As working from home continues to become status quo during the coronavirus pandemic, to many, answering e-mails from an office now seems like a luxury. From reworking meetings to negotiating workspaces with children and pets and rethinking what constitutes “work attire,” working from home has brought with it a kaleidoscope of change.
With so many feeling the pernicious effect of coronavirus on daily life, here’s what some executive leaders had to say about the new 9 a.m. and what they have learned from this new normal.
Sarah Willersdorf, managing director and partner, and global head of luxury of Boston Consulting Group
“In my regular routine, I would be at a client’s office or at the BCG office in New York meeting with my teams. In this new WFH routine, I am helping my two boys settle into their school work at the dining room table, while I participate in myriad video conferences with clients and my teams. We are using Zoom and WhatsApp to connect with teams and clients — people are really learning to be more digital than ever. I have learned to never take for granted simple things like walking to my local coffee shop at 7 a.m. on the way back from a 6 a.m. Bootcamp or Solidcore class before dropping my children at school and going to the office. I have learned that my teams need time for us all to connect and check-in — we have started to host a weekly ‘virtual cocktail’ hour to just check-in on one another without discussing work content. I have learned that it is essential to draw a distinction between ‘work time’ and ‘family time’ to maintain a balance — there is a risk of working constantly if we don’t set boundaries to exercise and spend time with our children/families. And I have learned that childcare is an essential service and that teachers should be paid so much more than they are today.”
Mary Alderete, chief marketing officer of Banana Republic
“What I’m doing isn’t as different — working with my team daily on innovation in our creative program development — as how we are doing it. At 9 a.m. last Thursday, we had a virtual open house, and 65 team members showed up with their Zoom backgrounds, kids, dogs, costumes, all kinds of crazy things.
“It was a great reminder of the fact that what we do is a creative process, fueled by the energy of coming together to collaborate — each with their unique perspective. That said, I really miss working together in person and can’t wait for the safe recovery of our nation so we can get back to work together. [I have learned that while] home is typically a haven away from work; now it’s a blending of my two families. It’s brought an intimacy to our team as we have an insight into each other’s personal lives and spaces. It has brought us even closer even though we’re farther apart.”
Ryan Urban, cofounder and chief executive officer of BounceX
“Before we started working from home, my schedule was pretty regimented. I’d spend an hour with my dog, get mentally prepared for the day (not looking at emails or messages) and then head to my first breakfast meeting. But that’s completely changed now. I’m not worrying about what I’m going to wear or how my hair looks, which saves me an extra 20 minutes or so. Right now, my priority is the health of our team. So the time I would usually spend getting myself ready for the day, I’m on a call with our leadership team to discuss how we can help our team and clients navigate such a difficult time.
“Since working from home, I’ve become a huge fan of Zoom. I wasn’t really a video conferencing fan before. Being someone who is big on personalization, I’d prefer to do in-person meetings or phone calls. I’m finding that Zoom and video conferencing technologies are so good and so personal. We’re hosting regular webinars and conferences through Zoom, and I’ve been impressed with how it almost replicates being in a conference room. Honestly, I am finding some of the video conferencing capabilities more efficient than meetings in the office.”
Eran Cohen, chief executive officer of St. John
“At 9 a.m. I am taking roll call on a daily COVID-19 briefing conference call with the St. John executive team. It’s a way to stay connected with each department head together. It’s really impressive to see how nimble we can be and how willing and able people are to think differently. It’s been rather humbling and has reinforced just how incredible it is to see such strength in teamwork. My day isn’t much different, which has made the adjustment easier. Before I would have been in a meeting or on a call but now there just might be a dog barking in the background. I have learned how to use Microsoft Teams. Such amazing technology that allows us to speak easily and throughout the day. Human connection is important for us all.”
Shani Darden, celebrity aesthetician and founder of Shani Darden Skin Care
“When I’m working in the studio, at 9 a.m. I am usually curling my hair and going over my day with the team before I start facials at 9:30 a.m. Now my 9 a.m. is usually trying to get my daughters to sit in one place and focus on their schoolwork and begging the dogs to stop barking. I’ve learned how important it is to have this time with my kids. Although it’s had its challenges, it’s been amazing to have this extra time to bond with them. I think it’s important to stay positive and find the silver lining in everything and having more time with my girls is definitely the best part.”
Lynn Tesoro, cofounder and chief executive officer of HL Group
“In many ways [my morning] it is exactly the same. I’m up by 6 a.m. and immediately busy with my family, but by 9 a.m., I am at my desk, digging into the day’s work. The only difference is that my WFH desk is five feet from my bed, which is not a terrible commute.
“If there is anything I can take away from this terrible moment in time, it would be that we now have reason to pause. This is a time to look around and reconnect with the things that matter to us personally that may have gotten slightly lost in the shuffle of work and life. There’s an immense amount of uncertainty but it is important to look ahead and take stock of what we want to be in the future, as a company, and as individuals.”
Nate Checketts, cofounder and chief executive officer of Rhone
“At 9 a.m. I am at a work from home desk and usually cranking on video conferences with various team members. But the three hours before are somewhat different than typical; I’m waking up, getting organized for the day, helping my wife pull together meals and the three work stations for our kids.
“We make sure the kids are up by 8 a.m., then we all take our dog for a walk, we eat breakfast as a family and we get everyone in their school station by 9 a.m. so we can start the day. Typically, I would be at the office at 9 a.m. working from my own desk surrounded by my colleagues versus hoping our kids’ e-class learning holds them captivated long enough to get in at least one call.
“I have learned on a stronger level just how capable our team is at working from home and rising to the occasion. We’ve had nearly daily activities to keep a level of socialization and engagement — everything from teams operating in video conference environments, to virtual team workouts, to trivia, and even doing a team-wide meditation. I think it really highlights how our typical work environment and model has not evolved at the same speed as technology.”
