Work in the time of #socialdistancing

How to make working from home work for you.

By guest writer: @jessrobson

I see you.

Boldly working where most office- or communal-space-working humans haven’t worked before:

Forging into the new frontier or making work happen in spaces and places usually reserved for much couch-ing and late nights cheers-ing with your pals.

Maybe you’re thriving in this new definition and dimension of work; finding incredible new levels of productivity, owning your at home fitness game in a whole new way, stoked to be carving out new corners of your living space with fresh eyes and intention (ahem…you may also be an incredible introvert well suited to a less social work environment…btw).

And, maybe you’re feeling a little whoa about it all;
Less connected to your team, while having more conversations with your pets/plants/the wall/etc more than usual—#itsnormaldontworry—among so many other feelings that emerge with massive change in our daily routines.

For those of you feeling like finding your flow in working from home’s coming slower than a snail’s pace, I see you.

Because a short 6 years ago, I was you (I mean, I still am you…yep, it’s still a fine art of re-negotiating what #WFH success looks like. But that’s another story). And while my WFH life was a choice, the adjustment to a whole new—and very quiet—way of working has been a journey – to say the least.

Since leaving a hyper-social retail gig in 2013, I’ve spent the past 6 years as a freelance copywriter; finding my footing as an entrepreneur AND as someone whose desk moonlights as a dining room table – and vice versa.

With that, it’s been an ongoing exploration of what makes working from home, well, work. And, what turns it into a hot dumpster fire where I’m questioning every life choice I’ve ever made while sitting on my couch, on top of my clean laundry, crying into my bag of yogurt raisins from the bulk food section at the nearest grocery store.

As someone who’s an extroverted introvert (and LOVES having coffee shops as part of my productivity equation), in times where time at home’s been amplified, I’ve sussed out a 5 things to integrate into a working from home plan – whether it’s a short term solution to some global-sized challenges or a long term lifestyle/professional choice:

schedule, space, showering (lol but serious), squatting, socializing.

Let’s break those down:

1) Be really intentional about time.
A schedule is going to save your sanity, and your productivity. Not only for what your working hours are, but also how you’re managing tasks throughout the day. If your team or employer hasn’t created mandated ‘online’ hours, create some constraints for yourself; commit to being online/in ‘work’ mode from 9-5, 8-4, 10-6…whatever works for you and your people.

Within that time, focus on work. Do your ‘life stuff’ (aka laundry, cleaning out the fridge, scouring the grout in your shower, practicing your toiler paper hackey sac skills) in your time around that work day.

Manage your tasks through working sessions – topping out at 90 minutes per task or job. There are a handful of productivity tricks you can try – the Pomodoro method is one. A favourite of mine? Using my google calendar to section my day into 4 or 5 90 minute working sessions where I focus on one task.

*Note: task switching really screws with your focus and ability to do deep work.*

2) Designate some space dedicated to your work. Make it nice.
Novelty of emailing from bed hasn’t worn off yet? Give it another couple days.
Much like you arrive at an office and go to your desk, there’s an intentional shift that happens when you have a dedicated space to where you’ll work every day.

Clear a zone for yourself. Have all the resources you’ll need to get your work done within arms reach. Keep it clean, jellybean; take your dishes to the sink when you’re done with ‘em. Like motivational quotes? Scribble a couple down and tape them to the wall/your desk/your forehead. Apply the same thoughtfulness you approach a shared workspace in an office to your at home office; consider what’s going to contribute to having a clear mind and empower you to focus while you’re working.

Crystals and candles? Awesome. Memes taped to your walls? Rad. You do you.

3) Shower. Seriously.
Yup, it’s sure easy to make it to 3pm and realize that you haven’t brushed your teeth yet. Yes, I’ve done it. And anyone working from home in the swell of a major launch or season of fullness who says they have never forgotten….well, I don’t believe it.

And. Bringing a fresh face/mouth/body to your workday keeps that normal ‘going to work’ routine rolling.

