Social Samosa set up a panel of industry experts to mull work from home best practices and the challenges to overcome in the process.
The entire globe is reeling under the wrath of the deadly pandemic where most of the countries face a lockdown leading to companies applying for work from home. Social Samosa initiated a Facebook Live session where experts: Lloyd Mathias– Marketing and Business Strategist and the esteemed speakers- Ashish Bhasin, CEO APAC and Chairman India at Dentsu Aegis Network Asia Pacific; Sreeraman Thiagarajan – Co-Founder, AAwaaz.com; Roshan Abbas – MD of Geometry Compass; K Sudarshan – Managing Partner, EMA Worldwide (Delhi); Valerie Pinto, CEO- Weber Shandwick, and Rana Barua, Group CEO, Havas Group India – discussed work from home best practices.
The panelists discussed everything from the coping up mechanism while working from home (WFH), boosting employee morale, to overcoming challenges. The discussion was moderated by Lloyd Mathias.
Cope Up mechanism
Bhasin admitted that he has never been a work from home fan and that its a new experience for him. DAN’s counterparts in China and Singapore have been practicing for the last two months. But China has stopped remote working and is back in action.
He thinks that while you are staying out at home and working you also have to bring in a bit of formality to it. “When I go to the office, I put a tie, my jacket and dress up. Instead of that, I have started wearing DAN t-shirts. I first saw that I should operate from a desk in one place but soon realized that it is not going to work from me. So I have now moved to different corners of my house at different times,” he shared.
You need to bring more discipline and one of the biggest lessons that Bhasin admits to have learned is that while there is a great need for social distancing, there is a bigger need for virtual connecting. He added, “I am connecting more with my leadership team across countries now than I used to in normal times because there is a lot of uncertainty everywhere”.
He also emphasized that there is a need to over connect at times like these and its actually a busier period.
Bhasin laughs out that one of the biggest challenges that he faces is the constant urge to snack when at home. “You need to take care of your physical well being because you are actually working longer hours”.
Next up, Thiagarajan shared that AAwaaz.com is a team of 33 people and there are two different sets of people they deal with. “Studios are now shut but we have enough inventories. Most of the tech team we have they are generally introverts – they don’t take chai-sutta breaks. Not stereotyping here,” he chuckles.
He informed that these teams are the least affected but Client meetings have gone for a toss and have been disrupted. “There are nuances which you are comfortable explaining to the clients in person by demo. Therefore you need to be equipped with enough tools”, he stressed.
Talking about the workforce Abbas shared that Geometry Encompass has been a great team and the leadership is getting protocols right. “It’s been a task to set and deliver machines to people’s houses. The IT and admin teams need to be applauded for that”.
Secondly establishing the workflow is a big task when working remotely. He pointed out, “Working out a way to cascade work is really critical. My artist and creator community Kommune has barely 16 people. There I have had immense productivity. Team leads proactively hare the task sheets by Monday morning and week plans are ready which wasn’t the case earlier. Third- what happens to the livelihood of freelance workers?”
On a lighter note, he further went onto share that the other evening Ogilvy’s Kapil Arora had called and said lets party from home. The gang played virtual dumb charades. “Today we got a deck from Australia stating we need to include things like Wednesday workouts and Monday Motivation- so a human element is needed,” he said.
According to K Sudarshan, Physical meeting is no longer the necessity. The challenges lie in staying relevant & will clients continue to recruit? “What we advise our colleagues is everyone has to behave like a leader and take responsibility. We have domain-specific organizations. We are already working as a remote team.”
“There are negativity and panic too. During these times- as leaders we need to over-communicate and keep talking to people,” he added.
For Pinto, WFH has been a lot more hectic. She noted, “We log in much earlier cutting down travel time and starting at the dot go. We are also leveraging the power of technology to do face to face communication given the uncertainties. You have to connect with clients across different cities and do video base conversations- you have to dress formally to make sure you take work seriously.”
She urges everybody to be a little more serious towards the new normal as a part of work from home best practices.
“We have always said that ours is a Client’s first agency. In current times- we are people first company where employees and talent are prioritized – from engagement to motivation to health conversations,” Barua put down.
Presenting a slightly different aspect, Barua goes onto share, “We are not getting into structured systematic kind of format. The point we are driving does not put too much pressure because everybody is learning coupled uncertainty of a massive virus.
He further stressed that WFH culture is new to all of us.“We are trying to define our objectives and expectations in a smaller way. It’s no more about planning a month thing- it’s a day course. Let’s first go through one week and define what it holds. Sharper milestones are let’s objectify and keep it simple and go about it slowly. I think we are in this for a bit of a long haul”.
Advice to potential job seekers
Fresh hiring is on freeze and freshers are worried. “Candidates are going to re-evaluate the risk of joining new organizations and look for offices hoarding essential services rather discretionary ones. This shift will happen if this lasts longer,” warned Sudarshan.
There is an ongoing set of work with existing clients – mandates are happening. The big challenge is seeking out new business. How open are companies to entertain new calls? Work from home best practices entail many questions.
“Someone is trying to sell something every time. This will start hitting all of us 12 weeks from now,” he added.
Being Creatively Inspired
Abbas works very closely with the artist community. He shared that today the easiest thing to create is audio content while the number of podcasts is booming.
He remarked, “The degree of separation is nothing- it’s two now from six earlier. Reaching out to people has become easier and there are ways to monetize the content through collaborative solutions.”
Abbas also thinks that this is a great time for collaborations and reinvention. People need to keep them creatively inspired.
Boosting employee morale
How do we ensure that employee productivity doesn’t get impacted during times like these? What are the work from home best practices here? Barua exclaimed that we need to keep our sense of humor up and be happy. “There is a senior team which is working closely with CXO – they will have the responsibility and don’t need to transfer that pressure to people next door. Let’s be very clear- this is a challenging time. Let’s be very transparent with the senior management.”
Secondly, he mentioned that communication- you need to keep talking to the person with who you are comfortable. Whether you do it through conversations, podcasts but we can’t get into the serious stuff.
Echoing similar views, Thiagarajan commented that being mindful is the hardest part. We need not control the situation by micromanaging. Be available to a colleague – the more we try to control the more we will be more stressed.
Pinto too pointed out that fun breaks the monotony along with Self-awareness and prioritizing- behaving like leaders. “We are in it together and motivates people and not just a townhall. Keep the fun element and spark alive,” she said.
Meanwhile, Abbas advises everyone that it is a great time to educate yourself and others. He further suggested, “Seek out outside of your group. How do you find interesting people to follow? A crazy app called Carrot – it really bad mouths you but its fun with crazier exercises and humanizes it all. Calm is a great app to meditate and listen to stories”.
The work from home best practices session’s concluding note says – Stay safe, stay happy and be positive. This too shall pass.