Abigail Stone, cofounder and chief executive officer of Otherland
“At 9 a.m., I’m making a french-press coffee and setting up my WFH productivity station for the day. I’m someone who is strongly affected by the physical space I work in — it needs to be organized yet inspiring so I can get into a creative flow. Right now, my desk is my dining table; every morning, I select a candle scent, lay out my pink notepad, and add something else for whimsy like a clementine or colorful water glass. Then, I sit down on my yellow, velvet banquette to kick off our morning Zoom ‘Stand Up’ with the team.
“For me, mood boarding has been an escape from the present; I’ve been collaging together both mood boards for future Otherland candle collections as well as my own vision boards. The practice of vision boarding is all about imagining the future, and is a reminder we are all going to get through this. Having that visual representation is helping me feel hopeful and to stay motivated and driven.”
Tamara Rosenthal, vice president of marketing and merchandising of Sotheby’s Home
“Now at 9 a.m. each morning, I am taking care of my kids and eating breakfast with them. This is not something I ever had a chance to do with them before, and it’s nice to see them in the morning and start the day without a complete rush. Normally, I’d be arriving at the office and rushing to grab a coffee, get to my desk and hop on a call or into a meeting to start the day. I’ve had to lower my expectations about how ‘on’ and available I can be. Working 12-hour days and answering e-mails from 8 a.m. through 7 p.m. is not sustainable and no longer realistic with our current set-up. Adjusting to these new norms — both working and as a parent — I’ve learned I need to set realistic goals with myself in terms of how and where I’m spending my time.”
Heidi Zak, cofounder and co-chief executive offer of ThirdLove
“At 9 a.m. I’m wrapping up my kindergartner’s Zoom meeting with her teachers and her classmates. This is how we kick off the homeschooling every day now. Normally I would be driving to the office, or to another meeting at this time. I make sure to exercise (almost) every morning on my Peloton or taking a quick run outside. I really miss seeing my team’s faces in real life, and the energy of our bustling office.”
David Sykes, head of U.S. of Klarna
“Meetings! I feel like people used to build in at least a bit of commuting time. Now my day seems to start much earlier, but it feels very energized and productive right now at Klarna — it’s positive. We were lucky at Klarna in that, as a tech company, we are pretty digitally native and entirely cloud-based, so we are well-positioned to shift gears to working remotely — purely from a logistics standpoint. A typical ‘pre-COVID’ week for me was working remote one or two days with travel anyway. The biggest learning for me has been how much more proactively you need to work to keep your team engaged. With everyone dispersed there’s a risk of people falling through the gap and out of the good routines we had established. Making time for the type of engagement that used to happen organically in the office has proven to be really important.”
Anders Bergstrom, general manager at Teva
“Previously, I had regular in-person check-ins with various teams throughout the day, which simply was I’d walk around and bother my teams. Now, I’ve had to resort to calling, but hasn’t changed our flow of communication. [During this time, I have learned] the power of clarity in communication. We’re required to communicate more via e-mail and online so the language we use with our teams and our fans is even more important and clear and concise. And secondly, that humans are meant to be outside. As much as we spend our lives in cars and offices regularly, and now being confined to our homes for the good of our health and our community’s health, I’ve developed an even more powerful love of the outdoors. Frankly, I can’t wait until people all over the planet are free to explore the world around them once again.”
Chris Riccobono, cofounder and executive chairman of Untuckit
“Normally I’m leaving for the city and arriving in the office around 9 a.m. Now I’m balancing multiple conference calls while trying to keep an eye on my 2 1/2-year-old son, who prefers playing in my office while I’m working. It is hard to concentrate and get things done with young ones at home — I have a 2 1/2-year-old and a 10-month-old. One major benefit is spending more time with my kids and trying to strike that balance between playtime and work presents a small challenge I wasn’t expecting. Working from home also means I’m working longer hours since I’ve been helping with the kids throughout the day, so I’m playing catch up at the end of the night. Also, it’s amazing how advanced technology is these days — you can essentially run a business from home.”
Michelle Cordeiro Grant, founder and chief executive officer of Lively
“Normally at 9 a.m., I would be on my way into the office and catching up on e-mails. My commute is significantly shorter now, obviously, so it’s nice to get that time back to spend time with my kids. I’ve been starting my morning with an activity with my kids, usually baking, so they feel the love before I go to work.
“Despite all the changes, I’ve been trying to stick to my morning routine as much as possible to preserve some sense of normalcy, just with the added bonus of spending more time with my family. Since we’re in such an uncertain time right now, I want to make sure we feel a sense of stability and positivity. Routine allows me to start my day fresh and on a positive note.
“Since working from home, I’ve really learned the importance of video over audio. At Lively, we really rely on our team culture. On calls, you lose a piece of the culture, but on video, you can see and almost feel one another — a virtual high-five or a smile helps to create that office environment. Also, when we’re not together, I’ve found that over-communicating the objective and where to focus is essential.”
Dhanusha Sivajee, chief marketing officer of The Knot Worldwide
“Now that I’m not commuting into the office anymore, my workday starts at 6 a.m. or 7 a.m. with video meetings to check in on our international markets in Europe and Asia. So 9 a.m. is now more of a mid-morning stretch and dedicated to getting the kids set-up for their school days from home.
“I’m using this opportunity to spend some more quality time with my family, especially around meals that we didn’t previously have together. After dinner, Alexa’s “Would You Rather” and State Trivia contests have become our new best friends. [I have learned that] we need to keep the face-to-face interactions and connections going virtually. Virtual coffee breaks are a great way to keep teams feeling bonded and some semblance of normalcy during this difficult time.”
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