We checked in with DLR Group’s principal and hospitality leader to find out how her team is coming together and connecting, what it means to lead during COVID-19, and her thoughts on how hospitality moves forward.
What have been your biggest challenges over the past weeks?
The economic landscape is shifting daily, requiring companies to be nimble enough to overcome challenges related to the pandemic. This has emboldened my leadership style and reinforces the idea that we must be open to accepting new information and adapting to make the best choices we can with the facts available.
How is your team adjusting to working from home?
The adjustment to WFH was much easier than expected. Although we aren’t meeting face to face, we continue to collaborate with our clients via Zoom and other digital tools to allow work to continue on our projects. Our firm has offices around the globe, which requires us to practice as one firm with one brand promise: to elevate the human experience through design. While it has been an adjustment to reduce travel for clients, and being isolated at home, the way we connect as a group remains the same. We’ve always communicated through phone, text, and email, and we’ve added routine internal meetings via Zoom. We haven’t lost that crucial communication. In fact, this new environment is bringing our team closer together. We have amazing happy hours, virtual meetups, yoga meetups, pushup challenges, creating fun themes for sharing old baby photos and hats, and even using Zoom’s background feature to get a good laugh.
How will the hospitality industry, and designing for it, have to adapt going forward?
The best way to gauge this adaptation will be a renewed partnership with owners and developers. Designers are inherently facilitators to solve problems through creative solutions and emotional physical expressions of space. Owners will be faced with the economic challenge to meet the new needs of their guests post-COVID-19, and designers will be tasked with helping develop these solutions. Hotels are the social nucleus for many communities. They are destinations in themselves, and we can’t turn our back on being hospitable in a post-pandemic world. Our industry is about eliciting a spark, being a catalyst for new memories, and still is the connective tissue to what warms our hearts and minds: It’s about social connection and experiencing the world in a great environment. I believe we still haven’t seen all the opportunities that will reveal themselves in the now of our reality. As we emerge, we’ll see how these new opportunity traits unfold more solidly to shape the new normal.
What opportunities could come?
One concept that we have been researching and working on in our internal R&D lab is the notion of adaptable space. Hospitality has not often been open to a single space wearing so many hats, and even taking that further with adaptive fixtures and furniture. We are testing concepts that show how a single space—through a clever change in the loose furniture landscape—can shift to not only guests’ desires at any moment, but also a specialized activity hosted by the hotel. Leveraging our workplace and healthcare design expertise within our firm, we can focus our lens and have more insight into how we design for this adaptive modality specific to hotels.
How have you personally been adapting to life and work during these times?
No, I have not been initiated into the Tiger King club! Honestly, I am holistically well, rested, and have regained a sense of strength and community in yoga with my friends. Being grounded from air travel has led me to the unexpected discovery that the frenetic pace of life was doing more harm to my body and mind than I realized. I am finding a sense of peaceful rhythm in my day now and can be more creative. What warms my heart is that my daughter and I are connected now more than ever with her school being closed. I’ve found inspiration from Athena Calderone of EyeSwoon, Kelly Wearstler, and Liz Gardner of Bodega Ltd., through their design books, styling sensibilities, and their artful and raw sharing of their craft. Lastly, who doesn’t just laugh so hard at all the memes, jokes, and gifs being created as therapy for a crazy time? Getting through life with a sense of humor has always been my thing. Cheers!