Insight; New York Hospitality Professionals, a weekly interview series with professionals from the MICE industry in New York.
These are uncertain times for our industry – yet we believe that now is the moment to bring our industry closer together by strengthening our ties and relationships on a more human level. It is for this reason that Shackman Associates is undertaking a series of interviews with other New York hospitality professionals to learn how they are managing during this time.
In this first segment of a weekly series called Insight; New York Hospitality Professionals, Karen Shackman, President and CEO of Shackman Associates interviews Jeff Scypinski, Director of Sales at the Four Seasons Hotel New York.
Karen Shackman: Thank you, Jeff, for taking the time to share professional and personal insights (and photos) at a time when half the world is in a lockdown situation.
The phrase “‘work from home” (due to the) coronavirus reached its peak on Google search in Mid- March as companies like Google, Amazon, LinkedIn and Facebook encouraged their employees to stop going into their respective offices. Soon after, online searches for desks, keyboards, microphones and other home office supplies spiked as this suggestion became mandatory, sending most employees to work from home.
Karen Shackman: What is your current situation? Are you in lockdown? And if so where?
Jeff Scypinski: I have been enjoying [not so much] the New York ‘pause’ from my home office on the Upper West Side.
Karen: How do you organize your daily routine, shopping, meals, workout etc. and do you take advantage of your proximity to Central Park?
Jeff: At first, I was finding simple excuses to go to the grocery store almost every day for things but now I’ve figured how to stock up for at least a week at a time. I still manage to get in a home workout before opening the computer and then head out in the afternoons for a run in Central Park to get some fresh air. I’ve been cooking at home with an occasional seamless order when I’m feeling Spice (Thai) or some pizza.
Karen: I like that you manage to exercise before you start work. Is your new work routine the same as when you went into the office? How have you set yourself up?
Jeff: It has certainly been strange getting used to no face-to-face communication or walking over to someone’s office to talk about something, but I do try to go out of my way to make small talk on quick phone calls, or schedule social happy hour Zooms or House Party calls at the end of the day to maintain social connections. I do find it important to create some semblance of work and home and put the computer away at the end of the day.
Karen: Zoom and House Party are great tools to connect with friends and family in times where a real face to face conversation is not possible.
How do you connect with your team?
Jeff: Connecting is certainly different now with most of our management working from home, so we rely heavily on our daily morning call and then texting, Microsoft Teams, and email, although somewhat less of that
Karen: It seems you have a good routine set-up to make sure you are still connected with your team, but what do you find the most challenging about the change in your work situation?
Jeff: I find I miss the in-person conversations a great deal. It is a much richer form of communication than a simple message or call in which it is harder to convey the human factor. Also going from two monitors to just a laptop has been a minor inconvenience.
Karen: Have you participated in any work happy hours or webinars?
Jeff: Yes! MPI Greater New York Chapter has been great about engagement and hosts fun Zoom calls and virtual networking events. We have also started a small work happy hour each week now and it helps to keep things ‘normal’ while they are anything but. We can all commiserate together and have a good laugh over a drink and know that we are all facing different unique challenges personally and professionally.
Karen: Anything insightful you want to share?
Jeff: The House Party app includes a fun trivia feature which allows you to have some competition with your colleagues or friends.
Karen: I like the trivia feature too. In fact, our team also started a New York trivia game - initially internally. And now that we started sharing the questions on our Instagram account, we have had great engagement, which we are delighted with.
Karen: Is there a book or a series you are reading or watching currently that makes you happy? Please share if you wish.
Jeff: I am reading a great book called “Can’t Hurt Me” by David Goggins who is an ex-Navy SEAL and ultra-runner and I just finished Ozark season 3 on Netflix, both of which I highly recommend.
Karen: I am not sure I could run an ultra-marathon but I admire these people who push their limits. What is the first place you are going to go after the travel restrictions have eased.?
Jeff: It will be a toss-up between Palm Beach, Charleston (parents) or Erie, PA where family lives.
Karen: Talking about traveling once the restrictions have eased, are you still dealing with cancellations, rebooking?
Jeff: Yes, still working through June cancellations and rebookings, and have started to receive some cancellations for the Fall even.
Karen: We talked earlier about the work routine and how you have set yourself up. With regards to your workflow, how has your task list changed and what priorities are you setting each day?
Jeff: Daily tasks are now more focused on managing the loss from cancellations and rebooking groups as much as possible and, secondly, looking to the future where we still have opportunities for the future to be working on.
Karen: What are your three personal essentials at home to get through this?
Good speakers and music selection
Resistance bands and dumbbells for home exercise
A well-stocked and diverse alcohol selection including a good anejo tequila!
Karen: Good music, physical activity and a good drink are great to stay sane during these times. What else are you doing from a wellbeing, mental health perspective?
Jeff: I believe it is important to communicate a lot throughout the day with other professionals through work, and with friends and family. I have been doing a lot more facetiming than before COVID. Even more important now, since we are mostly cooped up at home, is to get exercise and find time to get your heart rate up. This is good for mental and physical health.
Karen: Thanks for taking the time to chat and for sharing your personal and professional insights with us all in the hospitality community. I am sure that your experience is resonating with many of us, and we are all looking forward to having this behind us soon.