We push pause for one hour each week to talk, share, and listen to 60+ clients and partners who are participating in our Virtual Roundtable. As business leaders, employers, and human beings, this group discusses the impact of the latest COVID-19 developments, and ideas to help each other navigate the changing reality.

These are the topics discussed on April 17th. We hope these can help you and your teams as you make decisions moving ahead.

WPI Share on Chinese Brand Actions

Worldwide Partners (WPI) provided a POV on what’s happening in China, and observations and insights that can potentially offer a compass for nations in the West on what we might anticipate for business.

  • Employees in China who are now coming back to work have a primary concern about health and hygiene. They’re not so much worried about their jobs as they are worried about protecting themselves and their environment.
  • Consumer behavior in China has changed beyond recognition. Campaigns being worked on 2-3 months ago are not relevant at all in today’s environment.
  • Businesses have begun to open again in China, but with restrictions. They’re anticipating a prolonged contraction; anticipating waves.
  • Patterns of consumption have changed dramatically, and many brands are trying to capitalize through livestreaming, conducting offline events in an online environment, pivoting products and services to in-home experiences, and using social tools differently.

Four Themes That Have Emerged Out of China So Far

  1. Accelerated digital migration: China is primarily mobile and cashless, and the trends that they were seeing in China have accelerated drastically.
    • Home delivery including groceries, has grown across all ages and become the default.
    • The purchase journey is moving from product-centric to people-centric; people are turning to self-discovery or referrals from friends more.
    • Livestreaming has taken on a dominate place for brands in China; productivity apps are moving to the #1 or #2 spot in app stores.
    • Product launches online utilizing influencers and online Q&As.
    • Real estate seeing high growth using VR.
  2. Self-sufficiency at-home: Consumers are taking the opportunity to take better care of themselves because they don’t have access to products and services that they did in retail.
    • People are using this time to learn new things – a hotel property in China is doing online cooking classes.
    • Restaurants in China are promoting DIY meals and delivering fresh food.
  3. Health consciousness: People are taking the time to focus on staying healthy and replicating what they can do at the gym at home.
    • Health and fitness apps are being downloaded at huge levels.
    • People are shifting from “medicine” to “health;” “treatment” to “sustainability”.
    • Hotels are pushing workouts from their hotel staff; Vogue pushing out spa tips from influencers.
  4. Retail getting creative: Because their “normal” environments are essentially shutdown.
    • Shopping malls are creating the opportunity to pre-book times for when to try on clothes, and they will ensure that the clothes you want to try on are properly cleaned.
    • Retailers are leveraging their staff as influencers. Trying to create that connection in an online environment where previously you may have interacted with a staff member on a frequent basis when going to a physical space.

We need to take things to the next level, beyond empathetic and add value, to be utilitarian as well as empathetic.

Strada Education Network Tracking Data Share

Strada Education Network shared some of the tracking data on the impact of the virus on jobs and skills training required for those losing their jobs now and those likely to change fields entirely.


Training will be required to obtain new work. And most who seek such training are planning to look for employment in a different field.

Online solutions will be key in meeting this need that is bringing a fundamental shift in behavior and expectations for such content and programs.

Employer Role in Employee Mental Health Management

Example from Heart+Mind Strategies

At Heart+Mind as this pandemic emerged our sole focus was on protecting physical health. But, with shelter-in-place, struggling economy, sickness, death and job insecurity as our new normal, we’ve turned our focus to the mental health and well-being of our employees.

The specific actions we are taking right now include:

  • Regular check-ins with our employees regarding their and their loved ones physical and mental well-being
  • Initiated financial and personal transparency
  • Frequent communications
    • Approached with empathy
    • Focused on “knowns” in order to help employees feel some control
    • Always open and honest, therefore accepting sometimes we get it right and sometimes we get it wrong and that’s okay
  • All-hands video calls where leadership speaks directly and openly to every employee about current and potential impact to our business
    • Allow for any and all questions and pledge to answer them in a clear and satisfying manner
    • Get used to sharing things that are uncomfortable, balancing necessary vs. unnecessary worry, what is really KNOWN vs. forecasted/hypothesized
  • “In Our Hearts and On Our Minds” twice weekly emails from our President, Mark Wirthlin.
    • On our minds: components of the CARES Act
    • In our hearts: flexibility, self-compassion, appreciation
  • Established team channels for employees who have children at home
    • Share parenting and educational resources for kids
    • Commiserate and cheer each other on
  • Wellness Wednesdays with revolving topics from identifying stressors, to self-care, to remote working
  • Turning to our benefits providers for COVID-19 offerings
    • Tangible resources to proactively and reactively manage emotional responses to the “new normal”
  • Extensions of EAP programs

Example from Kum&Go

Leadership at Kum&Go (https://www.kumandgo.com/) have been so concentrated on trying to keep the wheels on the bus that the emotional/mental health of their associates is something they have not concentrated on as much. The way they have approached it is as follows:

  • A re-emphasis on their employee assistance program and other resources associated with their benefits offerings. However, many of their associates choose to not take on the benefits programs from them.
  • Because of this, Kum&Go has decided to really focus on their physical and their financial well-being.
    • They try to stay on top of the ever-changing CDC guidelines to ensure their stores are safe.
    • Financially they communicated that they will have no layoffs and no furloughs, and will be increasing everyone’s pay by $2 an hour.
    • Ultimately, they have indirectly addressed their associates’ well-being.

Some thoughts from others shared during discussion:

  • Start every communication by acknowledging all of the issues (not just financial).
  • Starting mindfulness practices by tapping into different employees who practice yoga or know breathing techniques and utilizing Teams/Zoom so everyone can be together.


Priority Questions Ahead

We again asked for priority questions to focus on in the coming week. We use this input to guide us as we are gathering information to share in the next Virtual Roundtable. Please reach out if you have additional information and/or requests.

Several offered some additional questions of interest:

  • Which of the cultural changes we are seeing are temporary while restrictions are in place and which will become permanent?
  • The handling of PPP and SBA loans has been abysmal–most small businesses are still struggling for any help. What impact is this having on expectations?
  • States as brands: how governors are shaping future perceptions of the states by how they handle the crisis and restart.
  • The President is directly combatting the role of the governors and creating turmoil that will continue to spread the virus. How can brands deal with this?
  • What are your plans for bringing employees back to work? Not so much timing, but process.
  • As the mental health and economic pressures grow, we may start to see more protests and pressure for opening. How do we balance those pressures with public health?
  • How to gain certainty from the health community so that we can let state, local, and business innovate and open up again?


Please reference the additional documents provided for our weekly tracking data findings and slides that we have shared.

Also, please go to https://heartandmindstrategies.com/covid-19/ to access any of this information at any time. Please feel free to share and use however is most helpful for you.