PM360’s typical My Other Life section features an interview with a member of our industry discussing their life outside of work—their hobbies, interests, travel destinations, philanthropic endeavors, etc. But with everyone stuck in quarantine under shelter-in-place orders, we wanted to check in on our readers to see how you were all coping? What you are doing to pass the time? Have you taken on any new hobbies? Brushed off any old ones? How are you staying active? What’s your work life look like now? What precautions are you taking to stay safe and healthy?

Here are some of the responses we received so far, and we plan to update this article with more as we hear from additional people.

Matt Pierce

Matt Pierce, Account Director, Intouch B2D 

By day, Matt works in Intouch’s NYC office and by night he’s a rapper, performing at shows throughout the city and creating songs and music videos, under the stage name Boy Pierce. In order to stay focused and productive during this time in his NYC apartment, he created this “Quarantine Song” music video.

In the song/video, he also urges people to donate to the MusiCares COVID-19 Relief Fund, that provides financial assistance to music industry professionals whose jobs and lives have been disrupted by the pandemic. His hope is that the song can serve as a rally cry for NYC during this difficult time, and provide people with some needed entertainment and encouragement.

Samantha Bruton

Samantha Bruton, Copywriter, Creative, Targetbase

For conversation of the species, I decided to take up beekeeping this year and Spring is a busy time for beekeepers. You really hope that your hive has survived the winter weather. If so, they are hungry and ready to expand. In early April, I started a second hive using a portion of the population from the original hive. The trick here was to hope the new hive has the means to raise a new queen bee. It’s nerve-wracking to hope your bees will survive, but they are pretty resilient. Just a few weeks after the split, I spotted the new queen during an inspection! Her photo is below.

Kelly Fritz

Kelly Fritz, Marketing Manager, Heartbeat

Although New York is, hands down, the best city in the world, I’m getting jealous of my more suburban peers (and their ample yards/porches/patios)! I’m holed up in a small apartment in one of the city’s hardest-hit areas, so things are tough right now in my neighborhood; while my block is (mostly) quiet nowadays, the ever-present sirens often drown out the ambiance from newly audible birdsong. In an otherwise bleak day-to-day routine, opportunities for active volunteerism and my company Heartbeat’s work-from-home culture-building activities have been bright spots.

I’ve been taking advantage of quarantine to dip into my Volunteer PTO, a perk I’ve been leveraging to participate in mutual aid work. I took time off last week to go pack bags at a local food pantry, and I’m scheduled to keep helping them out over the coming weeks. I’m also taking advantage of Heartbeat’s flexibility around WFH scheduling to block out extended lunch breaks once a week for volunteer bike deliveries to elderly and immunocompromised folks in my area. These food-delivery bike shifts are a double whammy of much-needed quarantine serotonin: I get to spend extended time outside exercising for a valid reason and I get to connect with other people in my city (from a safe, fully-masked distance). This is the first time I’ve ever worked with a company that encouraged this level of citizenship and volunteerism—it feels great to be able to help my community without compromising my work.

Miraculously enough, Heartbeat has also been able to support its typical workplace culture filled with lots of “extracurricular activities” even without a physical workplace, bolstered by the efforts of our full-time Employee Experience Champion, Diego. We’ve had virtual in-home scavenger hunts, virtual happy hours, virtual yoga and meditation sessions, virtual movie nights…almost everything that we used to do together in the office has been moved online for those that want to participate, and it’s been pleasantly (and surprisingly) less complicated than you’d think. It’s lovely to connect with everyone about non-work-related stuff and see snippets of Heartbeaters’ lives at home, complete with kids, pets, questionable attempts at breadmaking, increasingly prevalent bedhead, Netflix obsessions, and more.

Brielle Weinstein

Brielle Weinstein, Art Supervisor/UX Strategist, Dudnyk 

Climbing is a big part of who I am, how I stay fit, and what keeps me sane. When reports of the lockdown started to look like we were in it for the long haul my boyfriend and I got to work designing a bouldering wall in the basement. A climbing wall was something I always dreamed of doing but never had the time or necessity to make a reality. It took just under a week to become fully functional and has already provided us the climbing outlet we needed!

