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Reflecting on a Quarantine

Agency / Life
Published in
5 min readMar 12, 2021

It’s official. We’ve reached the one-year anniversary of what was supposed to be a two-week shelter-in-place order. Looking back, nobody could have predicted how long we’d be away. Or just how much would happen over the coming months.

After a year chock-full of “unprecedented times,” we asked our team to share their personal memories, lessons learned, and thoughts on what’s next for our agency and community.

Dan Malabuyo, Senior Graphic Designer

During the pandemic, I used my time at home to refine my passion for filmmaking by learning visual effects in Adobe After Effects and Cinema 4D. The wildest part of 2020 was when I received a chance to shoot music videos for two UK Synthwave groups that I highly admire.

I also picked up roller hockey again as an exercise routine to help my asthma, playing in Stick Time in Coronado. With so much time spent at home, there’s really nothing like skating outside with an amazing view overlooking the water.

Erin Relph, Senior Project and Resource Manager

What went through my mind when the shelter-in-place order was announced? Panic. My biggest challenges have been sharing limited workspace with my husband and managing distance learning for my kids. After a disastrous Spring, we hired a tutor to oversee their schooling in our backyard.

My WFH must-have? Headphones are key, and listening to music or something that can focus but not distract me. No podcasts!

Nick Lopez, Account Manager

My family got COVID. My dad, mom, grandma, aunt, and uncle all got sick, but my mom had it the worst. She had all the symptoms and didn’t even have enough energy to stand up or eat. When her oxygen levels dropped, my dad took her to the hospital where she stayed for almost 2 weeks. Even when she was well enough to go home, she had to be placed on oxygen for what has turned into 5 months. Thankfully, her oxygen levels are coming back.

This was a real wake up call. Prior to getting sick, my dad didn’t necessarily believe COVID was a bad as “they say.” Now my family is taking this more seriously not only for ourselves, but for everyone around us too.

Shane Robinson, Senior Graphic Designer

On walks around the neighborhood and park, I actually started using plastic bags from the grocery store and a grabber tool to pick up trash. With more people at home and fewer street sweepings because of the parked cars, litter really started to pile up. I’ve probably cleared several hundred pounds of trash over a few months. Got tired of thinking, “Wow, I wish someone would clean this up!” So I decided to be that someone.

David Fried, Director of Strategy & Storytelling

When we left the office, I jokingly said, “See you next year.” Lo and behold, a year later, here we are. I’ve been trying to spend at least 20 minutes a day practicing guitar. I fall in and out of the habit. But when my day is seamlessly and endlessly shifting from work to home responsibilities and back, having those moments to decompress and focus on something entirely different and creative is a must. Headphones are helpful too.

Angela Renac, Associate Creative Director

Our agency has deep bonds that can withstand a lot of stress. The culture we’ve developed has absolutely strengthened not just our relationships but our ability to be productive in extreme conditions. We truly do embody our values.

Hybrid WFH is here to stay. We’ve proven it can work. With this evidence, there’s no way companies can withhold the flexibility from their employees moving forward. But we’ve also learned the advantages of in-person collaboration and connection, so that’s still going to be important, just on a more organic schedule and format.

Javier Iniguez, President & CCO

My daughter, Kylah, is autoimmune compromised, so my wife and I went into full lockdown mode. Accommodating the house for four separate individuals was a challenge. Both kids are doing their virtual school and my wife also works from home. This makes it tough to not talk over each other when we’re all on virtual calls. Trying to focus through constant distractions has also been frustrating.

I’ve always prioritized family and friends in my life, but this experience has amplified just how important and valuable these people are to me and my happiness. I’m grateful for the amount of time I’ve had with my wife and kids this year. We’ve built stronger relationships with each other going through this. I’ve also learned that the people in my circle, including my team at EFM, have the biggest hearts. We are resilient and can persevere no matter what comes our way.

Morgan Graham, Partner & Chief Experience Officer

2020 taught me that we’re all so much more resilient than we realize, as both individuals and a team. Our lives were completely uprooted — stay home, work remotely, spend time with the people you’re closest to — and somehow, we still found inspiration and creativity in it all. I have a ton of respect for our team in transitioning to fully remote work. There was some friction in the beginning as communication became more intentional and less organic without in-person collaboration, but now we’ve found our groove.

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