Ordinary People in Extraordinary Times

March 24, 2020 | Activate Learning | 3 min read

These are extraordinary times, but believe it or not, it’s at these moments people crave the ordinary.

This morning, after I worked out in my basement, I ran upstairs for my daily stand-up on business continuity. As I entered my living room, in which I’ve created a makeshift office, I noticed that a child was sleeping on the couch. I quickly shooed her upstairs, shoved a bevy of blankets out of sight, and desperately straightened the room before my colleagues joined the “cameras on” WebEx.

As I sat down for my virtual meeting, I noticed just how messy my room—and my life—had become.

My, how work life has changed in just a matter of days. The entire family is remote. Remote working, remote learning, remote exercising, remote living. How could I lead a team of 91 people around the world when I couldn’t even get my own house in order?

That’s when my Apple Watch reminded me to breathe. Which I did. During that moment, I realized that it's okay to be messy. In fact, it’s not only okay, it’s also necessary.

Every person on my team is struggling with the same new reality, and it has to be okay to be real with each other. It's more important than ever.

So, we’re doing things a little differently these days.

  • We’re still meeting, but now every participant is in a remote location. Rather than pretend it's business as usual, we keep our cameras on, welcome the chaos of background noise, and focus on what’s important.
  • We don’t just meet, we snack together, just like we would in the office. (Sometimes sporting silly hats.) It’s important to connect as people, not just as tasks to get done.
  • We accept asynchronous communications and work hard to keep each other connected using Microsoft Teams as our foundation for communicating across time zones and functions. We move forward together.

Yet it’s not just the routine aspects of our work that we're changing. We’ve had to make some big shifts to our plans.

This May, we were scheduled to host our annual summit, which takes place in India, Europe, and the United States. Months of preparation go into making these in-person events remarkable. Suddenly, we could no longer safely bring our guests to a conference location together. We knew we had to move to virtual, but we also weren’t satisfied with simply turning on the cameras and broadcasting keynote addresses. We made it our mission to create a digital experience that is every bit as interactive and engaging as what we always deliver on site.

I’m so very proud of our team for tackling this challenge head-on.

Throughout the transition, we needed to remember to let our customers’ needs drive the decisions. Not only is our organization going through change, everyone else is too. We leaned heavily on our Executive Advisory Board to inform our choices and communications strategy.

Transforming our in-person event to an all-digital one will protect our customers. But, we also had to safeguard the health and welfare of our employees. In preparation for shutting down many of our office locations so they could work at home, we ran a full-week remote-work test. This would ensure that our employees could stay safe and that our customers experienced no disruption of service. It was gratifying to see our business continuity infrastructure work so well.

Last, but certainly not least, we as a marketing team had to consider our advertising strategy and editorial calendar. We reprioritized our resources towards programs that would meet our communities' immediate needs. Business continuity is top of mind for all of our customers and partners, just as it is for us.

As I embrace our new reality—whether it's for the next week or the next few months—it's gratifying to know we’re in this together and we'll get through it together.

Michelle Boockoff-Bajdek is the Chief Marketing Officer at Skillsoft.