Rethinking Business as Usual During a Pandemic

The COVID-19 pandemic has changed everyday life almost overnight. The human toll is our first concern, but we’re also conscious of the widespread economic and business disruption, too. Business as usual isn’t possible for the foreseeable future forcing us to become more flexible than ever before. From minor inconveniences like scheduling video calls while sipping on home-made coffee to major disruptions like having to retool business operations, we’re all getting used to the new normal.

The transition to “social distancing” has been tough for businesses that already rely on telework. But for those that haven’t or can’t, it’s been devastating. Take the out-of-home advertising industry. My company, a global art activation agency that brings local artists together with businesses to create impactful spaces, has had to hit pause on every client project as it’s risky to work in public spaces and the eyeballs are simply not there right now.

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As a result, we’re one of several businesses that are taking a step back right now to rethink the way we do business for the duration of the COVID-19 crisis and after. Our goal is to stay authentic, relevant, empathetic and innovative in everything we do. And as we revisit everything from our services and products to sales and marketing, we’re finding new ways to connect and create that are firmly anchored in our core values. I hope these suggestions will inspire other business leaders to do the same.

Stepping Back and Reaching Out

Now is a good time for business leaders and department heads to step back and reimagine operations. The world has changed, and it’s necessary to align company operations with the new realities imposed by COVID-19. For HR professionals, that might mean communicating empathetically with anxious employees, researching available resources and identifying barriers to virtual work.

For marketing, this can be an opportunity to dig into methods and strategies left unaddressed in normal times. For example, at my company, we’re focused on digital marketing tools, including our website, SEO and how we can elevate our social content using better tools and metrics. We’re concentrating on what we can do to generate awareness and leads online with an eye toward the future.

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From a sales perspective, we’re prioritizing building our pipelines and thinking about strategies to serve existing and potential customers. We’re analyzing how different types of businesses and organizations might be affected by stay-at-home orders, considering when it would be appropriate to reach out (if at all) and thinking about how we might be able to help businesses in the current environment.

Moving from the Physical to the Virtual World

Business operations that depend on activities in the physical world — such as mural campaigns that create inspirational spaces and live experiences onsite — have no choice but to adapt to this suddenly changed world. One way we’re adapting is by moving from the physical to the virtual world with new initiatives and partnerships to advance the emotional power of art.

We recently launched an initiative called #MakeWithMuros where we’ve teamed up with artists nationwide to spread hope and positivity. COVID-19 has spread fear and uncertainty around the planet, and #MakeWithMuros is about changing the climate and tone of our social feeds. Through art, we are hoping to lift people up and encourage creativity, compassion and togetherness, even while separated.

On the partnership front, we teamed up with a Chicago fitness-focused media and event company, aSweatLife, for a virtual Drinks & Doodles Happy Hour Workshop featuring muralists and illustrators such as Chicago artist Blake Jones and Efdot. The events bring 100 people together for fun, stress-relieving sessions where participants learned to doodle like a pro right in their own living rooms.

A partnership between an art activation agency and a fitness media and event company might seem unlikely, but we have this in common: we share a passion for bringing people together in unique and inspiring ways. We’ll be exploring more partnerships in the weeks to come, looking for ways to use art to support our clients, artists and communities during these uncertain times.

Uncertain Times Reaffirm Core Values

Even though the pandemic has completely disrupted business routines, we’ve found that the fundamentals remain the same. Our core values and mission are more relevant than ever: supporting artists, providing new opportunities for artists to create work, helping clients speak to customers authentically and bringing people together through art.

We all have difficult choices to make, and no one really knows what the future will bring. But challenging times can bring out our best qualities as individuals and reaffirm core organizational values. As you rethink business as usual remember, we’re all in this together.

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