#WFH Diaries: Michelle Zoni of ViacomCBS Velocity

With the coronavirus pandemic surging anew, most folks are still working from home. We're continuing to check in with creative professionals to see how they're faring. Below, we chat with Michelle Zoni, SVP at ViacomCBS Velocity.

Give us a one-line bio of yourself.

I'm a senior vice president of marketing activation for ViacomCBS within Velocity, our in-house branded content studio.

Where are you living right now, and who's with you?

I live in the town of Cortlandt, a northern suburb of NYC, with my husband Matt and two children, Benjamin (7) and Caitlin (4). We are very fortunate to have a lot of green space, especially with energetic kids.

What's your work situation like at the moment?

In the beginning of the pandemic, we talked a lot about "adaptive creativity," and much of our focus was on providing solutions for our advertising partners who were responding in real time to what was unfolding. Now it all feels more normal in terms of the work itself. We continue to work from home full time with what feels like an inordinate amount of Zooms, and while the company has started to map out a return-to-work plan, we don't expect it to be anytime soon.

Describe your socializing strategy.

When we first entered the shutdown, we were doing video calls with friends and family all the time—honestly, more than we usually saw people in real life! Now with summer here, we're spending more time outside and less time with screens.

How are you dealing with childcare?

We are lucky to have some help from family for a few hours each afternoon, so we stack our meetings then to try to minimize the interruptions. But it's an ongoing struggle, and I know my kids are not getting nearly the attention they deserve. I'm just grateful they have each other, at least. Also, Nickelodeon makes a great babysitter (shameless corporate plug, but it's true).

What are you reading?

I just finished The Nickel Boys by Colson Whitehead, and I'm about to start Heartland by Sarah Smarsh.

What are you watching?

By the time we get the kids to bed, we get one show max, so we have a very long list of things we want to watch and will eventually get to, maybe when they're teenagers. At the moment, we're catching up on Ozark and Billions, along with our regular favorites The Daily Show, Full Frontal and Last Week Tonight. I probably shouldn't admit I watch those last two since I work on Comedy Central, but good to know what the competition is doing, right?

What are you listening to?

My kids are (still) obsessed with The Greatest Showman soundtrack, so that's always playing in our house. I suppose I shouldn't tease them, though, because I still listen to Hamilton all the time. I rotate a couple of podcasts as well.

How are you staying fit?

A few weeks into our time at home, I realized just how much activity I was missing from my commute and office life. Between parking a quarter mile from the train station to navigating Grand Central and two subway stations, not to mention going up and down stairs for meetings all day, I clocked nearly 10,000 steps on that alone. I also missed getting fresh air as I found myself tethered to my laptop all day long despite best efforts at taking a break. So I started a morning routine of getting up early and going for a 2.5-mile walk (which is the length of my dead-end street, twice). It's definitely kept me sane if not fit.

Have you taken up a hobby?

I wish! I admire any parent who has found time to develop a hobby and would love their advice.

An awkward moment since all this started.

Any one of the many times my 4-year-old has crashed a Zoom.

An aha! moment since all this started.

I've enjoyed watching the aha! moments around me as everyone realizes that working from home can be just as productive and collaborative. I've worked from home one day a week since my son was born and always knew that to be true, but I'm glad to see the stigma I often felt dissipate. On a personal level, I never thought of where I live as "in the country," but the amount of wildlife I've seen on my daily walks has made me reconsider that.

What's your theory on how this is going to play out?

When this all started, I naively thought we'd return to "normal" by summer, but that faded pretty quickly. Even now in our phased reopening, it feels like we're far away from a time when we'll be comfortable out and about. As a parent, I'm anxiously awaiting information from our school district on their own reopening plans, which, as for many of my colleagues, will impact our ability to return to the office. I do think overall this forced quarantine will effect lasting change on how we work in a positive way.

See the full #WFH Diaries series here.

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Jessie Garretson
Jessie Garretson is associate director of Clio Entertainment.

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