Nicole Jenet

Nicole Jenet, Senior Copywriter, Dudnyk 

It’s no secret around the agency that I like to stay active and go to the gym before the sun rises most days. When gyms in Bucks and Montgomery counties closed at the beginning of March, my boyfriend, Dave, and I knew we were going to need to get creative to stay active, especially not know how long the quarantine would last. We were lucky enough to already have some equipment in our apartment, but we had to get resourceful by shopping for some more pieces through Craigslist, Facebook yard sale, and any fitness equipment retailer that still happened to have anything in stock. Dave even used scrap wood to build a box to use during our workouts.

But that’s not where the resourcefulness ended. We live in a third floor, two-bedroom apartment—so our space is limited. Plus, we have to be mindful of our noise level for our neighbors below us, especially since we are still working out in the early morning hours before the sun is up. We plan workouts each night for the next morning that will still challenge us, but accommodate our space, noise, and equipment restrictions.

One of the more unique things we have done to stay active is lug a barbell down four flights of stairs and over to a parking lot of a business that is currently closed. We set up mats we bought from a tractor supply store and get to work in our makeshift gym when the weather permits.

As part of a challenge with our gym to hold our fellow members accountable to stay active, we’ve gotten into the habit of filming our workouts and posting time-lapsed videos of them on social media. We also log into live Zoom workouts with the crew we typically workout with at 5:30 a.m. each day of the week.

Between the daily social media workout videos and carrying around a barbell, we have undoubtedly become those stereotypical CrossFit people you hear jokes about. But, with all the uncertainty out there, finding a creative way to maintain something close to our normal routine has helped us retain some sense of normalcy.

Joe Chelius

Joe Chelius, Director of Editorial Services, Dudnyk 

During the past few weeks our dining room table has been turned into a factory work site. My wife has been making masks, mainly for distribution to family members in the service and healthcare professions. Between editing jobs and on weekends (my wife is an uncompromising supervisor—there are no off-days), I have helped with unskilled laboring tasks, such as snipping seven-inch strips of elastic and turning fabric inside out, or perhaps outside in. (Hard for me to say, really, because I’m both spatially challenged and industrially challenged.) My hope is that I will get to operate the sewing machine one day. For now, however, I’m the designated snipper, fabric turner, mutterer, and cleaner-upper.

Sangeeta Krishnan

Sangeeta Krishnan, Business Solutions Architect, Daugherty Business Solutions

Have you taken on any new hobbies? Brushed off any old ones?

I have brushed up my old hobby of crochet and picked up two new hobbies of ribbon embroidery and doodling with my daughter.

My exploration to crochet started few years ago with my desire to make some toys for my daughter. I feel crochet is like product development in some ways: You start with some vision, pay close attention to current stitch, but still not lose sight of the end product at the same time. During this quarantine time, added some crochet hair scrunchies to existing crochet collection.

Me and my daughter team up to doodle the same picture together and then compare similarities and differences to evolve on our styles. One completely new hobby I am planning to start is ribbon embroidery. After lot of searching, I have picked up a design to work on and more to explore in this journey.

What are you doing to pass the time all cooped up in your house?

It is vital for us to allocate time/or follow some daily schedule to avoid work days rolling into family time. I divided my days into 1. work activities; 2. family fun; 3. personal development; and 4. health activities.

Saving on commute time, we surely have more time to focus on personal development after completing our day jobs. I took a photography course recently and also doing some online courses not related to my core work functions.

In terms of the family fun bucket, parenting needs to be creative and innovative especially in times of kids virtual schooling. We keep occupied with activities like indoor scavenger egg hunt, crafts together, and games. Even simple things like sitting on the backyard swing helps to get away from electronic gadgets.

What’s your work life look like now?

Currently we rely more on virtual meeting and white boarding tools. My team has held some helpful lunch and learn sessions and also virtual happy hour/game events to keep teams connected during the quarantine.

What precautions are you taking to stay safe and healthy?

In addition to sanitizing frequently and exercising, I am cooking fresh healthy meals for the family. Preparing meals from scratch makes me feel relaxed and we can also stay on top of daily balanced nutrients consumption.

Melissa Johnston

Melissa Johnston, COO, BW Health Group

Have you taken on any new hobbies? Brushed off any old ones? 