If you’re actually stoked that the social necessity of showering is temporarily removed (I mean, check with your roommates/partners on this one…), be thoughtful about how you show up to your desk or working area every day. Showing up physically ready to work brings a focused energy to your day. And, keeps your manager checking off the ‘presents themselves professionally’ box even while they can only see your top half 😉

A note: YES it is very fun/funny to not wear pants while on a Zoom call. YES, please remember that you are not wearing pants if you need to excuse yourself from a long meeting or get up to grab some paperwork.

4) Move your body.
So sure, you *probably* don’t break a sweat while you’re at work. However, there’s a high chance you’re used to moving between meetings, walking to get lunch with your coworkers…essentially getting out of your chair and moving your body a handful of times a day.

With fewer reasons to get up and transition yourself to different places in the office/your home, integrating short bursts of movement into your day (trips to the fridge don’t count) can help aid in keeping your blood moving, helping you reset your brain between tasks, and keeping the mid-afternoon dips at bay.

Here’s how I’ve integrated some light movement into my at home days: if I can’t take a call while walking around my living room/bedroom, at the end of every call, meeting, or working block, I get up and do 10 air squats, or 10 push ups, or do walking lunges around the living room, or a few side stretches. And yes, I fill waterbottles, check out the fridge to see if anything new has materialized since I checked last (hasn’t happened yet but my hopes remain high) – you know, the basics.

Also: if you want to make the most of your lunch hour, there are a ton of videos on YouTube to pop on and dive into – my friend Alex teaches a 20 minute yoga session that’s the perfect stretch session to move through before you eat.

5) Be social, strategically.
Connect with your team, or the people you work with, once a day for a 15 minute watercooler chat. Non-work related – simply to GET related (fun #quarantine challenge: if anyone says ‘COVID-19’ or ‘Coronavirus’ during your watercooler chat, they have to donate a small amount to a charity you all love).

Outside of your professional network, remind your friends and family you’re still working, and let them know when they can get a hold of you for personal chats.

With everyone at home it’s easy to think we’re all available 24/7. It’s absolutely and perfectly okay to create clear expectations and healthy boundaries around communication with your people to stay on top of work or whatever responsibilities you have while working from home.

And, remember to reach out. If you’re struggling to feel connected, times are feeling particularly tough, or you’re experiencing anxiety, ask for help. Finding people you trust to share your experience with can be the antidote to letting the loneliness creep in; and telling someone you need some social support is brave and courageous. Remember: as a mass population of people who are working from home, we’re all in this together – and don’t need to navigate this experience alone.

OKAY – ONE bonus point, because it’s an important one (and I couldn’t think of an ‘S’ to make this one fit with the rest other than calling it ‘S-periment’. Boo.):

6) Let it be an experiment.
As on the nose as it might sound right now, go easy on yourself. Let this new way of working be an experiment where you learn something about yourself.

Try out some different ways of making your day great. Find the right combination of what helps you stay focused and feel connected to your team, your social networks and communities, and the people you may be sharing space with (especially if you’ve got other people working from home in the same space).

Like most things, and most definitely in the world of creating your own business (which, in a sense you’re doing now as you innovate how you work/do business), there’s no one way of getting s**t done. Let your curiosity help you navigate this time and what’s going to make working from home work for YOU.

From one socially distanced working from home human to another, I see you, and I am you.
And hey – I’ll shower if you will…most days.

About the author
Not one for 3rd person bios (but writing them for herself since 2013), Jess Robson is a speaker and facilitator who over articulates the ‘t’s in words like ‘mittens’ and ‘buttons’. Owning and solo-operating a copywriting business for nearly a decade, she teaches entrepreneurs and small business owners the tactics behind owning their words, and using them well. Because, as she sees it, when you’re fully expressed and in touch with how to bring your value to life through language, anything is possible, and the tough stuff about writing becomes less yuck. She’s also got a penchant for helping teams sort out their communication….but that’s for another time.

So you want to speak at ApparelCamp 2019?

Interested in leading your own session at ApparelCamp?
Reach out to and we’ll help you prepare.
Keep in mind, the more you can encourage participation, the more engaged your audience will be.

