One of the things that makes Greater Than Games (GTG) a wonderful place to work is the admiration, understanding, and respect for the hard work and dedication of the women in our office. They are an immense part of the strength and driving force of our company, and we wouldn’t survive without them. 2020 was a difficult year full of obstacles, changes in routines, and hurdles, but it also brought about opportunities for us to grow and better ourselves and our workplace. We want to showcase these stories of strength during the daily COVID challenges, and explore some of the positives of working in a pandemic without ignoring the negatives. This last year has been a challenging experience for everyone. And as living members of the history that’s being written, we have a chance to share our stories in the homestretch of this pandemic.

I’m proud and excited to share stories of triumph and words of encouragement from the following members of the GTG team (pictured above from left to right):
Bailey Pittman (Pronouns: Xi/Xir — Xi is a feminine genderqueer individual.), Customer Service & Social Media Manager
Jennifer Closson (Pronouns: She/Her), COO
Jodie Wagner (Pronouns: She/Her), Warehouse Manager
Katie Nale (Pronouns: She/Her), Client Services Manager
Maggie Clayton (Pronouns: She/Her), Sales and Marketing Director
Rae Henderson (Pronouns: She/Her), Graphic Designer
Ruby Topping (Pronouns: She/Her), Warehouse Associate
Sarah Kelly (Pronouns: She/Her), Graphic Designer/Illustrator
Twuana Price (Pronouns: She/Her), Operations Manager

1. What’s one of the biggest challenges you’ve faced in your daily work routine due to the pandemic and what steps have you taken to help make it better?

Bailey: The hardest part has been maintaining that routine. Most of us aren’t lucky enough to have a whole room to dedicate to an office space and I’m one of them. Setting alarms for breaks, making sure to get properly dressed every day (the temptation is real folks), and keeping the Office Corner as far away from our typical living flow have been essential in the separation of work/life.

Jennifer: I welcomed our first baby on March 06, 2020. On March 11 COVID-19 was officially declared a pandemic by WHO. By the end of my maternity leave, the United States was still in lock-down and GTG had announced we would not be going back into the office until there was a vaccine. I had to figure out how to be a full-time mom/daycare and full-time employee. All while coming back to a new position as COO of the company. (And also while still VERY sleep-deprived.) I’m still working out the fine details (like eating three meals a day), but over a year later I’ve managed to create a balance between the two roles through careful scheduling, daily check-ins with my husband, and creating a slightly non-standard work schedule that allows for day time with my baby and evening time for work when needed.

Jodie: Probably the biggest challenge I’ve faced daily during the pandemic is the same challenge that’s often at the center of my work and life situation. I’m struggling to balance the time I need to be able to spend at work and otherwise working with my wife’s need to do the same. What makes it harder during the pandemic is that our oldest has been home, schooling-remotely and the younger kids have been doing daycare/homeschooling with us for the whole pandemic. To  make this work, my wife and I each have days of the week where we work from home, as well as needing to make up some time at night or on the weekends to make sure we get everything done we need to.

Katie: My biggest challenge was learning how to communicate my thoughts and ideas through written messages. Pre-pandemic, I could pop my head into a coworker’s office, and chat about daily tasks, meetings, whatever. During the pandemic, there were times where I really struggled with not having that sort of interaction, so I had to learn very quickly how to analyze and interpret thoughts and feelings in an entirely new way (at least for me)

Maggie: It’s a pretty straight forward problem: How do I keep my departments on track. We were already facing difficulties in communication when we weren’t working from home, so my biggest challenge was how do I make sure projects keep moving forward, employees’ needs are met and we all have fun. The solution was getting organized, a thing I’m not stellar at, but we managed to do it. We set up weekly meetings that help us stay on track and different ways to hold ourselves accountable to one another. 

Ruby: Worrying that with working in person during the pandemic that I could be potentially bringing something home to my wife (who is asthmatic), Thankfully the COVID practices at GTG are very thorough and I’m happy to say that I’ve been almost fully vaccinated without catching anything in the past year.