So, for those who know me, this won’t be a surprise: I am very active training my two Norwegian Buhunds—who have a lot of energy. We have been competing in dog agility trials for the last few years and I have found it to be a very rewarding experience. I’ve gotten very interested in learning more about general animal training and positive reinforcement. Believe it or not, there are a lot of crossover concepts for managers!

How are you staying active?

In addition to walking the dogs and working on their training, I am also participating in two different step challenges—one sponsored by BW and one sponsored by the HBA. Having a team to connect with and a daily reporting structure helps give me an incentive to keep moving!

What’s your work life look like now? 

I think it is really important to create boundaries between work and home life in this environment. I’ve set up an office in an unused bedroom and make sure that I take breaks and lunch in another room. I also try to limit work hours between 8am-6pm and a few hours of the weekend. I have found that the stress builds up more without anyone with whom to have a casual conversation. So, I’m working on meditation and breathing techniques to stay as zen as possible.  

What precautions are you taking to stay safe and healthy?

Well, besides the obvious of staying at home, I’m following the guidelines about wearing a mask and gloves in public. I’m also trying to shop at a small, local grocery store rather than a large retail chain and I try to order as much online for delivery as possible. Also, I’m trying not to panic every time I have a hot flash and think I have a fever!

Julie Hogrefe

Julie Hogrefe, Design Director, Rx EDGE Media Network

Trying to work full time, and home school two elementary kids…to say that a mere glass of wine (or two) is enough to chill…not so much.

Maybe this will help someone else.

Project one: My kids and I love to do these tiles with sharpies and rubbing alcohol. Fun. Very cool. We are going to glue them to a board and make a piece of artwork.

Fast forward to my hubby, “Don’t use all that rubbing alcohol! We may need it!” My bad, but maybe you have more rubbing alcohol than me 🙂

Project two: I packed their Easter baskets with activities, instead of candy. Dig Its, fossil kits, grow your own crystals, magic rocks, etc. Check out Smithsonian and National Geographic brands (Target, Amazon). Lots of fun for kiddos! Also load up on paint and canvases for kids.

If you find something not too expensive, order extra and have your kids leave them at their friends’ doors, super cute.

Project three: Start a garden inside, unless you are a lucky west coaster, then start it outside.

It’s something to watch besides TV, and something to eat later (that you won’t have to hand sanitize). The washing and the sanitizing of the groceries is slowly killing me.

These times are for screen times, so until it’s nice outside, give your kids a break with the screen time clock.

Lastly, not a project, but sometimes it’s the small things.

I didn’t have much of a choice on them, but I had my shopper service get flowers, I usually always have fresh flowers in my home. Especially Spring flowers. I haven’t had them in weeks. Got them today. In some not so small way, I feel like a real person!

Sometimes you just need to something nice for yourself.

Cate Carley

Cate Carley, Executive Director, Agency Group, Rx EDGE Media Network/LeveragePoint Media

I am passing the time with:

Team video happy hours: Who doesn’t love seeing everyone’s backgrounds and favorite drinks! We now have an expression—“video on, pants on!” LOL—trying to have a sense of humor is key!

My family plays a game every night after dinner: Normally its cards but this night in the pic below its was Wisconopoly (I went to UW)—our son is a senior home from college so it’s not been easy. But forcing us to do this every night keeps us connected especially as we have a 17-year-old and 21-year-old so everyone is doing school or work during the day so finding time together every night is key.

Facetime: I have been doing a nightly Facetime call with former flight attendant friends from Delta and their stories in their industry are heartbreaking and how they are hanging on. I wear a new scarf every night in honor of Dr. Deborah Birx, response coordinator for the White House.

Amer Ghafari

Amer Ghafari, VP of IT Operations, AbelsonTaylor

What’s your work life look like now? 

We’ve managed to avoid Zoom-Bombings so I’d say things are going pretty well. On a serious note, from my perspective, the investment in Webex continues to prove to be the right move for our business. Not only is it the most secure audio/web/video conferencing technology in the market, but it has given us flexibility in and out of the office. For example, in the office, it has enabled us to provide a less disjointed experience when we’re in our conference rooms; i.e. the ability to join an audio/web/video conference and wirelessly project to a conference room TV with a single app. Using the same Webex App as they do in the office, our employees have been able to conduct audio/web/video conferences as we continue to WFH. Lastly, the Webex platform has allowed us to securely host multiple upcoming Webinars.

