What Social Distancing Taught the Savoir Flair Team

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Photo: Courtesy of @martasyrko

Weeks before the Government of Dubai directed all private companies to implement a “remote work” system for 80 percent of their employees, the Savoir FlairHalo Studio, and Goodness teams have been working from home in an effort to keep our loved ones safe and help flatten the curve. Now, as people across the city set up home offices and start to experience cabin fever, we reflect on all things social distancing.

Dana Ksaybi - Head of Sales

On the bright side, social distancing allows you to spend more time with yourself, learn a thing or two about yourself, cook for yourself, read for yourself, dream for yourself, and hope for yourself. There is so much healing that happens in the process of simply slowing down time – just taking a moment to do what you know is right for you is in itself rewarding. What I’ve come to learn during this pandemic is the importance of online social distancing, too.

In order to truly practice social distancing, we must also take into consideration the impact of social media on our mental well-being at a time like this, and continue to distance ourselves from it. This easily accessible window into exaggerated headlines is at our fingertips and constantly covering all sorts of aspects regarding how people worldwide have been negatively impacted. I think this has had a severely toxic and draining effect on us. The lesson here is that it’s as important to socially distance yourself online as much as offline during a crisis, as your state of mind could be severely affected. Limit your news consumption, make a plan, and follow through your day with moderation.

Daria Dolgodvorova - Assistant to the Editor-in-Chief

I love being at home with my own company and the company of my dog. I love cooking, painting, reading, playing my ukulele – that’s pretty much what I do day-to-day anyway. But here is the difference: staying in by choice versus being told to do so. During this time – once I got past that “What will I do?” phase – I decided to focus on myself. I treated myself to the workout set that I’ve wanted for ages, I work out every day, I experiment with all those recipes I never had the time for, and I read as much as I can. I’m now on my sixth book and counting.

My whole family and most of my friends live abroad, and that’s the hardest part – not knowing when I will see any of them. But we speak every single day and exchange news, funny memes, and the TikTok videos that we now have time to create. My advice for all of you at home and going absolutely mental? Don’t! Take this time to do things you always wanted to but never got around to, call your friends and family, try a new hobby, do some spring cleaning, read, write, meditate, go for walks – the possibilities really are endless. And once you get over the fact that you feel like a caged animal, you’ll discover so many wonderful things to do and be grateful for. Cheers!

Photo: Courtesy of @theslowtraveler

Diana Azzam - Arabic Editor

The biggest issue that I believe everyone in the UAE, especially Dubai, faces is a lack of time. We never have time to do all the things we want to do. Sometimes, we don’t even have time for ourselves or the people we love simply because we are always busy. Social distancing has made a lot of things unavailable, which gives us more time to be home – not just physically, but really be present at home.

I believe my baby is the one enjoying social distancing the most, as we can now experience more things together. We’re painting, cooking, dancing, and even making a cardboard car! I’ve learned a lot of things about my son that I didn’t know before. Practicing social distancing has taught me that taking care of myself and my family should never take second place – it should always be a priority – and that being at home is not boring at all. It’s the opposite; it is full of adventures.

Frankie Rozwadowska - Beauty Editor-at-Large

You’d think that after nearly two years of working from home, I’d find self-isolation a doddle. But whilst I’m used to spending copious amounts of time alone and even having the odd day where, yes, I don’t change out of my pajamas or see daylight, having that choice taken away is a whole other ballgame. And with that comes a lot of realizations about me and the world – some good, some bad. First up, the overwhelming feeling of guilt. It’s like Joni Mitchell sang, “Don’t it always seem to go that you don’t know what you’ve got till it’s gone.” We find ourselves thinking about all the opportunities we didn’t take, the visits we didn’t make, and the hugs we didn’t hold for long enough.

Of course, it sucks not being able to go to the cinema or get your eyebrows done (word of advice: avoid the magnifying mirror at all costs), but let’s be honest, those aren’t the first things any of us will do when this is over. And maybe that’s a good thing. It’s a reminder of what’s really important, and that we all are guilty of taking things for granted. Secondly, whoever thinks talking to yourself is the first sign of madness clearly never had to self-isolate. Thirdly, it’s okay to shut yourself off mentally as well as physically – particularly when it comes to social media. I took myself off it completely for nearly two weeks after everyone seemingly became a medical or political expert overnight. And I thought influencers dancing was bad. Lastly, a fully stocked fridge can be your best friend or your worst enemy. I’m still trying to figure out which while sticking to elastic waistbands.

Grace Gordon - Fashion and Beauty Director

Savoir Flair has been digital since day one, so the transition to working from home felt seamless. However, I noticed how much communication (mostly external) that took the form of face-to-face meetings could have been done over e-mail. Then I had to laugh because, clearly, I wasn’t alone. The New Yorker recently published a cartoon containing the exact same sentiment. Watching the pandemic unfold has been unnerving and frankly terrifying, but it has given me a renewed appreciation for the UAE’s response in the face of crisis.