Sarah: Not being able to see people in person, whether for meetings, to ask questions, etc. can be a challenge. So it was important for me to speak up, improve my communication, and make sure my voice was heard in the midst of uncertainty and change. This has helped contribute to better workflow organization and communication within the company as a whole.

Twuana: One of the biggest challenges I’ve faced in my daily work routine was forcing myself to stay motivated. It was very hard to stay as motivated as I was in the office because I was working so close next to my big comfy bed, and having little to no in-person interactions made me really bored. The steps I took to make things better I watched movies and listened to a lot of music while working. I also opened all the curtains in the house to let the sunshine in, having the sun beaming through the window always put me in a great mood. 

2. How has COVID changed your view on working from home?

Bailey: I honestly thrived in a WFH setting when we first switched. It allowed for a lot greater control over my work/life balance. It helped me to realize that I’m not broken, but the system can be. It also brought to light just how far we as a people could go to aid those who need these sort of considerations full time. 

Jennifer: I’ve done years of freelance from my home before and it was always easy to fall into the trap of “I can work on that later”. Working from home on a daily basis (while having a baby at home as well) means I have to prioritize, be flexible, and multitask my way through the day with a whole new level of self-driven motivation. I’ve had many moments of “while that file is saving I’ll switch the laundry” or “let’s grab a bite to eat and go for a walk during lunch while it’s nice out” or even “OK, the baby really needs me today and I don’t have many meetings so I’ll do my work tonight after he’s in bed”. It’s a delicate dance to keep everything afloat at work so I don’t cause delays, while also making sure my little boy doesn’t fall second to the work day. It’s given me a huge appreciation for stay-at-home parents as well as stay-at-home employees.

Jodie: I still think it’s rough to do when you work in a warehouse, but it has made me consider how much organization and procedures make it possible and improve the accuracy of the work being done.

Katie: It’s much harder to work from home than I anticipated. I realized that I am the sort of person who thrives in a social workplace, and I miss the collaborative nature that is the GTG office.

Maggie: I’ve done remote work previously and I had always had kind of a negative outlook on it. Communication is so important and there’s a lot that you miss working remotely, and I was surprised by how well we as a company did over the past year. I’m still not a fan of remote work but it was a challenge that we met head-on and overcame.

Ruby: While I haven’t worked from home at all, my wife has with no issues, as have many of my friends and family. It has shown me that so many jobs can be comfortably done from home and that a lot of positions out there need to be more open-minded about letting folks with social issues such as anxiety to work from home.

Sarah: I believe COVID has opened the eyes of many companies who can now see and understand the benefits of a work-from-home environment for their employees. Though Covid created many additional obstacles that a typical work-from-home environment wouldn’t necessarily have, many employers are realizing that it can be done while maintaining levels of productivity. Based on learning from my personal experiences and listening to others, giving employees the option to work from home, even just a few days out of the week, can significantly increase an employee’s happiness and mood. It gives them the opportunity to be with their pets, their family, do things like have outdoor picnics with their kids during lunch hour, exercise, and create a little extra flexibility in their routine. Though it’s not for everyone, what I’m seeing now is almost a revolution of many companies re-evaluating their large, corporate office buildings to allow for those who thrive from an at-home environment to be allowed to do so, creating an even more positive work atmosphere and cutting down office-related costs at the same time.

Twuana: At first I viewed working from home as an AMAZING experience, not so much anymore I miss all my coworkers so much.

3. Working from home can be filled with distractions. What’s one thing you do to help you focus during the day?

Bailey: I’m blessed to live with adults, a cat that’s not mine, and no children. But, the TV still looms just out of my peripheral vision and the kitchen calls my name like a siren. Music has been my focus lifeline. It helps to drown out any lingering thoughts when that attention span runs thin. No time to think about what other distractions there are when I’m singing Hello, Dolly.

Jennifer: When I really need to focus, my husband will take time to go play with our son in another room or go outside with him. I’ve learned that the dishes can be in the sink until after dinner, the laundry can be switched during lunch, etc in order to keep my focus on work during work hours. I’m also kind of blessed by a schedule full of meetings. While this would normally make it hard to get work done, it means I have headphones on through a good portion of the day and I’m engaged with co-workers which makes it easier to stay on task.