How are you coping?

One day at a time! My wife is a nurse and aside from directing all hospital transplant activities, she has been tasked with hiring ICU nurses to fulfill the shortage left by this horrible virus. Needless to say, she’s extremely busy. Nonetheless, we all wake up between 5:30 am – 6 am, mainly because our twin 2-year-old girls are the resident alarm clocks. After breakfast, we try and take a morning walk for about 30 minutes to relax and get some fresh air. I’m thankful that my 7-year-old daughter generally enjoys school work so we tend to knock out the first part of her homework after our walk.

By this time, our nanny has arrived to watch the twins and I’m able to start my work day. My 7-year-old takes a break (a long one) from school work until her and I regroup around lunch time to finish the rest of her work. We try and take another quick, 15-minute afternoon walk before my wife and I finish our work day.

Our nanny leaves around 5 pm and the rest of the night is spent on cooking dinner, dance parties, and breaking in our new bouncy house. Really, anything to keep the kids from losing their minds! Once or twice a week, my 7-year-old and I spend time making soccer videos because her travel academy is holding practices via Instagram Live. Other than that, my wife and I try to keep the same routine of watching Netflix after the kids go to bed around 8:30 pm, wake up, and doing it all again!

How do you see things changing when we “return to normal”?

It’s hard to say how we’re all going to be impacted once we’re allowed back into the office. However, I think we’re starting to see that WFH can be a successful option when needed and/or requested. With all of the uncertainty, I can definitely see an increase of people requesting to WFH so it will be interesting to see how everything unfolds. I’m also curious to see how our building management responds to taking proactive measures to keep tenants safe—masks for everyone as we ease back into “normalcy?” Implementing more no-touch technology to open high-touch common areas like doors? Who knows, but this has all definitely made me realize how much I enjoy being in an office atmosphere, so I cannot wait to get back there!

Kelli Renfrow

Kelli Renfrow, Senior Copywriter, Targetbase

During the quarantine, it’s not so much that I’ve brushed up on hobbies, but rather that I’ve brushed up on life skills. The most important of these has been listening. Some people might call listening a social skill, but that makes it sound like a nicety or a courtesy, instead of what it is—essential to navigating relationships and thus life.

First, because this virus/quarantine situation affects us all, I’ve had to listen to a much wider variety of people. For my part, I’ve had a strong opinion from the beginning; while everyone is entitled to an opinion, where I went wrong is thinking I knew what most people thought or how they felt. Yet when you listen, you hear a complex and completely individual set of factors that determine how others see the situation, which are every bit as valid as your own. There has to be empathy and compromise as we navigate this.

I’ve also had to learn to listen through new channels. Before now (and in the era of countless ways to connect digitally), speaking on the phone or via videoconference has been a work activity for me, not something I do much or at all in my personal life. I’ve had to “re-learn” how to hold a conversation this way, because I realized after years of work conference calls, I’ve picked up some bad habits, like multitasking and only listening for tidbits that pertain to me.

Finally, I’ve learned to listen to myself in new ways. Through my work communicating with patients, I’ve come to understand that having unpredictable up-and-down days—physical, emotional, or both—is a fairly common facet of anyone’s experience with a disease. Now that I’m having sometimes dramatically different reactions on a daily basis, I have at least a small inkling of the frustration and disruption this adds to everything else. Instead of fighting it, I’m trying to take whatever compassionate approach the moment calls for.

As it turns out, listening has become an activity that keeps me quite busy these days.

Various Intouchers

While Intouch is working hard to help clients stay on top of all things COVID-19, the company also has been looking for ways to help their employees (know as Intouchers) across offices reconnect. Intouch launched “LOL Challenges” in early April to give Intouchers the opportunity to win weekly prizes by participating in all-agency competitions. From getting creative with Zoom backgrounds, to creating work from home TikToks, to sharing their most epic Pinterest fails, these little brain breaks have included a variety of activities to be sure all Intouchers had a chance to jump in and participate. One of their most recent efforts was the “Masterpieces of Art!” challenge. Inspired by the Getty Museum challenge, Intouchers were tasked with recreating a work of art with just three items—and people or pets—around their homes. Check out some of the best ones above.


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