Canceled Meetings and Video Job Interviews: How the Coronavirus Affects Israeli Tech Workers

The spread of the coronavirus is quickly affecting the workplace, forcing companies and employees to adjust to the growing reality of more and more people forced into home quarantine

Maayan Manela 14:3009.03.20
The spread of the coronavirus (Covid-19) is quickly affecting the workplace, forcing companies and employees to adjust to the growing reality of more and more people forced into home quarantine. As a result, the way we work will have to change, placing less emphasis on physical presence and more on performance and independent work.


The pandemic affects not only current employees but candidates as well. Job recruitment is down, with some companies canceling their hiring plans altogether and some choosing to slow them down.


Eaton quarantine room. Photo: Guy Levi Eaton quarantine room. Photo: Guy Levi
Due to the current atmosphere, Eaton Industries (Israel) Ltd., the local branch of Dublin-headquartered power management company Eaton Corp. Inc., is halting all new recruitments until things clear up, country director Ofir Goren said in an interview with Calcalist.


Eaton, which employs over 100,000 people worldwide, has a team of 35 in Israel, where extensive quarantine procedures have been implemented. According to Goren, Eaton has set up an international coronavirus task force that convenes daily and executives have undergone training on reducing infection risks. All business trips and conference attendance have been canceled, employees have been instructed to reduce to a minimum any face to face meetings, and if a physical meeting is necessary, to keep a safe distance between attendants, Goren said.


“We have also been asked to set up a quarantine room in our offices and have conducted a remote work drill, preparing for a scenario in which our office building will be shut down,” Goren said.


You can see recruitment is slowing down and the process is becoming longer as some of the people doing the interviews are currently in quarantine, Yaniv Ben-Ishay, vice president of marketing at Israeli IT services and recruitment company SQLink Holdings 2000 Ltd., said in an interview. “You can do video interviews but as more people enter quarantine, the more it is going to affect hiring,” he said. According to Ben-Ishay, the companies most deeply affected by the spread of the virus are first to cease hiring, for example, airlines.


Masha Dashkov, founder and CEO of digital marketing training school Digitalent, agrees. The coronavirus crisis has hit the tourism sector the hardest and in this industry, you can see a halt in hires, increased layoffs, and even the cancellation of freelance projects that have already been put in motion, she said in an interview. Other digital marketing sectors, however, are still thriving, as this industry is composed mostly of professionals that can work from home, she added.


"More and more companies are getting used to the concept of remote work and are creating infrastructure to allow it,” Ben-Ishay said. “But, when it comes to classified systems or any other work that cannot be completed from home, some companies could face a serious problem, should a manager or an employee be required to remain in quarantine,” he added.


The most vulnerable businesses are those that offer face-to-face services such as brick and mortar stores or service providers such as therapists or veterinarians, according to Michal Dan-Harel, managing director at the Israel branch of human resources company ManpowerGroup. Organizations dependent on manual labor that has to be conducted on-site, such as factories and auto workshops are also at an impasse as working from home is just not an option for them, she added.


New York-based video technology company Kaltura Inc., which employs 500 people in Israel, the U.S., Europe, and Singapore, uses its own products to replace physical meetings with virtual ones. This comes in handy now, as one of the company’s employees recently returned to Israel from a vacation in Thailand and was required to go into a 14-day home quarantine.


We will likely see a real revolution when it comes to both the required skills of workers and the organizational tools needed to manage them and this will become evident from the very first stages of selection and interviewing, Sigal Srur, chief human resources officer at Kaltura told Calcalist. “Body language and face-to-face communication skills are becoming less important and will be replaced by a strong presence on virtual tools,” she said.


"Remote work requires a different skill set,” Srur said. Instead of moving projects along in meetings, workers will need to get results through digital means and learn to manage themselves and others on their team effectively, she added.


Organizations will have to examine an array of qualifications, including a candidate’s level of self-discipline that would allow them to get results without being constantly observed by a superior; whether their personality is compatible with working long hours without company; and even if their living arrangements are suitable for work, Srur said.


Data-based marketing company Optimove, incorporated as Mobius Solutions Ltd., which employs 260 people in Israel, New York, London, Singapore, and India, is set for a scenario requiring its employees to work from home. “Normally, we do not have a standardized remote work policy and it is done on a case by case basis,” Shirly Evrany, vice president of human resources at Optimove, told Calcalist.


The Israeli reality does provide some precedent, Evrany said. “Our offices are located on the top floors of a glass-walled skyscraper, which is very compelling unless there is an escalation that leads to military conflict,” she explained. Should the coronavirus spread, the company will instruct its employees to work from home, utilizing Optimove’s internal communications system to continue the day-to-day work, she added.


“Working from home has long become more than just a gimmick, Yaniv Anenburg, the manager of Israeli call center operator Tikshoov From Home Ltd., told Calcalist. In order to find the best employees and keep them happy, companies need to adjust their work models, he said. Israel is far behind in adopting the work from home model that has proven so effective in limiting the spread of the coronavirus, he added. In the U.S., China, and France, even giant corporations, including financial institutions, are employing thousands of people in this manner, he said.