The world of work changed virtually overnight with the global spread of COVID-19. In this series, we'll share personal stories and perspectives from Cornerstone employees who—like so many of us—are doing their best to balance life, work and learning from their couches, kitchen tables and other makeshift office spaces.
They say you should try to maintain your old routines during a crisis.
When our team at Cornerstone moved to fully-remote work in response to COVID-19, daily life changed for everyone. So did a critical part of my own work routine: learning. For me, it isn’t just part of my job as senior product marketing strategist of learning—it’s also core to my personality. I’m always eager to learn new things to the point that even my passwords are designed to teach myself important tidbits of information.
My main source of inspiration for new topics and ideas to explore was conversation around the office—but it’s now gone. So how can I continue to absorb information in my new work environment? It’s been crucial for me to develop a strategy for learning and discovery during this period that will (hopefully) last well beyond it.
Taking Stock of My Digital—and Human—Resources
Luckily, the digital age is on our side when it comes to remote learning. At Cornerstone, all employees have access to an enormous partner content library. In addition to looking through available courses that might pique our interest, we can also see which ones are trending. As a result, I can stay in tune with the most important skills across businesses today, which include: 1) communication, 2) leadership and 3) personal growth.
Beyond digital learning resources, other people can be incredible, untapped sources of knowledge. I don’t know if it’s just me, but there seems to be a "lag" as the old world transitions to this new, hopefully temporary, mode of working. My calendar is a bit emptier, so I’m taking the time to proactively connect with people I admire and schedule conversations to learn from them. I’m also looking out for opportunities to be a resource to others, too—I’m sure that everyone could use the human connection right now.
Cross-Referencing Available Courses With My Goals
With so much content at our fingertips, it can be overwhelming to try to choose the most relevant or interesting learning development program. To help focus my search, I’ve chosen courses based on my personal goal to become a better storyteller—one with the ability to influence others with compelling visions of the future. I find it’s easier to adjust your message to an audience you can read in-person, in real time. But our new world of remote work requires communicating effectively without this kind of feedback (even video conferencing isn’t quite the same). So, I’ve committed to improving my remote communication skills.
Staying Motivated and Accountable
One of the most challenging components of learning remotely, in my view, is the feeling of disconnection. There’s no manager or team lead dropping by your desk to check on your progress. People are relying on work chat and video conferencing platforms to communicate with colleagues and, well, anyone outside of their homes. Because we may be in this remote limbo for a while, I know I need to get creative around how to stay engaged in my learning.
So, I’m thinking about this endeavor as a two-week "learning sprint." During that time, I will focus on setting achievable goals for my own learning, and pass along learnings when I feel colleagues will benefit from them. I’ll be proactive and tell my mentors—and even my colleagues—about these plans. And after two weeks, I hope to feel inspired to begin the process anew. These are strategies anyone can use—I welcome all who want to join me in pursuing learning for the future.
In addition to surveying the online learning options your company or a quick web search may provide, you can add Cornerstone’s content library to your resource collection, too. Our platform is available to everyone for free here.
Ike Bennion is the Senior Product Marketing Strategist, Learning at Cornerstone.
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Great moments, shared as a team
As April whizzes past, we sit down with some of our Cornerstars, who are currently celebrating their work anniversaries, and ask them to reflect on their experiences at Cornerstone so far. In our previous blog, the focus was on the people and how it’s the employees at Cornerstone that make it such a great place to work. And this shared ethos of working together and helping each other has been talked about by each Cornerstar we’ve asked. “It’s about the teamwork, a team you can depend on, people that go the extra mile, helping and being helped. Our greatest asset is our people, I state this in every meeting I have with prospects and clients” said Max Schroeter, Regional Sales Manager at Cornerstone. Hanns Horvath, Delivery Manager, agreed and said “I like the people. They are all the best.” When we asked our Cornerstars what has been there favourite moment so far, it is no surprise that they struggled to name just one. However, the event that came up the most was Convergence. Each year we hold a conference for clients and colleagues alike to come together and connect. “Getting all our clients to come to the dancefloor and dance. It’s one of the many reasons they like coming to Cornerstone events, being able to party with the Cornerstars!” said Max Schroeter. For Christiaan Weurding, Regional Sales Manager, the overall support and activities at Cornerstone are a highlight “there is a lot of time invested in personal development, support in my daily job and great activities like development day, anniversary and Convergence.” And it’s being able to share exciting moments with their teams that drive our Cornerstars to challenge themselves. Fermin Arbea, Implementation Consultant highlights: “At Cornerstone you find a great working environment, with colleagues always willing to collaborate. Also, it is a place to find challenges where you can grow both professionally and personally.” It is this shared team spirit at Cornerstone that drives colleagues to help one another and work together to generate success. Oliver Normand Account Manager Strategic, EMEA said “it was a great team success when, after 18 months of negotiation, we signed an important contract with one of our major clients in Europe.” Overall, it is this shared culture that drive our Cornerstars to succeed. Fermin Arbea believes that “the greatest moments are ones that we share among the whole team, collaborating with initiatives in which we can help other people. These are moments in which we all unite a little more and return home with a shared smile.”
