel like your situation is harder than anyone else’s. People are away from parents or family, some may have parents overseas— everyone has it hard in their own way, and I just have to keep reminding myself of that.
What’s your personal WFH setup at the moment?
Since Jody and I are working moms, we’ve always had home offices setup for ourselves. I already had a monitor and a camera, but our employees didn’t have that. So the day before they imposed the shelter-in-place order here in San Francisco, we went around in a truck to everyone’s homes and delivered an office chair, a monitor, and whatever they felt they needed to get properly set up at home, whether it was a mouse, their favorite coffee cup, or plants.
Pictured: Where the magic happens, Kristin's current WFH setup
Are there any personal strategies or rituals that you’ve found helpful in managing your stress levels?
I’m being very disciplined about my day. I block out my calendar and I just run through it. It’s choreographed to have breaks, workouts, meals, time to get outside with my kids, and to check on their homework. I also made the really smart move of investing in a Peloton bike last year—that’s been my sanity lately. The early morning is my time to bike, sweat a bit, and squeeze in an hour of work. By the time the kids are up, I’m fed, exercised, I’ve had my coffee, and have my calendar squared up for the day. I’m relaxed and ready to be a mom that is, much more patient, and less apt to project my stresses onto them. And I also schedule time into my calendar for a regular break and hugs—because everyone needs a hug.
Pictured: Kristin's source of sanity, her Peloton bike