#WFH Diaries: Phil Bienert, CMO of 1-800 Contacts

Even as parts of the world begin to open up amid the pandemic, most folks are still working from home. We're checking in with creative people to see how they're faring. Here's an update from Phil Bienert, chief marketing officer of 1-800 Contacts.

Give us a one-line bio of yourself.

Currently the marketing guy at 1-800 Contacts, I'm a customer experience fanatic who loves driving change in broken industries using design and technology.

Where are you living right now, and who's with you?

I'm hanging out at home in the "Silicon Slopes" of Utah with my wife, two teen daughters, and my Chinese mother-in-law, who is stranded here since Covid-19 broke out. Oh yeah, there's also Jake the dog, 75 pounds of fur and energy.

What's your work situation like at the moment, and how is it evolving?

Early on during the Covid-19 breakout, the hours were crazy as we worked to move hundreds of employees home safely, serve a massive influx of customers who needed our help, and even deal with an earthquake at one of our distribution centers. Today, things have settled down to a new routine with some positives: I almost never skip a workout, the coffee is way better, I get to see my family as we meet up for lunch. I now take an end-of-workday walk with my wife, who is teaching high school over Zoom, to recreate some of the work-home separation we'd each get from our old commutes.

Describe your socializing strategy.

My family is spread around the world, so using FaceTime, WeChat and other tools is pretty normal for us. Even with all of these digital tools, we try to take a daily break from screen time to get out of the house and stay connected locally. Thankfully, we live in a neighborhood where almost everyone knows one another and has taken physical distancing and face covering to heart, so we are able to feel a part of the community while also feeling safe.

How are you dealing with childcare?

I really feel for my colleagues with younger kids at home, especially if they don't have access to a yard. With two teenagers, our challenge is a bit different. At the same time, I can have one daughter trying to do a college chemistry lab over Zoom while the other one in the next room is singing in a virtual school choir, so most of our "childcare" involves keeping calendars updated so everyone knows who needs silence (and bandwidth).

What are you reading?

Like many people staying at home, I attempted to KonMari some old belongings, including old books. What ended up happening is I'm now re-reading a lot of books I haven't picked up in years. The added bonus: I'm way more up to speed on the books my girls are reading in their high school and college classes.

What are you watching?

It's been surprisingly hard to find time to watch TV. We've finally been able to get caught up on Narcos Mexico and Better Call Saul, and I've been introducing a ton of classic films to the girls.

What are you listening to?

Music. Lots and lots of music. I was a radio DJ in college and finally figured out how to get my turntable working with my Sonos.

How are you staying fit?

Because we have a fantastic onsite gym at work, I had listed my home workout equipment for sale. Thankfully, it didn't sell, so I start every weekday morning on an elliptical and try to head for the mountains to hike on weekends—empty trailheads only!

Have you taken up a hobby?

I love to cook, which I now have much more time to do. Even better, with extra family in the house, I never have to worry about cooking too often or too much. (Again, really glad I can work out every morning!)

An awkward moment since all this started.

I was on a video call in my normal work area near my daughter's room. Suddenly, we could all hear her sobbing in the background, talking about how she was so tired, and her life had no meaning. People on the call started looking away, a few turned off their cameras. I went to her room to see what was going on and got yelled at for interrupting what was apparently her monologue for theater class on Zoom.

An aha! moment since all this started.

Working remotely has been much more seamless than I could ever imagined. Our productivity is higher, our people have adjusted and are more productive, and our customers are happy. We all miss being together in the office but look forward to the work/life flexibility we will have whenever things go back to "normal."

What's your theory on how this is going to play out?

I keep a Magic 8-Ball on my desk here at home. It says, "Cannot Predict Now."

See the full #WFH Diaries series here.

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Tim Nudd
Tim Nudd is editor in chief of the Clio Awards and founding editor of Muse by Clio. Prior to joining Clio in 2018, he was creative editor at Adweek.

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