Unfortunately, most of my loved ones are in areas where governments have mishandled the situation, and many have gotten sick and been turned away from testing due to a shortage of kits. Even more have lost their jobs and, consequently, their health insurance, which shouldn’t be tied to one’s work status. It should be a basic human right. Having recently written about celebrities whose actions have gone viral for all the wrong reasons, I realized that with great privilege comes great responsibility. It’s criminal to hold power and wealth, yet do nothing while the vulnerable suffer or, worse, advise people to go about their lives as usual. However, I’ve also been heartened to see so many people donate to food banks, hospitals, and non-profits. Personally, I have stepped up my own efforts, helping friends back home who have lost their jobs – and I’m not powerful or wealthy. My only question is: where are the billionaires in all of this?

Photo: Courtesy of The New Yorker

Kris De Jesus - Head of Creative

Social distancing may be the best or worst thing that will happen to you, but you can try to make it work for you rather than against you. My version is from the perspective of a working mother and, since motherhood is a balancing act, now is the best time to apply the juggling skills I’ve acquired over 13 years of practice. I must be an expert after all, right? I wish! Time management is everything, so allocate exact minutes/hours per task to choose your priorities for the day, which will change constantly. Also, lists lists lists – whether it’s big projects or small tasks, write them down instead of relying on mental notes. And, yes, set daily goals as opposed to weekly. Otherwise, you’ll be overwhelmed in no time.

Having said that, take breaks. I used to deprive myself of this one because I wanted to be as efficient as possible and was scared of losing momentum. Finally, giving in made me realize that it’s actually the opposite. Once I allow myself to recharge for a few minutes, not only do I feel more energized, but I’m also more creative – essential in my line of work. Setting up a home office will help you and your housemates, which in my case are my kids. I made it clear early on that I am in the ‘office’ whenever I am in the zone, and demanded that my personal space be respected. Call me crazy, but it is effective, I promise. Lastly, you need to accept that there will be days during which you can only juggle so much. Failing is okay because, remember, tomorrow is another day.

Maria Popova - Head of Production

Spending 24 hours a day within four walls with any other human is a challenge – the spiking divorce rates are a testament. Quarantine calls for both diplomacy and patience. And some much-needed alone time. But you can manage to get a lot done in 24 hours. We don’t even notice how much precious time goes down the drain in our normal lives through commuting, procrastination, and ‘resting’ after work. There actually is time for everything you want to do in a day, if you manage it correctly – and enjoy these extra hours! There is so much to do at home: reading, learning, drawing, cleaning, organizing, cooking, video calls. Once again, I have learnt that staying in is far superior to all of the alternatives.

I’ve also realized that digital is power. The reality of today’s world is changing rapidly, and we just have to do our best to adopt and evolve, instead of dwelling on it. Now is the time to learn, acquire new skills, reflect, evaluate, and upgrade. It’s up to us to embrace this new reality rather than engage in the endless exchange of worries. Ultimately, it’s up to you to make the most out of the situation or stay in the bottomless pit of complaining. Lastly, don’t work in your pajamas and don’t work during ungodly hours, unless it’s an absolute necessity – and it never is! When you work from home, it’s easier than ever to erase the practically nonexistent boundaries between your professional and private lives, which can lead to burnout. Get out of your bed; this is sacred territory for rest and relaxation. Get dressed, try to work within office hours, and switch off eventually.

Nadine Ismail - Business Development Manager

I feel trapped, grateful, responsible (for myself, family, friends, and strangers) and proud of my strength to stay positive during a time like this – all emotions that I feel at some point in the day, every single day. I’ve been in self-quarantine for over two weeks now and have not stepped foot outside my door aside from going to the vet once! The kindness and consideration (for the most part) that’s being extended throughout the world is so humbling. This is truly the time to be there for someone in need.

Social distancing hasn’t taken a massive toll on my lifestyle as I am such a homebody, but being so far away from my family and loved ones has been the biggest struggle. These days, I stay busy and productive throughout the day, seeing how I can be of help (from afar, of course) to my mom friends who are struggling to keep their children occupied, starting new hobbies, and keeping in contact with my loved ones through endless hours of video calls. We are all in this together, and it’s a time when you have to put others first in order to make the world go round. I cannot wait to hug all of my friends and family members and travel the beautiful world once again!

element5 ipad travel
Photo: Courtesy of Element5

Noor Tehini - Co-Founder, Goodness

“I don’t have time for this.” “I’m so busy.” “I’ll save this for the next long weekend.” Last week, every single one of the statements stopping me from tackling my to-do-when-free list just vanished. With no children at home, a husband still at the office, and zero social commitments, I had all the time in the world. That meant trying out different face masks, enrolling for an online course, finally using the treadmill we have at home, video calling friends around the globe, actually baking something, and finding the time to tackle the empty photo albums that had been gathering dust on my shelves. The new item on my to-do list? Keep this up long after the end of social distancing.

