Working Hard to Work Hard

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In order to help to contain the spread of COVID-19, many workers across the world (including all of us here at Cobalt) are now working from home — and this is a new frontier for many of us. While many office workers are celebrating this development and its allowance for pajamas as workwear, there are significant cultural and productivity hurdles inherent in the situation, especially if it’s not your norm.

Tools of the Trade

We have a bevy of tools at our disposal that make it very easy to work with both employees and clients all over the world. Regardless of what’s going on — be it global pandemic, snow days or work travel — we’re prepared to collaborate digitally without skipping a beat.

A Sheet That’s Super Smart

We like to call Smartsheet “Excel on steroids.” It’s set up like a basic Excel spreadsheet, but it supports multiple viewers, creates forms and reports, and makes collaborating on content easy. We also use it to manage calendars and workflows and can even use it like an FTP site to share files with clients.

In the spirit of community preparedness, Smartsheet has created a dashboard template specifically for disseminating information about COVID-19 .

Zoom to the Rescue

After trying out a few different videoconference services, we’ve found Zoom to be the most versatile and foolproof. We know Zoom’s user base has just taken quite a leap, but we’ve been using Zoom for a while, even if we’re in the same room, for its convenient screen-sharing capabilities, which spares us from projecting onto a screen. Its personal meeting room feature — a permanent dedicated virtual space for each user — is particularly helpful. This allows users to meet with coworkers and clients with a single click instead of going through the process of setting up a meeting or a call every time the need arises.

The Eye of the Tiger

If Smartsheet is Excel on steroids, then PageTiger is PDF on steroids. PageTiger allows you to create, distribute and share information with clients and team members. Its interactive capabilities are particularly useful for making internal communications engaging and effective — which means they’re more likely to be read by busy professionals. Common uses include onboarding (trainings), recruitment (job offers and packages), compliance (employee handbooks) and continuing education.

The Tip Jar

We have team members in editorial, graphics and business development roles that work remotely full time. So, although this is a big change for many in the workforce, there are things that can be done to make the transition go smoothly. Consider these tips from our seasoned work-from-home professionals.

Routine = Success

Create a routine and get out of the house every day (but mind your social distancing, of course). Try to wake up at a consistent time; go for a walk around the neighborhood or in nature to jump-start the day before sitting down to tackle your to-do list.

Time management skills are key. Set out a schedule for yourself in the morning. Our art director Mark swears by the practice of making meetings with himself, each one with a dedicated time slot for working on a particular project.

Dining Room Table, Ironing Board … Something

We’re all in this temporary work-from-home situation for the foreseeable future, so make it a priority to fashion yourself a dedicated workspace. Even if it’s just a corner of the kitchen table, having a “desk” will help you mentally separate professional life from home life.

For those who are #WFHWK (working from home with kids): make a sign you can flip from “Open” to “Closed,” or even just green to red, to let the little ones know when you must not be disturbed. Or better yet, involve kids when you can in your work-related activities. Catherine, Cobalt’s senior writer and account strategist, recently had her daughter poll the team during a morning Zoom meeting. She asked one question — How are you feeling today? — and then tallied and charted the results as a home-schooling exercise, while Cobalt staff enjoyed the opportunity to share an emotional gut-check.

Put in Some Face Time

Use video conferencing instead of phone calls whenever possible. There is so much to be gained by seeing someone’s facial expression, whether it’s chatting about collaborative projects with your coworkers or checking in with a client. For now, there’s no water cooler chats or lunch in the break room, so keeping in touch with coworkers ensures those connections remain strong. Our business development lead, Lisa, is dialing up both coworkers’ and business contacts’ cell phones these days instead of emailing — as quarantine lengthens, a friendly greeting or voicemail is a welcome sound for all.

Willful Ignorance

Act like you’re not at home. Train yourself to ignore the pile of dirty laundry in the corner and the crumbs under the kitchen table. As we all know, the pull of procrastination is powerful. If you don’t steel yourself against it, you’ll find yourself scrubbing your refrigerator’s vegetable drawer with a toothbrush and realize the workday is almost over.

Patience and Empathy

Recognize that we’re all doing the best we can as we work at home — there will be lots of unexpected noises, flashes of naked toddler butts and glimpses of untidy homes. These are unprecedented times — we all need to have unprecedented patience with our colleagues who are working in less-than-ideal conditions.

Laugh but Not Least

This is a profound collective moment of anxiety, social isolation and economic insecurity. Keep close tabs on your mental health during this uncertain time — and do things that make you feel good. The evergreen recommendations for nourishing food, exercise and connecting with family and friends (virtually) all apply.

And if you need a laugh — we all do at this point — we’re loving this Work From Home During a Global Pandemic BINGO from McSweeney’s and “How to Work From Home Most Chaotically” from Elle.

As a strategic communications agency serving science- and R&D-driven organizations, we specialize in highly technical markets where complex ideas and information must be conveyed with clarity. Our team includes writers, designers, strategists and content architects, all working together to help you reach — and engage — your internal and external audiences.

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