Here are some ideas:

1. Do you have an idea for an interactive workshop? Use your creativity to develop a hands-on presentation that gets the audience engaged!
2. Don’t want to be the only person in front of your peers? In a panel discussion, a moderator facilitates questions from the audience or a series of prepared questions for the panellists, but a significant part of the session is still interactive with a Q&A with the audience.
3. Lead a Town Hall – The leader presents a short (20-30 minute max) informative topic, open-ended question or premise and opens the floor for expansion, comment, questions and general discussion.
4. Do you have a story that could help others to learn from your experience?
5. Present a case study of a time that you and your team developed a new product, entered a new market, took a risk, innovated etc.

How Does it Work?
ApparelCamp Vancouver is an “un-conference” that relies on the participants to propose topics, lead breakout sessions and vote on topics most relevant to them. This open-source concept facilitates knowledge transfer and collaboration on issues that are affecting the industry the most at that time.

Step 1: Topics are proposed
ApparelCamp does not have pre-scheduled speakers. Everyone and anyone is welcome to propose a topic that they would like to lead at some point in the day. Synopses of all proposed presentations will be posted online leading up to the event to give the community time to review and get excited about the event!

Step 2: Vote
Voting with happen online at Voting will close 2 days before the event to give organizers time to schedule the top voted speakers and allow people to plan their day according to the schedule. Unfortunately, not every proposed topic can make it onto the schedule…only the ones with the most votes.

Step 3: Keynote Speech
Participants arrive in the morning and are treated to coffee, pastries, and an opportunity to network. The keynote speech starts at 9am and gathers the industry into the main ballroom.

Step 4: ApparelCamp Day!
Sessions begin. Three sessions will run concurrently each hour. Lunch is served at noon.

Schedule: October 5th 2019

Time Schedule of Events  
AM 08:00 ~ 8:45 Registration ●      Breakfast: Sponsored by (TBD)

●      Networking

AM 8:45 ~ 9:15 Opening Remarks ●      Intro to how the day will unfold

●      Gold sponsor short intro

●      Thank You to other sponsors

AM 9:15 ~ 10:00 Keynote Speaker TBD
AM 10:15 ~ 11:00 Breakout Session #1 Room A

Topic #1

Room B

Topic #2

Room C

Topic #3

AM 11:15 ~ Noon Breakout Session #2 Room A

Topic #4

Room B

Topic #5

Room C

Topic #6

PM Noon ~ 1:00 Networking Lunch Sponsored by Kendor Textiles
PM 1:00 ~ 1:45 Breakout Session #3 Room A

Topic #7

Room B

Topic #8

Room C

Topic #9

PM 2:00 ~ 2:45 Breakout Session #4 Room A

Topic #10

Room B

Topic #11

Room C

Topic #12

PM 3:00 ~ 3:45 Breakout Session #5 Room A

Topic #13

Room B

Topic #14

Room C

Topic #15

PM 4:00 ~ 5:00 Closing Remarks & After Event ●      Closing Remarks

●      Thank You to all sponsors

●      Onsite beer and wine served.

Get your ticket

Social Enterprise hires a Sewing Coordinator

The Union Gospel Mission recently thanked Apparelcamp for hosting an incredible networking event where they were able to connect with and hire a Sewing Coordinator, Maryanne Matthias, for the launch of their newest Social Enterprise; A venture where the residents recovering from addictions learn how to repair high end boutique items earning a stipend per repair, which are then sold at the UGM thrift store. Maryanne Matthias is the Founder and Director of Osei-Duro, ethical clothing rooted in traditional textiles, based in Accra, Ghana and Los Angeles, and was looking for a part-time local opportunity. We think it’s a match made in heaven.

Social Enterprise needs a Sewing Coordinator

Job Summary

Are you looking to utilize your experience and skills as an experienced seamstress to make a difference in the lives of women facing barriers.

Responsible for developing and implementing a social enterprise in partnership with a social enterprise team at the UGM thrift store. Oversee and work with residents and alumni from UGM programs by coordinating the teaching of sewing skills for the purpose of repairing slightly damaged items from a high end supplier and general donations. Teach sewing skills on domestic sewing machines. As UGM expands in the areas of life recovery and housing for women and women with children, this program will provide skills, income, and increased self-worth for women who are progressing through UGM’s continuum of care.

