Zoom meetings, comfy pants, and home-cooked lunches — these are the staples of the workplace for many Americans amid the novel coronavirus. Businesses from Silicon Valley to Wall Street have taken notice, revisiting assumptions about productivity and emphasizing issues like the mental health of their employees.
As U.S. states begin to reopen, companies face a new set of choices: whether to rehire workers, when to bring them back to the office, and how to ensure their safety and sanity. Government mandates and guidelines hold some sway, but managers will ultimately determine what a new normal looks like at their companies.
Yahoo Finance spoke to top leaders and professionals about precisely these questions for a special called “Reset Your Mindset at Work,” a partnership between Yahoo! and Fortune that airs from 5 p.m. to 6 p.m. ET on Wednesday.
It features guests like Dallas Mavericks owner and “Shark Tank” co-host Mark Cuban, tennis star Serena Williams, former Aetna (CVS) CEO Mark Bertolini, and American Medical Association President Patrice Harris — all of whom explain how the coronavirus outbreak has upended their work and what comes next.
Christina Stembel, chief executive of the San Francisco-based flower company Farmgirl Flowers, offers the perspective of her medium-sized business, which employed 197 people before the outbreak but had to furlough all but six, she says.
In March, as the wide spread of the virus in the U.S. became apparent, she suddenly needed to determine “how to communicate with our customers, thousands of customers, their orders, were going to be late, and then to figure out if I was gonna be able to stay afloat,” she says.
Over five weeks, the company re-did its distribution model, opening some new distribution centers and closing others, which left some longtime employees out of jobs.
“The difference between the companies that make it and don't make it are the ones that are willing to do the hard things, the things that you don't want to do to pivot, which is what we had to do,” she says.
Williams describes how she’s preparing for a return to the tennis court and what it’s like to spend quarantine with her husband, Reddit co-founder Alexis Ohanian, and their two-year-old daughter Alexis Olympia.
“Obviously I’m rooting for businesses, which would include mine, to be able to come back,” says Williams. “It’s good to take a break and just really focus on the things that are really important.”
“In the beginning, it was definitely hard, but once I got over that, I was like I’m kind of in love with this staying-at-home life,” Williams says.
But for many people, the shift to shelter-in-place has taken a toll. Almost half of Americans say the coronavirus crisis is hurting their mental health, according to a Kaiser Family Foundation poll conducted in late March. The pandemic “has the seeds of a major mental health crisis,” the United Nations said earlier this month.
Nancy Lublin, the CEO of a phone-counseling service called Crisis Text Line, told Yahoo Finance that self-isolation, job loss, and uncertainty can upend people’s mindsets.
“They’ve really been disrupted,” she says.
Individuals have sought three common sources of comfort, she noted. “People are really looking to family, friends and pets,” she says.