Liggy Webb mood boosters and how to feel better in stormy times
2020 has been a challenge for most and as much as we were very hopeful about 2021, it feels like a déjà vu. Lockdowns everywhere, the “new norm” seems like it is here to stay, face masks and hand sanitiser. We have had to learn to be resilient, it is not so much about hoping things get back to normal, but to adapt and embrace change as part of our daily routine. It is here to stay. Why is my boss in my living-room? Liggy Webb has been sharing some incredible ideas with us on how to embrace wellbeing, kindness and stay mentally healthy during this pandemic. Organisations need to champion these behaviors too. We have seen HR departments embrace our free online content modules; especially the pieces around wellbeing and health, which were the most requested courses, as my colleague Mark Lamswood shared with us in his piece “Why content… and why now?”. The line between work and life has disappeared, for those that can work remotely – and whilst we are thankful for that, it can be hard to find balance in our lives. Is this the responsibility of an employer, though? To a certain extent, it really should be. Questions around resources have been circling for some time now, do we have a laptop for every kid to connect to online classes? Do we have a spare office in the home to work? Who will take care of the kids if both parents are working remotely? Why is my boss in my living-room? Constant Zoom calls, webcams on, screaming children in the background and the lack of privacy are taking a toll on us. Here are some positives to this new cozy office set-up: I have to confess I am not embarrassed to put the webcam on while in my pyjamas with certain colleagues and the conversations around hairstyles, pets and home décor have brought us together. Please – send help! Stress used to be a big one. Non-stop travelling, meetings all day, commuting to the office and then – if time was left - your private life. Now all those different departments of our existence, have been squeezed in one home for almost a year and stress is even more acute than it used to be. “Worrying about contracting Covid-19, feeling lonely, and not thinking positively were all strongly associated with how anxious and depressed people became.” BMJ Open report In a nutshell, we are more stressed than ever. We are worrying about survival. More vulnerable to fall into unhealthy habits and the uncertainty of not knowing when and if this will be over is not helping. As Dr. Sarah Campbell explained in this video not everyone has the resources to adapt to this massive change and HR departments can help. But let us look in the mirror first and own our responsibilities. Walk the talk – together | This is not a one-size-fits-all approach but there are plenty of little things we can do! Using Liggy as my main inspiration – this is what has worked for me: Show some teeth | As lame as it may sound, I am reminding myself to smile each day. A great way to do so is by creating an e-coffee or e-lunch call with some of the team members and chat about anything BUT work. Or join a laughter group, like this one here created by a artist friend of mine called “Laughter Yoga for Creatives” in which we connect, turn the webcam on and do laugh therapy together. See the sky | Some of the lockdown rules are very strict and we do not all have the same space at home. But having a dog forces you to make that commitment to go for a walk every day. Make that commitment to yourself if you don’t have a pet, book the time in your diary and stretch, meditate, dance in the shower to your favorite tune. Studies show sedentarism is bad for your health. Get a standing desk, sit on an exercise ball or even better – get Stand Up! The Work Break Timer. Eyeliner to start the day | I am a feminist but … starting the day with lipstick and eyeliner makes me a better feminist. And it really does! It helps me get into the office mood and to not panic when I am asked to turn the camera on. Be kind | To boost my mood and give back I am always creating online donation campaigns for causes that are dear to my heart. It keeps me busy with something different to work, it connects me with other people that feel the same and it helps me channel my energy into something positive. Join us too! Start your joruney and boost your mood in this turbulent moment! Get your e-book for free today here and share your experience with us along the way!
