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The 5 A’s of Remote Work During a Pandemic

Or, finding zen in chaos: a guide to staying fresh and productive while working from home in times like these.

by Phil MacIsaac, Senior Designer

An illustration of a person meditating on a lotus flower, with a backdrop split between COVID-19 symbols on one side and work-related items on the other.

Image Courtesy by Stuart Braidwood.

Here we are in the new year of 2021 and finally, out of whatever-the-hell 2020 was. What better time to realign ourselves in terms of how we live and work so that we might thrive in what will undoubtedly continue to be challenging and unprecedented times in the days and months to come.

To help with this proposed realignment, I present to you these ‘5 A’s’ to be practiced daily. My hope is that this wisdom — which has helped me navigate my own struggles — might help you better manage any issues you, or someone you know, might be experiencing with energy — or a lack thereof, mental health, relationships, or any of the many ill effects of this whole situation we find ourselves in.

So, without further adieu:


Practicing awareness is about being conscious of your internal whyWhy am I feeling this way? Why did I just say that thing? Why am I anxious right now? Etc. When you learn — through active, daily practice — to understand your why, in whatever the context might be, the gained perspective creates space between you and your emotions, which then helps you to process the events in your daily life more rationally. In effect, the intensity of negative emotions is short-circuited when we are aware of why they are occurring.

The best — and most Zen — way to achieve this awareness is by focusing on your breath. By doing so, you align with the moment, a simple act that will grant you all the clarity you will ever need.


Embrace the as is-ness of the situation. Accept what you can’t control. Any energy you’re spending on bemoaning the injustice of an issue — large or small — is energy that could be much more wisely applied to positive and wholesome things like hobbies, positive relationships, putting care into your work, etc. As author Mark Manson points out in The Subtle Art of Not Giving a F*ck, you only have so many f*cks to give, so use them wisely. Perhaps the best advice anyone can give.


As humans — having evolved as we did — we need to move. We need to move a lot.

It’s not only physically necessary for our bodies to get routine exercise, but mentally the benefits are borderline magical. Personally, I can’t even come close to counting the number of times where I’ve been having a bad day or struggling with a project, and a bit of exercise was all that was needed to turn my mood around or enable me to come up with the idea I needed to move forward with my work. It’s like some sort of magical reset button for your mind and spirit.

The type of exercise you do doesn’t have to be super hardcore. Make it work for you. A little is better than none, it just has to be done daily. It can be as simple as activities like going for a walk, doing chores around the house, stretching, etc. The main thing is to get your heart rate up for an extended period of time, and, ideally, get a sweat out.


See the world around you in solutions.

This is about applying a filter on your perception of events in your day-to-day so that as complications arise, which they inevitably will, you’re not having the wind taken out of your sails. By practicing routine awareness and being in a state of mental readiness, we can get in the habit of meeting daily challenges with instant resolve.

Ultimately, we choose how we react to the challenges that are put before us, and by utilizing this perception filter, we ensure that our head stays cool and that we’re moving forward and that we’re not having our energy drained by problems that are ultimately only existent because we make the choice to allow them to be.


Similar to adaptability — one could even say that agility is adaptability in practice — but is less about perception and more about always being ready and willing to change what you’re doing at the drop of a hat — as opposed to getting frustrated or stressed out by, say, an interruption by a family member who needs help with something, or a project that pivots unexpectedly rendering the work you’ve done unusable, for example.

In other words: roll with the punches. Be prepared to be unprepared. Understand and embrace that things rarely go according to plan. Let the unpredictability of life excite you. Be what the moment requires of you, and embrace it fully. Don’t waste energy fighting against the current.

One last bit of advice

Embrace your spiritual side.

I’m not talking about religion here — too often the two concepts are conflated. Rather, spirituality as a wholesome life philosophy with the purpose of cultivating the health of your soul, that is, the non-physical you. Adopt a simple set of healthy activities and a moral code to be practiced daily. Embrace a spiritual system, which may or may not have elements of religion(s) incorporated into it, that works for you and does good for those around you. This is, in effect, how to efficiently navigate life’s many challenges while maintaining happiness and balance.

If this article resonated with you, I might suggest diving deeper with the following book recommendations:

A New Earth — Eckhart Tolle

The Three Pillars of Zen — Philip Kapleau

Make Time — Jake Knapp

Atomic Habits — James Clear

The Subtle Art of Not Giving A F*ck — Mark Manson

And for anyone who might be dealing with gut issues (what with all the stress and anxiety), try this one:

The Mind-Gut Connection — Dr. Emeran Meyer

And for parents:

The Conscious Parent — Dr. Shefali Tsabary

Phil MacIsaac is an interface/experience designer, an award-winning graphic designer, a font maker, an avid nordic skier and martial arts practitioner, a gamer, and a musician as well. But most importantly he is husband to Emily, and father to Petra and Ernie the dog. Check out some of his work at