Jodie: Routines, routines, routines! Getting the kids and pets to do the same thing at the same time sets them up to know what to expect and when.

Katie: I make sure I have a routine for my workday, with set start and end times. That way I have a clear separation between my work and home life. I also make sure that I get out of the house for a walk, or a quick errand to help reset my mind and avoid burnout.

Maggie: I have to “get ready” everyday. I have to shower, do my makeup, etc. to get my day start off right. Even when I was sick with COVID I tried to do my routine, it did not go well but yeah that’s my thing lol 

Rae: I listen to music and watch my favorite shows. My only distraction is kitty cuddles. 🙂

Sarah: I think it’s important to have a workspace designed to create a positive atmosphere regardless of where it’s located. COVID and the lockdown added challenges in creating that balance for many people. When it comes to distractions, however, I believe there can be just as many at the office and it’s important to find a way to recenter yourself when things feel chaotic. For me, working from home allowed me to step away from the computer when I needed to destress and hit my mat for some yoga or take some time out of my lunch for gardening. Two things that significantly improve my personal well-being and state of mind.

Twuana: I’m human so I still get distracted from time to time but listening to music would always keep me focused.

4. We truly appreciate our employees who have been working in-person through the entire pandemic. It can be a little scary to be outside your home during COVID. What do you do to cope with being in the warehouse instead of working from home?

Jodie: I ride my bike to work, which is an excellent way to get a little bit of physical release of stress before and after being out and about.

Sarah: N/A (but shout out to my Warehouse coworkers — they are awesome!)

Ruby: Truthfully I don’t feel like I have to cope, especially after the first few months, mostly I just try to be mindful of my coworkers and be cautious of outside parties such as truck drivers that aren’t following protocols.

5. How has your JOB been improved or changed by COVID-19 policies in the office?

Bailey: I’m pretty new – Hi! – but I’ll go off the telecommunication switch we all went through. It’s weird seeing everything as a ghost town when you’re in an office. Or how I have only met Ruby in person and won’t get to meet anyone else for a good little while. Having to schedule a meeting for basically any conversation longer than a few IMs or emails has also not been the greatest. But, the biggest plus is getting to see how responsive your workplace is. Nothing makes it more clear that you are valued as an employee when your health and well-being becomes top priority.

Jennifer: Communication and organization! You can pretty much ask anyone in the office and they’ll tell you that I’m a broken record when it comes to creating & documenting procedures, having timelines, and communicating with each other. Being remote really forced our company into finding the most efficient ways to stay connected, organized, and on time. We have more efficient meetings and better project management and I couldn’t be happier!

Jodie: We made a bunch of paper-based workflows digital, which has helped immensely with speed and accuracy of warehouse work.

Sarah: I’m not sure that the mechanics of my job has changed a whole lot, but I do think COVID has forced everyone to re-evaluate flow and organization in a positive way. Without being able to ask questions or talk to people real-time at the office in person, everyone has been forced to figure out a way to adapt with consistent zoom calls and follow-up meetings to make sure everyone involved in a project knows their responsibilities and is updated with growing information.

Ruby: It’s definitely more clean, the sanitation protocols have made things less dirty than a warehouse usually is.

6. Has the pandemic helped YOU improve in your personal life or the workplace?

Bailey: It really helped me to open up that conversation about my needs. The mental health struggle is real and AFAB folks have an ingrained tendency to not make a fuss. Your needs are not a fuss. Your requests and conversations and limitations are not a fuss. You are a living breathing person who deserves every ounce of consideration and kindness.

Jennifer: Being on lock down with a baby helped me learn how to balance my work life and home life. I have to make a distinct and conscious decision to end my workday and be in “home mode”. I have always had trouble “turning off my work brain” and this has taught me that it’s OK to just focus on my family and home life at the end of the day. Work will still be there tomorrow. When your office is the corner of the dining room table, you REALLY have to make an effort to ignore work when it’s time to play. And it’s important to internalize that you’re not being a bad employee if you take your lunch to be with your son instead of eating at your computer (like I would in the office). And you’re not a bad employee for closing your computer at 5:30 and not opening it back up until the next morning. But it’s also good to know that you’re not being a bad mom because you had to sit in meetings all day and could only engage from across the room instead of being right next to your child.

