#17 A day with Anna (Unicorn Workspaces)

August 3, 2022

A little background info about Anna: she joined the Unicorn team in 2019, and is now the Senior User Experience Manager, and Climate Officer at Unicorn Workspaces. She’s responsible for most things visual, some service design strategy, and keeping track of and improving the companies social and climate impact.

It’s 8 a.m. Are you already wide awake, or still in a deep sleep?

I am not a morning person, and start my day relatively late. I am the person with 5 alarm clocks, regularly pressing the snooze button, hoping to continue dreaming. When the waking life sets in I quickly get ready, hop on my bike, and head to the office by 10 am. The first thing I do at the office, is have an oat milk latte with honey, and some fruit or a croissant. Then I am ready to start the day. I am a bit of a sweet tooth, but try to avoid sugar in my coffee on a daily basis. So I fool myself by looking for sugar alternatives, and get funny looks when I squeeze honey into my coffee. It’s odd – but I can honestly recommend it. I prefer it over sugar.

It’s 10 a.m. and you’re in the middle of a productive phase. What’s essential for you to be productive?

I am normally looking at a computer screen for the better part of the day, so I always enjoy opportunities to go analog. I am a bit of a designer stereotype, because I love post its, and writing to do lists. I hang post-its on my computer and refresh them regularly so I know what my important tasks are. When it comes to productive digital tools – I am also a designer stereotype and love Figma a lot. Figma is a tool for creating prototypes for websites and apps, but also for interactive team projects and brainstorming. If I could use it for everything – I would, and I try to promote everyone else to use it along the way. (Sometimes it works and they also fall in love.) When I need to get really focused, I try to find somewhere quiet, put on my headphones, and listen to isochronic tones / lo-fi.

It’s 1 p.m. and your stomach is growling. What do you do? Have a muesli bar and go out for a jog? Are you rather a stay-in-at-the-office type, or do you need to get out and get some fresh air?

There are some amazing slack channels at Unicorn, including #gif-talk, #wo-arbeitest-du, #music, #climate-channel, and one of my favorites: #gendarmenmarkt-lunch. I write on the lunch channel semi-regularly to see who wants to join for a group order, or go to the grocery store and sit in the park.

My top best 3 lunches:

  1. Potato Salad Contest: a challenge between all Unicorn employees to finally determine and vote on oil vs. mayo. (For me mayo always wins)
  2. Salad Tuesday: we used to regularly cook together every Tuesday and each bring an ingredient to make a salad. Sometimes pasta salad, and other times green salad. Always tasty.
  3. Shashuka: sadly it was the last day of one of my colleagues, but it was a recipe which he wanted to share from his culture, and it was special to me because I learned how to make a new recipe. Now I consider it something I can make anytime and its always good!

We now have a weekly team lunch as well, where everyone from the company comes to our Headquarter to eat together, courtesy of Unicorn.

It’s 4 p.m. and you’re in a creative slump. What do you do when you can’t summon your creative powers?

It is difficult to force myself to be creative. For a long time when I had creative blocks, I was very hard on myself and got frustrated when I couldn’t get into the flow right away. I still keep high standards of what I expect from myself, but removed the pressure of what would happen if I messed up.

  • Short deadlines: I just get started and accept the first idea will probably not be the best idea and keep trying until I like what I am working on.
  • Working alone: I try to remove distractions, by putting on my focus playlist, or going to a quieter area with less people.
  • Working together: I feel very inspired by working with my colleagues. I think we intuitively have a great brainstorming process by having silly or pragmatic ideas, and then finding the best solution.
  • In a lull: I just accept it now, and allow myself to do smaller tasks I know I can manage well, like replying to slack messages, emails, making to-do lists, organizing my desk, or going through issues assigned to me on Linear.
  • Staying motivated on long term non-prioritized projects: I keep checking in, and seeing if its the right time. Maybe one day one of those tasks pops up when I have a break between projects, and realize it’s the right moment to get it going.

It’s 6 p.m., is the workday coming to an end or just getting started?

My working hours are pretty flexible, and I am lucky to be able to choose when I want to work. Most days I start at 10, and leave at 6 or 7 pm. But if it’s a beautiful sunny day, I will leave a bit early, and if I am focused on a project and close to finishing it or have a tight deadline, I will stay later to get it done.

In my free time I like to go to design or climate related events in Berlin, to get an idea of what’s happening and see what others are thinking in those fields. I recently attended UX camp, and really liked hearing conversations and presentations about making experiences more environmentally friendly, or transparency about mental health in the workplace.

It’s 10 p.m. and you finally have time for yourself! Are you a series addict? A music lover, bookworm or binging podcast listener?

I usually listen to podcasts when I am commuting, usually about social justice, design, mental health, short historical biographies, and daily news. I can recommend “99% Invisible” - which always has fascinating stories related to architecture and design, in the context of history and culture. I would also recommend “Nice Try!” Season 1 - about historical attempts at failed Utopias.

For series I especially like creative and bizarre animated series (Futurama, The Midnight Gospel, Tuca and Bertie, Avatar the Last Air Bender). Plus my guilty / not so guilty pleasure, and the only reality tv I can tolerate: RuPauls Drag Race.