James McClister is managing editor for Professional Remodeler.

Finding a “New Normal”

Three unexpected things I've found during COVID-19 quarantine 

May 19, 2020
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covid-19 has set a new normal for the world, and remodeling

Before my girlfriend and I started sheltering in place, I wouldn’t have considered ordering groceries online—or even cooking, really. I worked out of an office, and never even brought lunch. I was lazy like that. I would take a short walk to something nearby, a Subway or Starbucks, or this little salad shop I liked. It was easy, which is why I’d often do it for dinner, as well. 

Now I work from home, and picking up food from a quick joint is a little more complicated. I can’t wait inside, probably have to order off an app, my face needs to be covered, and the odd list goes on. Not that I’m complaining, those are just the realities. My new normal, so to speak. 

Turns out, I like having groceries delivered, and cooking too. It’s probably embarrassing that it took a global pandemic and statewide quarantine to learn that. But again, those are just the realities; and they’re not the only ones I’ve discovered sheltering in place. 

Zoom Calls Can Get Old 

Another truth I’ve learned is that Zoom calls (i.e., video calls) are draining. It didn’t take many of these meetings to learn it, but I’ve taken many nonetheless. I couldn’t put my finger on why they were so exhausting until I came across an interview in IFLScience with psychologist Dr. Paul Penn from the University of East London. He explained the phenomenon, at least in big part, as a response to a new inability to properly read non-verbal cues from the people we’re speaking with. 

“In terms of online video chatting, things like a time lag, low resolution, dodgy camera angles/lighting, technical hitches etc all contribute to making such cues more difficult to perceive and respond appropriately to,” Penn told the publication. It makes the calls draining, he said adding that the issue is amplified by the fact that frequent video calls are being imposed on employees, rather than offered as an alternative. 

Harvard Business Review suggests building in breaks, using plain backgrounds to limit stimuli, avoiding video for external calls, avoiding multitasking during calls, making virtual social events “opt-in,” and substituting video with a phone call or a email, whenever possible. Dr. Penn said that the only truly effective counter is less Zoom calls. 

It’s TV Time 

Another thing is advertising. If you’re thinking “now is not the time to advertise,” you’re not alone—especially when it comes to television. But it’s because so many businesses are having that thought that stations are being forced to offer extreme discounts, often with bonus time slots attached. In places where remodeling is considered essential, like Wisconsin, not only are the deals amazing, but so are the returns, some remodelers are reporting. 

“We can hardly keep up with the leads coming in,” says Abby Binder, owner of Abby Windows and Exteriors in Milwaukee. “And we’re getting ad slots and bonus slots for 60% of what we’d normally pay.”

Brian Gottlieb, who owns Tundraland, which operates out of Wisconsin and Arizona, says he’s experieincing the same thing. “We’re seeing 200% to 300% engagement.” He says that by going through station managers, who are trying to fill time slots, rather than sales reps, who are trying to make money, he’s been able to get ads on screen for thirty cents on the dollar. 

There Is No “Back to normal” 

Probably the most impactful thing I’ve learned in quarantine is that when people say, “get back to normal,” they really mean “find a new normal.” Because even when restaurants and bars reopen, and people take to the streets and parks and offices to resume what use to be their day-to-day lives, some new habits can’t be shaken. I will never not want the convenience of having groceries delivered, same as some people will never not want to be able to have a virtual sales consult. Society has changed forever, and remodelers need to change with it. 

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