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How Beauty Brands Are Adapting to the New WFH Norm

Clinique, Glow Recipe, La Mer, Ouai and more beauty companies are implementing various strategies to preserve workplace culture and structure.

Zoom, Skype, Google Hangouts: Beauty brands are using all of the tools available to keep communication current during the coronavirus.

Clinique was planning to move to a new floor in its Manhattan offices when the coronavirus struck the city, prompting the company to require its 300 New York City employees to work from home. Employees have been using Skype, Zoom and Teams to communicate, according to Jane Lauder, Clinique’s global brand president, and two weeks ago, the company held a virtual town hall.

“We repurposed the town hall to talk about what’s going on today,” Lauder said. “I asked people to send in pictures of things they’re grateful for to remind ourselves that there’s a lot of great things out there. Health of our employees and community comes first, so we talked through that and all of the tools and ways we can support everyone during this time. Then, I wanted our teams to talk about some of the changes and successes they’ve [seen] to pivot to how we speak to our customers and how we engage.”

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The concept of working from home is more familiar to some than others. Deepica Mutyala, founder and chief executive officer of online community and cosmetics brand Live Tinted, began her entrepreneurial journey as an influencer working from home.

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“Most influencers start out that way,” Mutyala said. “After launching Live Tinted, the first year, we were working out of my garage.” Live Tinted now has five full-time employees.

Charlotte Cho, founder of skin-care company Then I Met You and chief curator of Soko Glam, said she felt somewhat “prepared for what was to come” to the U.S. after witnessing the coronavirus’ impact on her eight-member team in South Korea. Now, her U.S. team of 32 is using the same tools, i.e. Slack and Google Hangouts, it normally would in-office, but from home.

Managers are upholding their previously scheduled weekly and monthly one-one-ones with direct reports over Google Hangouts, said Cho, and communication between the ceo, Cho’s husband Dave, and the staff is now more frequent.

“During this uncertain time, you have to be continuously communicating with the whole company and making sure there’s company-wide meetings regularly, more often than before,” Cho said. “As you see news coming out about companies shifting, furloughing, layoffs, there’s heightened anxiety.”

At Glow Recipe, the 23-person team has assembled a “buddy system,” pairing individuals from different departments, said Sarah Lee, cofounder and co-ceo. The pairings, she said, promote one-on-one interactions, allowing team members to get to know one another better through video chat.

“We are helping all departments work collaboratively with better understanding of each other,” Lee said. “It’s important to support one another and work closely during this time.”

The desire to preserve a sense of workplace culture amid the coronavirus presents a sort of paradox. Companies are intentionally increasing communication, while simultaneously advising employees to unplug more frequently. La Mer, Ouai and Beauty Bio are among those implementing mandatory breaks mid-workday.

“We have set definite parameters around meeting hours to encourage our teams to take breaks, spend time with family, eat meals, exercise or wind down, including a brand-mandated, daily one-hour lunch break,” said Sandra Main, global brand president of La Mer and Bobbi Brown.

Hannah Beals, vice president of brand marketing at Ouai, said the company has instilled a daily, mandatory noon to 2 p.m. break to “preserve our sanity and team energy.”

“It’s less hours than we normally work, but we have no meetings during that time company-wide,” Beals said. “This is our time to go outside, recharge.”

Jamie O’Banion, founder and ceo of BeautyBio, has mandated a 30-minute period of “zero screen time” every afternoon.

“There are these blurred lines right now, where there’s no clear delineation between when your work day starts and stops because it’s all happening from the same place,” O’Banion said. “The flip side of lack of productivity can be where you’re working too much, you’re in front of the screen Zoom call after Zoom call.”

O’Banion is also keen on keeping work culture traditions, such as birthday and anniversary celebrations, and cultivating visual connection among team members.

“We’re social distancing, but you have to caution against emotional distancing,” she said. Employees are encouraged to participate in something called Monday Masking, where they join team video conference calls wearing eye gels, sheet masks, hair masks and the like. One team member’s pet pig made an appearance. O’Banion has also set up a Slack channel meant to simulate morning coffee time, where employees can chat before officially starting the work day.

For some brands, it’s a matter of acclimating to the coronavirus’ new norm. But for others, especially those that haven’t launched yet, the guidelines are more vague.

Rare Beauty, Selena Gomez’s forthcoming cosmetics brand, is taking steps to communicate both internally among team members and externally with potential customers. A few weeks ago, the company hosted a Zoom call with 15 people — five Rare Beauty employees and 10 of its Instagram followers — to initiate interaction between the brand and its following, said Katie Welch, chief marketing officer.

“While we can’t meet our community in person yet, we wanted to start forging strong relationships with people across the country,” Welch said. “We haven’t been live-streaming or broadcasting these calls, but we decided to connect with people in our community at random. We invited them to a Zoom call where they could meet different members of the Rare Beauty team. It was less about meeting us and the brand but more about how can we in this time of loneliness create connection and have our community, which is so strong and positive online, meet one another. What a time to be making new connections that are meaningful.”

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