Amsterdam – George Gottl lives in works in the Netherlands, where the recommendations to work from home and practice social distancing were recently extended to 22 May. As the chief creative officer and co-founder of Amsterdam-based multidisciplinary design agency UXUS – which specializes in developing consumer experiences for retail and hospitality – Gottl has found himself busier (and more productive) than ever before during the COVID-19 crisis, his team included.
‘This comes down to a number of different factors,’ he explains, ‘but notably, now, our commute time is absorbed into our productivity time, and although we are encourage our teams to work only within office hours, many of our work days inevitably bleed into personal time.’ Normally a frequent traveller, Gottl has become accustomed to working remotely and communicating virtually, and he’s been impressed by how quickly his colleagues have adapted. This, undoubtedly, is a situation many professionals are finding themselves in now, raising the question: can we – and should we – really go back to ‘normal’? Certainly not in the case of UXUS, who will need to help clients completely rethink what actually constitutes as a compelling experience to the post-COVID consumer.
We talk to Gottl about ‘new’ modes of working, the future of retail and hospitality post-pandemic, and why, to survive as a business, it’s crucial to embrace the unknown, overcoming mediocrity in the meanwhile.
How are you and your clients responding to the situation?
GEORGE GOTTL: What is incredibly different about the coronavirus is that it is a global crisis, so we are all in it together. In a way, that helps because we understand and accommodate for each other’s personal and business challenges no matter where we are based. A majority of UXUS clients are multinational or international companies. Therefore, we’ve been practicing the ‘new normal’ of virtual meetings versus face-to-face meetings since UXUS’ inception. We are used to holding these conversations across multiple different territories – that is how we operate as a business with our clients, so we have noticed little to no change in the way we work. Most of our projects are on track and have been progressing as normal – the crisis has not had a major impact on the delivery of our work.
What impact do you believe the current crisis will have on the future of the retail and hospitality sectors?
We have not yet begun to feel the full affect – the future of sectors will be shaped depending on the economic outcome of this crisis. As the pandemic continues, and the economic impact becomes more significant, we will start to feel the decline. However, rather than concern for the industry this year, we are waiting to see how next year will play out, once we are firmly on the other side. It is hard to prophesize because we don’t yet understand the severity of the problem, but we do know that the consequences of the current crisis will likely change the world as we know it.