Jodie: Yes! The pandemic has helped me get into bicycling the way I had wanted to over 2020 anyway, but the reduction in traffic at the beginning of the pandemic let me start cycling to work sooner than I would have been comfortable with otherwise. When 2020 started, I set a goal of bicycling 200 miles before the end of the year. By March, I was on track to hit my goal. By the end of 2020, I bicycled 1922 miles in total, and I’m now bicycling to work nearly every day I commute.

Katie: Working from home means that I can’t rely on talking to my coworkers and others in person. It has made me better at communicating my thoughts and feelings though emails and messages.

Maggie: It forced me to be more organized. About 60% of my week is spent in meetings, sometimes more, so I have to try to be on top of all of my projects so nothing is on hold because of me. 

Rae: I have more time to focus on healthy habits. My diet, exercise, and meditation has improved significantly.

Ruby: In a way yes, it has helped me to value the social interaction that I have on the daily with my coworkers that I definitely took for granted.

Sarah: I believe it has improved both! My husband was also able to work from home during the COVID lockdown, and though he is now back at the office, he permanently works from home now two days a week. We used to work at the same company together at previous jobs, so having to work at home at the same time felt like we were back in those days. We could hangout during our breaks together, eat lunch together, bounce ideas off each other…it’s been great being home with him especially during such a scary and uncertain time. In regards to other family members and friends, I’ve done my best to find ways to safely adapt, even if it means I’m not able to see them as much as I’d like to. Sometimes it becomes stressful when trying to adapt to the situation and the people around you have different assessments of risk. But in a positive way, I’ve definitely done more outdoor activities with my family and friends in 2020 than any other year, and in some ways, that’s really nice. I think COVID in a strange light has brought many families together and closer, and I think it’s created a strong bond in the workplace as well.

Twuana: The pandemic forced me to do a lot of self-reflection in every area of my life and I can say because of this I have become a better person and I make a point to not take things for granted.

7. What’s one bit of advice you have for other women who are struggling in the COVID environment?

Bailey: It’s a marathon (sadly) not a sprint. Each day has to be taken one at a time and it’s okay to have needs.

Jennifer: You don’t have to embody the perfect Pinterest mom persona and be a star employee all the time – or any of the time. Working full-time from home and being a full-time daycare for your little one(s) is unprecedented. This is a new experience for everyone and you’re not alone. Your children won’t love you less if you have to take meetings and your work won’t value you less if you log off at exactly 5:30pm each day to be with your family. Don’t get lost in the “I’d be a better X if I did Y” mindset. There’s no manual for how to handle working at home with your kids during a pandemic. This is unprecedented territory. We make our own rules right now. 

Jodie: Find things you care about and do them. Find a game, a book, a pandemic safe activity or exercise that you enjoy and spend time with it. Focus some of your energy on it. Take all the enjoyment from it you can and get better at it. Enjoying it helps make it easier to do, and making progress in it feels good.

Katie: You are enough. You are doing enough.

Maggie: Don’t be afraid to express yourself. If you’re struggling, tell your boss or your coworkers.

Ruby: Be patient with yourself and others, and don’t be afraid to reach out to friends or family when you are struggling, also self-care is so important.

Sarah: In a situation like COVID, the level of day-to-day uncertainty brings in so much added stress and anxiety. It can really wreak havoc on someone’s mental health. It’s important to do your best and stay true to your own levels of safety and comfort. Surround yourself with support and people you trust, but also learn to let go of what you can’t control.

8. If you could pick ONE power word or short phrase of affirmation that you associate with the strength and positivity of women in the workforce as we power through the pandemic, what would it be?

Bailey: We got this

Jennifer: “So often in life, things that you regard as an impediment turn out to be great, good fortune.” – RBG

Jodie: You can only get to the better stuff if you keep trying.

Katie: Women can save the world

Maggie: Tough times never last, tough people do. 

Rae: perseverance 

Sarah: “Let go of everything that no longer serves you”

Twuana: “You never know how strong you are until being strong is the only choice you have”