One year into the pandemic … thoughts from Direct Choice

It goes without saying that we are eager to put the pandemic in the rear-view. Up ahead but not yet in clear view, we anticipate our return to the office, vacation spots, concerts, sporting events, etc.


Before getting too far ahead ourselves, we felt it would be remiss not to look back on the past year and consider the impact of such a sudden shock to our daily lives. With that in mind, we put together a few quick questions for our staff. See how your answers align with ours…


What was the hero of the pandemic for you — i.e. something that made life easier throughout the past year?


Nick: From a serious perspective, the hero(es) of the pandemic are the front-line healthcare workers — many risking their lives every day to save lives, as well as having to keep a distance from their families when they returned home from their shifts.  On a lighter note, “Schitt’s Creek” being on Netflix saved my mind and my sense of humor.


Sal: Hero? That would be Lonnie. I returned to the office full-time in June and Lonnie returned soon after. Working at the office alone would have been much more difficult.


Angela: My hero was my garage because I was able to hoard a lot of stuff on my shelves like wipes and hand sanitizer and not have to go shopping as much. Plus, I could still park my car in it when I knew it was going to snow.


Tom: My hero was undoubtedly, my home brewing system. I was able to sharpen up some recipes and provide beer to my neighbors, family and friends for socially distant gatherings outside.


Reem: Cooking more and getting on my Peloton! It has been so much easier to actually cook meals instead of the constant rush of racing home, eating something quick and racing to the next thing! Plus, I’m able to get on my Peloton a whole lot more — with more time in the morning and at the end of the day. It’s been a Game Changer for me! Plus, I’m doing other things that I enjoy more like reading!


Bill: Without a doubt it was the air fryer! Guilt-free deep frying and quick bites to enjoy while binging on multiple series almost every night of the week.


Patti: My pets have been my heroes! I miss being able to talk to my colleagues in person, and I guess my dog and cat have become proxies – they keep me from getting too lonely throughout the day.


Lonnie: Jigsaw puzzles! In the early months of the pandemic when nobody would/could go anywhere, we broke out some 1000-piece puzzles that were collecting dust. My family spent hours upon hours putting these together and we ended up buying 2-3 others as well.


Beth: My family started a new hobby together – bird watching. We bought feeders for different types of birds. From the Great Blue Heron and the Red-Tail Hawk to the little Hummingbird, we were pleasantly surprised by the number of different species who visited our yard. Even our cats were into watching them come and go.


Rob: Internet/WiFi Speed. With 6 kids doing virtual schooling + me working from home, it was essential! By the way, I only have two kids, but we have four other kids that have done their virtual schooling from our house — sometimes up to three times a week during the last year.


How did you adapt to working from home? Can you think of a particular challenge or surprise?


Nick: I started Direct Choice in 1995 from my family room and ran the operations from home for the next 10 years, so going back to working remotely was an easy adjustment for me.  Thanks to Microsoft Teams and Zoom meetings, it’s much easier to meet with our clients and strategize with our team members than it was 25 years ago.


Sal: It was not all that hard to adapt to working at home. However, I was working in tight quarters which is what prompted me to return to the office. I was also able to print documents faster at the office. That said, the work from home experience made it easier for Angela and me to move to an “all-digital” environment which we did at the turn of the year.


Angela: I adapted to working from home well because I once had a job not that long ago where I worked from home 2 days a week, every week.  What surprised me this time (because the last time I really didn’t like it as much as I thought I would) is that I really wouldn’t have a problem with working from home indefinitely other then maybe going into the office every couple of months to check in.


Tom: It took a few weeks to adapt to the new quarantined lifestyle but overall each person in our house was very respectful of everyone’s space and noise so that we could co-exist under one roof. I was pleasantly surprised how well we adapted, but we definitely bonded and became a stronger family. It was also nice to end the workday and to enjoy simple things like walking the dogs and eating dinner at a normal time rather than sit in rush hour traffic.


Reem: It was a very easy transition for me and I found I was just as productive if not more! Being able to balance work life and home life during Covid became easier. I realized I didn’t mind the extra family time — I actually like them, LOL.


Bill: I’ve been working remotely for years but 2021 marked the first year that I attended a video shoot from a computer screen. I was truly amazed by how easily we shot three new spots, each of which required a location outside of the studio environment. Hats off to our partners at CCFV!


Patti: In the office I would print out a lot of documents.  Being at home, I’ve had to rely on using the ONE screen on my laptop instead, which I suppose has been good for the planet.


Lonnie: Biggest challenge was finding space for my wife, son and myself to work and attend school. I had to quickly convert a spare bedroom to a second office where I could work.


Beth: I must admit I really like working from home. I have become very efficient in maximizing my productivity. I don’t miss the rush hour commute at all. I do miss seeing all my coworkers and chatting over morning coffee!


Rob: I am in the camp that would have said before the pandemic that I could never work from home. I am now in the camp that doesn’t ever want to go back to the office! I find I am more productive, have a better work/life balance (no more 45-minute car ride to go home at rush hour), and have realized I can do my entire job from my home office. I do miss the in-person, social interaction with my co-workers, but honestly, I just miss the in-person social interaction with all people in general!



Was there any lesson learned or positive outcome?


Nick: One lesson I quickly learned — the clock hitting 5:30 shouldn’t mean it’s time to uncork a bottle of wine.  I realized our household consumption of wine increased the first month of the pandemic, so we adjusted the “uncorkings” to a more respectable 7:00.  Our household budget — and my waistline — benefited from this adjustment.


Sal: I can honestly say there were not many positives.  It has been detrimental to my kids’ educations, life outside of work is non-existent, and work-life is nearly all virtual. If there was any positive, it is that we reduced our driving and our auto insurance rates. Those things will change once everything is back up and running.


Angela: My positive outcome is that I don’t have as much mileage on my car and I don’t have to worry about what to wear to work because I stay in my PJ’s all day…lol.  Also, when there is bad weather, I don’t have to stress about driving in it.


Tom: A lesson learned and positive outcome was evaluating my very busy lifestyle. I was able to reflect on the things that matter the most, what I want to spend time doing and with whom. This quarantine forced many of us to simplify our daily lives, and moving forward, I plan on eliminating unnecessary stressors coming back into my life. This time has been a great and welcomed reset button!


Reem: The biggest lesson for me has been to cherish every day with seeing my family more often — it reminds me of that saying, “The days are long but the years are short”.  I see how quickly it goes. My oldest is a freshman in high school and I know it won’t be long before he’s off to college! So, when he texts me from his Zoom class “eggs, please?”, I am eager to oblige and whip up a quick batch of scrambled eggs for the both of us.  In the too-near future, I’ll miss those text messages.


Bill: A major positive for me was taking time to re-train myself on the drum kit and write some songs on guitar. While I missed the opportunity to play with most of my musician friends, I finally found time to go back to the basics.


Patti: I think many people would say the same thing. A positive outcome was being able to spend more time with my family — especially my college-aged daughter who was forced to endure happy hour with her parents instead of her friends!


Lonnie: Lesson learned — you can never have enough toilet paper.


Beth: Pre-pandemic my family was literally on the go in different directions, every day, all the time. While life has slowed down quite a bit for most of us this year, I focused on enjoying family time. With a teenager in high school and parents in their late 80s, time is a gift. Be present and enjoy today. Who knows what tomorrow may bring?


Rob: For me, this whole experience has been a good lesson and reminder in being humble, slowing things down, and taking an appreciation of the people that are in your life.



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