This pilot project is a social enterprise opportunity. This position is a part-time (16 hours per week) sub-contracted position. For a copy of the full job description, please contact the Wraparound Aftercare Worker Korena at

Skill Set

If you are able to agree with UGM’s Mission Statement and Statement of Faith (see ) and have a heart to care for the women in the Downtown Eastside, this position might be a great fit! This position also requires an ability to maintain a high level of confidentiality with good interpersonal and English skills. In addition, we are looking for someone who can work together with others well in a team environment, be a positive role model to the Sanctuary residents and teach valuable sewing skills.

All persons who have access to guests of Union Gospel Mission may have unsupervised access to vulnerable adults. Therefore, the successful candidate must provide a current criminal record, with a vulnerable sector search, as a condition of employment, which requires two pieces of government-issued identification. Individuals considering employment must be legally entitled to work in Canada, able to demonstrate compatibility with UGM’s Core Values, and support UGM’s Statement of Faith.

Social Enterprise

The purpose of this social enterprise is to provide opportunities for women who have been a part of UGM’s Sanctuary, a live in stabilization and supportive program in the Downtown Eastside of Vancouver for women seeking recovery from substance abuse. You would be overseeing this social enterprise as part of a team who will meet regularly to review your progress and provide support. The Team will include the UGM Wraparound Aftercare Worker, UGM Manager, Community Engagement & Social Enterprise and our partnering organizations.

How to Apply

If you have any questions or would like to submit your resume, please contact Korena Zietsman at or drop it off at UGM reception at 616 E. Cordova Street, Vancouver BC V6A 1L9 attn: Korena Zietsman, Wraparound Aftercare Worker 604-253-4044 ext.356

The Union Gospel Mission is expanding their ‘Learn to Earn’ Program

The Union Gospel Mission is expanding their ‘Learn to Earn’ Program by developing a social enterprise where residents in recovery can earn some money by repairing clothing items needing minor repairs. Some high-end donors from Vancouver’s fashion industry have already partnered with UGM in sending slightly damaged items for repair. UGM welcomes companies wishing to partner with their new program expansion by helping residents earn money while learning sewing techniques to benefit them in their future.
For inquiries, please contact Korena Zietsman

Call for Speakers

Interested in leading your own session at ApparelCamp?

Here are some ideas….

1) Do you have a story that could help others to learn from your experience?

2) Present a case study of a time that you and your team developed a new product, entered a new market, took a risk, innovated etc.

3) Do you have an idea for an interactive workshop? Use your creativity to develop a hands-on presentation that gets the audience engaged!

4) Moderate a Panel Discussion or Lead a Town Hall Meeting

Email and we’ll help you prepare.

ApparelCamp 2017 Press Release

VANCOUVER, BC–(July 11)- On September 30th the Vancouver apparel industry will experience the 2nd annual conference, with a twist. ApparelCamp allows attendees free access and the chance to vote on the day for the topics presented. Hosting a self-directed conference for Vancouver’s apparel, fashion & soft goods industry is the brainchild of Vanessa Fors & Pete Hill.

“We saw that Vancouver’s fashion community had no venue for dialogue,” says Vanessa. “But we didn’t want to assume we knew the most pertinent topics. We believe the attendee led model ensures that ApparelCamp guests discuss what matters to them.”

This doesn’t mean that planning isn’t involved. ApparelCamp has secured keynote speaker, Davis Smith, Cotopaxi’s Founder & CEO. While ApparelCamp volunteers tally the votes, Davis will share his experiences as a social entrepreneur in the apparel and soft goods industry. In addition, a conference website has been created to capture topic ideas and possible discussion leaders.

“As this with be the second edition of ApparelCamp, we have learned from last year’s participant feedback. At the end of the day, we hope that people leave feeling inspired and excited that they got to connect with colleagues in their industry,” says Vanessa.

ApparelCamp happens Saturday, 30 September 2017

from 8:00 AM to 4:30 PM at the SFU Segal Building

(500 Granville St., Vancouver, BC)

About ApparelCamp

Founded by Vanessa Fors and Pete Hill in Vancouver, BC, ApparelCamp is the first “unconference” that is specific to the apparel and softgoods industry. While the one-day event is free to attend, participants are responsible for the success of the event by leading a topic of participating in a breakout session. Run as a not for profit, sponsors wanting to engage with the industry are an important player by covering the costs of running the event.