Zola's Company Culture, Before and After the Pandemic
In 2020, just before the pandemic, we photographed the staff of Zola in their New York office. One year later, we checked back in to see how they're doing -- at home.
In every issue of Entrepreneur, we publish a series we call Office Space. For years, each edition has featured an intriguing company; we’d photograph some of the team in their office and ask about their work culture. For our April/May 2020 issue, we spotlighted the wedding-planning company Zola — which had just moved to its new HQ after a staffing boom and had expanded features to help couples create the weddings of their dreams. But in between our taking the photo and actually printing the magazine, the pandemic arrived and disrupted everything…especially wedding celebrations.
Zola adjusted quickly. For panicked couples and vendors, it expanded customer support to help reschedule and rebook plans. For its staff, it carefully adapted its culture to a remote-work world. Exactly one year later, we checked back in — finding a socially distant team that is eager to reunite in person but managing to stay connected and motivated through virtual social events, new support systems for staff, and at-home programming for employees’ kids. Here are seven Zola employees (many of whom appeared in our original shoot last year!) talking about life at Zola today.
Arun Mikkilineni / Senior manager, business intelligence and analytics“My wife and I share a one-bedroom apartment in Brooklyn, and it’s a decent size by New York City standards, but space is definitely tight with both of us working from home. We’ve rearranged it approximately 100 times to try to optimize every square inch. My desk setup is on our dining table all week, but come Friday evening, I move everything to the closet for the weekend. It’s helpful for my mental sanity to not have the apartment feel like an office all the time.”
Eric Zhao / Senior business manager, commerce
“One of the most appreciated changes Zola made was the implementation of No Meeting Fridays. This helped keep Zoom fatigue at bay and also drove our team to think more critically about meetings that really needed to happen versus conversations that could be handled over Slack or email.”
Related: How to Work from Home Successfully
Connie Cyran / Vice president, merchandising
“Zola formed a Work from Home Task Force of employees and leadership members to help identify pain points and maintain a positive culture. The outcomes range from things like stipends to help employees set up their home office to a new mentoring program to maintain a high level of engagement and career growth opportunities.”
Melissa Trentadue / Manager of community
“I have two small kids, so my partner and I work to prioritize their needs and make sure we both have time to work without distraction. I have all important meetings in a three-hour window — it’s my sacred time when I can connect with others. Everything else happens when I can fit it in. I lead Zola’s Parents Employee Resource Group and, from the start, made sure that parents never, ever felt the need to shush their kids during calls or hide in closets during meetings. Now kids working alongside their parents is totally embraced. We’ve even offered programming for kids — we did an emotions scavenger hunt for our families and a story hour with a children’s author.”
Madelyn Flinn / Associate chief of staff
“We’ve gone the extra mile to make sure we are still interacting with our teams in fun and social ways. We’ve started a series of weekly game nights; in the fall, we had Trivia Night every Thursday, and this winter we held a Codenames tournament. It’s a great way to stay connected with colleagues who I don’t usually work with.”
Lauren Davis / Copywriter, marketing
“Since I don’t have coworkers to chat with, my boyfriend and I make it a point to eat lunch together in the kitchen (where neither of us is working!). I’ve also started taking walks in the morning to be my ‘commute,’ and I have a set time that I turn off my work notifications. It’s all too easy to answer that late email or Slack message when work time and relaxing time sort of bleed together.”
Charles Scalesse / Vice president, mobile engineering
“Before working from home, my team worked within earshot of each other, and collaboration was very organic—a random conversation about the latest episode of The Mandalorian could spontaneously transition into a work-related brainstorm. Now our communication is a lot more deliberate. I thrive off the energy of my coworkers, and I miss those daily interactions that don’t translate well over Zoom calls. I can’t believe I’m saying this, but I’m starting to miss my morning commute on the subway!”
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