The novel coronavirus has given business owners around the country no choice but to grow and adapt. As they scramble for solutions to what once seemed like ridiculous problems, they are faced with a harsh reality: the pandemic has forever changed the world of business. Eyal Gutentag, a well-known performance marketing leader, has built a career around solving hard problems and pushing growth during difficult times. Through his experience as a talent manager and mentor, he has learned how to guide companies through events that often feel impossible to navigate.
We asked Eyal about how the COVID-19 pandemic has changed business moving forward, and how industries might look as we approach the “new normal.”
The workplace is being reinvented during the crisis. Which changes do you think will be lasting?
Of the many changes that have occurred during the pandemic, one of the most prominent has been the shift to working from home. Employees have not only adapted to telecommuting, but have shown that they can even increase productivity levels and drive results without being in the office. Simultaneously, businesses have realized that taking office rental space off the budget could help profits. While some companies may choose to maintain a traditional model, I believe many industries moving forward will continue to have fewer employees in-office, or even an entirely work-from-home model for some functions long term.
How has working from home changed the way the typical “8 hour workday” is structured?
The 8 hour work day was a standard set back when manufacturing and industrial work were America’s most prominent industries. The world has changed in many ways since then, and most people’s jobs no longer require being physically present on an assembly line. We no longer need an 8 hour workday to properly measure output or productivity.
During the pandemic, work environments have been especially project and results driven. Managers are discovering that if employees can accomplish the same amount of work more in less time, they should let them be efficient. Comprises have been made to allow parents with children at home to juggle homeschooling and other responsibilities. As we move forward, teams working from home may lean away from traditional office hours and into a more flexible schedule.
What are some creative ways that managers can continue to build company culture from a distance?
This pandemic has shown us the importance of community. Providing time for employees to connect and support each other is so important, but can feel difficult to manage remotely. Brainstorm with your employees and think outside the box. One way to create a sense of camaraderie, outside of the typical Zoom happy hour, is to get your team on board with a virtual brainstorming session for something outside the scope of every day work or a charitable fundraiser. Uniting for a common cause is a great way to bring your team together while giving back.
How can employees battle distraction and procrastination from home?
While many employees have increased productivity levels while working from home, others are struggling with facing distractions. Some are multi-tasking home schooling, working alongside a roommate or a spouse, getting distracted by household chores, or tempted to browse social media and news.
I myself have found it challenging to find the boundaries between work and home life, because the “office” – my laptop and mobile phone – are always nearby. Establishing those boundaries will be key to finding a healthy work-life blend.
My advice to anyone working from home is to do what you can to define working hours (whatever they may be for you) and protect that time. Turn off the tv, put social media on airplane mode, and create a focused environment. Have honest conversations with your housemates about boundaries. If you can diminish distractions and get in flow, your workday will be done before you know it.
Certain personality types are thriving working from home. Which qualities are you seeing serve employees most during this time?
Employees who are naturally self-motivated are excelling while working from home. These self-starters types aren’t waiting for work to be assigned to them - they’re coming up with their own projects. I have also found that many introverts are doing well in the work from home setting. Without group projects, large meetings, and typical office socializing to stress about, this personality type is focusing and delivering work with speed. They are seeking data, insights and communicating proactively thanks to their ambition, and often the extra time on their hands available to dive into new areas.
How has the pandemic affected hiring practices? How will onboarding be handled moving forward?
The pandemic has forced companies to shift the interview process to virtual platforms, which can add complications. Many businesses are handling hiring entirely by phone or video chat. In the past, companies often had more intricate onboarding processes. But in the age of COVID-19, things have been simplified.
On the other hand, with a large number of American’s unemployed and looking for work, businesses have a wider pool to choose from. I believe the onboarding process will ultimately need to develop with new screening practices, and potentially trial periods to see if candidates are truly a good fit. Each company will need to create their own systems that work for them.
When/if things return to “normal,” what’s one new business practice from pandemic times that you hope will stick?
A crisis can do a lot of things to society. It can insight fear, anxiety, and tension. But it can also illuminate what is really important and unite us. Despite the terrible things happening in the world, one positive side effect of the pandemic is that people are spending more time at home with their families. This quality time is immensely important to me. My relationship with my children has materially improved in recent months. Our quality time together allows us to reconnect, and create shared memories. The months of isolation have also meant more family dinners, almost no babysitters or parent nights out, and in many ways kids are thriving from the increased attention from their parents.
I have found that employees with well-rounded lives are happier. Regardless of when and how we got back to “normal,” I hope people continue to spend less late hours working in the office, less time commuting, and more time on what really matters. It is clear that for many of us, this pandemic has sharpened the differences between our “needs” and our “wants”. Things we once thought we needed and had to have, often materialistic in nature, are now less important as people grapple with the essentials of health, family and economic survival.