Lockdown life: Volunteering and working from home
Sunday Session at Harmony Gardens - Drone picture by Maxime Fazilleau On a random Saturday last year, I discovered Blue House Yard in Wood Green, London. This is an unexpected place in North London, close to where I live. A red double-decker has been converted into a board games café and taproom. Small timber work sheds house local businesses selling candles, clothes, jewellery and books. Blue House Yard and Edible London market - Picture by Maxime Fazilleau I was curious, so I went to investigate and found there were tables covered with boxes of colourful vegetables and fruits in the middle of the place. I was only passing by, but the seller asked if I wanted to try one of the tomatillos and I could not resist! It was refreshing and spicy at the same time. After a few minutes of conversation, I was so inspired by their story that I ended up buying my veg and fruit from Edible London in Blue House Yard that day. And I came back! But this time I discovered fruity chocolates, organic vegetables, pea shoots and jams all organically grown by incubated businesses. After two weeks of loyal shopping, I was invited by Sunny, the energetic and mindful CEO of Edible London (https://ediblelondon.org/), to visit the greenhouse where volunteers of all ages, cultures and background grow some of the organic products. I went, for a simple visit, to volunteer for five hours that afternoon, and was taught about sowing tomatoes seeds and I learnt that they were heritage seeds and only grown organically. The following week, a friend tells me about Edible London – what are the chances! - and the work they do. Sunny, and his team are not only growing food but also organising cook ups for the Haringey community. A few days every month, they cook and invite people going through housing difficulties to enjoy heart-warming meals and a chat. Before I realised it, I was volunteering and was asked if I could help start a new project which was to create a place where Edible London could and grow more food. Obviously, I accepted. When COVID-19 started, Edible London was still operating normally. But when the lockdown was announced, Sunny decided to form a small team to prepare hampers for people who could not move from their homes. As I was working full time from home, I decided to help around my working hours – but this time behind my screen. I started looking for volunteers to prepare the hampers and deliver them. And thanks to a networking app here in the UK, we got around 20 recruits in a day! Today, Edible London is made of about 20 admins, 15 facilitators and a pool of 350 volunteers. We had to train different teams for the integration, write and create processes, online documents and FAQ for volunteers to understand what to do. We operate from two main food hubs in the council of Haringey: Alexandra Palace - the people's Palace - and one of the underground parking spaces of the Tottenham Hotspur Stadium. But what is it that we are doing? Let me give you a rough idea: Food sourcing! We have teamed up with one of the big vegetables and fruit markets in London and they provide us with a few pallets of unsold food every day, that would go to waste otherwise. We also get food donations from lots of different business that believe in our vision too. Logistic and Hub! The amazing logistic team gets the different pallets and redirects them to the food hub where the magic happens. The Quality Team volunteers verify the products. This is a very important part of the process as we need to ensure good quality food goes to the hampers preparation that will be distributed to self-isolated people who cannot afford to go out. But we use all of the products and so, the food of normal quality goes to different organisations which can cook meals the same day. Vegetables and fruits that cannot be used to cook can be taken by volunteers or sent to our growing site for compost creation to be used on our growing sites. Ready to pack? Our volunteers prepare hampers of good vegetables and fruits mainly that will be handed over to the Council who is managing the distribution. The rest of the food goes for meals to shelters, food banks and key workers. But we also need to keep our hardworking volunteers healthy – and so we all eat together and make sure nothing goes to waste. Two of my favourite initiatives are the Bikers Community and the Upcycling system. The Bikers for the Community comes to the Food hub to collect meals and essentials, and take it to the streets of North London, stopping for every houseless person they see. Our Upcycling initiative involved the creation of furniture and art from the packaging by our volunteers to feel like home. EcoBricks are made and will be used later in one of our growing projects. Volunteers even ran a zero-waste fashion show, where they used packaging to create their outfits. To go from six to 350 volunteers in ten weeks has been a BIG task – believe me! Many hours and tears have gone into making this happen. Respecting health and safety with the 2m distancing rule and wearing masks did not make it any easier. But we did it! This adventure has shown me what we can do with an army of volunteers. The energy and motivation are high, and our core team is always ready for a new day. I found purpose and a community in this very difficult time – being isolated at home alone is not easy. I am glad I joined Edible London and at the same time find solidarity and hope. Thanks to my previous work experience, I know how to map a process and create communication channels. I also know what it is to be a volunteer and know what to expect from the team. With Cornerstone, I have learnt to communicate effectively – I am a French native – understand the issues fast in order to deploy solution, but most importantly, I have discovered that there is always space to learn, ask questions and be included. Delegating work to new volunteers joining the adventure is my biggest challenge, as trust is important, and it cannot be built in a few hours. But here at Cornerstone we have a culture in which we accept failure as part of our success, and in this instance, I can shadow the teams and let them make mistakes, so they understand the logic behind the processes and so we can all work as a team. Don’t let others stop you from doing good for the community. Teach them to build a resilient one instead.