Noor Ul Sabah - Production Intern

Contrary to popular belief, social distancing for an introvert like myself is not as easy as it may seem. Yes, we often voluntarily impose a lockdown on ourselves, but the social responsibility of going out pushes us out of our shells and back into sanity. However, working from home for the past two weeks has taught me discipline – I can honestly say that organizing my life around a schedule that I control has made me the most tidy I’ve been in a long time.

Resham Kanjani - Editorial Assistant, Goodness

I think this time has taught us our true priorities in life – friends, family, and the health and well-being of those around us. Living in Dubai, we get so busy and so caught up with work that we sometimes lose track of what’s really important: spending time with family, connecting with loved ones, and learning to appreciate our mental and physical health. As a pregnant woman, I feel so thankful to be working in an environment where the team as well as the company itself has been flexible and supportive of me working at odd hours and only on some days – even before the coronavirus pandemic. This is something I think all companies can should apply when women are either pregnant or working mothers.

Photo: Courtesy of Fallon Michael

Reynold Manuel - Ad-Ops Specialist

I’ve realized that for most expats like me, social distancing is almost a norm because we are far away from our families and friends, and we can only kiss and hug each other again when we go back to our home countries. I’ve also realized I’m someone who loves taking the stairs and hates elevators, but maybe that’s because I live on the fourth floor? It’s a good thing, too, because I’m getting my cardio in. Because of social distancing, our house is clean all the time; there’s hardly any visitors coming in and we don’t go outside very often. Plus, that’s more money saved. Although I have to say, the absolute best part is that I have more time to play with my cats than my human friends!

Samia Qaiyum - Managing Editor

From a personal standpoint, I’ve been preparing for social distancing my entire life – yes, I’m a grade A introvert and find myself remarkably comfortable with the prospect of confining my entire life within the four walls of my home. But from a professional perspective? Wow, where do I begin. Never could I have imagined that I’d have to lead a team of editors covering a global health crisis through the lens of Savoir Flair – a place where our readers seek an escape from the humdrum of life through all things aspirational in fashion, beauty, and lifestyle.

Now, in these unprecedented circumstances, do they consider ‘news’ of a new makeup collection off-putting and insensitive or respite from the grim headlines that haunt us daily? Everything about this contradiction feels like walking on eggshells. We want to inform, entertain, stay sensitive to the countless people impacted by the pandemic – all without turning a blind eye to everyone’s new normal. And through my existential crisis of sorts, there are tears after reading one too many articles about those who have succumbed to the virus, there are laughs thanks to Michael Scott memes, there are all-consuming worries about the health of my parents, and there are more questions than answers about the future. The phrase “one day at a time” has never felt so apt.

Photo: Courtesy of @michaelscottdaily

Sanika Tipnis - Fashion and Beauty Intern

Living through a pandemic is definitely not something I ever imagined I’d experience, but now that we are here, I would say it’s been quite the emotional rollercoaster. These are trying times for everyone, but they can be particularly hard for someone suffering from anxiety. Surprisingly enough, I have been calm for the most part – especially since we started working from home earlier than most companies – with the exception of isolated incidents of panic or restlessness.

There is no doubt that most of us were left confused and in a state of panic as the world around us gradually came to a standstill. And as these feelings settled, I came to realize that a microscopic virus made humanity see that we are all the same, that we are all in this together. Race, religion, nationality, fame, success, and all the other lines that divide us now feel blurred – for once, it is about the human race as a whole, with no exceptions. The virus has made us witness some of the worst, but mostly the best aspects of humanity. From the average person practicing social distancing and volunteers helping the more vulnerable citizens of society to businesses offering their services free of charge and healthcare workers working relentlessly to combat the outbreak, it’s each one of us for every one of us.

Xandi Eleazar - Senior Graphic Designer

I write this from the comfort of my home. My husband has just arrived from the supermarket with more food to keep us fed for a few weeks. I’m on my second cup of coffee for the day as I scroll through celebrity Instagram accounts, looking for something interesting to repost – check out @gloriagaynor, you’re welcome! Yesterday, I had a long ‘home-schooling’ activity with my daughter, then we all stayed up until midnight binging on Netflix.

I could afford to sleep in because Savoir Flair has been observing efficient work-from-home measures to prioritize everyone’s health and safety in the midst of this pandemic. Needless to say, social distancing is just a tiny adjustment for me and my family, and just admitting this fact almost feels like a sin. For most people, this situation is an inconvenience at best, a matter of life and death at worst. TL;DR: I recognize my privilege. And I’m grateful.

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