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Creatively Working Through COVID

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The dying bird discovered in the backyard. Comforting a distraught child when the bird expired. My work will have to wait a bit, but my team will understand — they are awesome like that. It is now 4:37pm; my kids won’t go to “recess” outside, opting to work on the 2,200 piece Lego kit. Legos are semi-educational, right? Master builder is a profession after all. Totally legit parenting on my part. Just a few more emails to send, dinner to cook, and a work video call at 6:15pm with my Australian teammate. A perfectly scheduled day.

RIP backyard bird

Managing disruption, re-prioritizing, and dealing with social distance are now essential parts of all of our jobs. By leading Appian’s global proposal operation, I’ve been preparing for this crisis for years and not even knowing it. Even before the word “pandemic” became part of our everyday lexicon, doing my job effectively meant that I’ll never meet some colleagues in-person, others at most once a year. Adjusting and finding creative solutions are my wheelhouse.

A dead bird in my hands, an unexpected Google chat from a London colleague, an emergency delivery of toilet paper to two members of my team (yes, I did that) — one might view these disruptions as obstacles or roadblocks. I disagree: these are opportunities for creativity and thinking differently to achieve goals. The dead bird became an impromptu biology lesson, similar to turning a work-challenge into a lesson learned to apply next time. Innovation, continuous improvement, and making an impact are core values at Appian and part of my management style.

Lead with understanding, patience, and empathy.

It will make everyone more relaxed and make for a more seamless transition. Video conferences instead of in-person conferences get us that face time that is so critical to personal connection and communication. Allow a few minutes for pets or kids, then get down to business.

My team and I during a fun, pre-isolation outing.

Make use of both business channels and strictly social channels. We have approximately a zillion ways to stay in touch and, used appropriately, productivity will continue just fine.

Not to be overlooked, part of our work environment during this time is all the great people we still get to work with everyday. Appian’s culture has always revolved around our people. We are a community. Share successes, comfort in pain, kindness always. Even Appian kids who meet up every year at Appian’s Spring Getaway look forward to saying hello in meetings.

Life has changed more in the last few days than any of us likely expected just a short few weeks ago, but when I sit down to work everyday I’m still surrounded by all of my amazing coworkers. Even if they’re not just down the hall these days.

Proposal Team kids at Appian’s 2019 Spring Getaway.

Being just a chat away, still sending kudos for a job well done, getting through even mundane tasks, all provide a soothing return to normalcy while working in the midst of unexpected disruptions all around us.

We stick together and we will get through this. We may even learn more about ourselves and what we’re capable of than we ever expected.

P.S. Please consider fostering or adopting an animal, they are good coworkers, albeit slackers.

P.P.S. I challenge Dawn Mitchell, VP of Human Resources, to share what her journey has been like these past two weeks as a mother of two young kids!

  • Tell us about the quirks of you new co-workers
  • Describe your new normal
  • What do you miss about the office?
  • Watching or reading anything new?