Work From Home @NAVA+: A Chat with Tessa Intanya & Terence Wong
When one thinks about it, ‘work from home’ culture should command a larger importance in today’s society than it currently holds.
Factor in the wide range of communication technology at our disposal coupled with a worldwide need to ease congestion by finding more efficient ways of working, working from home should be part and parcel of many companies’ working agenda.
But as things stand, they aren’t.
There are many factors at play here of course. The perceived ineffectiveness of remote working as well as the real downsides of diminished physical contact between colleagues both play a role on the working world being as it is.
However, as with many things, the novel coronavirus pandemic that has swept the globe over the last 50 or so days, has turned this notion on its head. Slowly but surely, more and more of the global workforce has been moved into employees’ private domiciles.
What effect has this had on employees who are actually undergoing WFH?
This month we caught up with two integral members of the NAVA+ family, Tessa Intanya and Terence Wong, Activation Planner and Creative Director for Iris Indonesia respectively, who have between them spent over a month working from home.
So what are the challenges working from home brings? How did the situation develop? What long-lasting effects had it brought? These are some of the questions our two interviewees hope to answer.
So guys, paint me a picture of how the process of working from home started to develop?
TW: Well, it was a gradual process for sure. As a matter of corporate policy, teams throughout NAVA+ had already been instructed to take turns to work from the office. So, a kind of rolling working policy, if you will. Half the team would start working for certain days of the week while the other half would cover for the remaining days. This started to take into effect by the second week of March, I think from the 17th.
TI: Yes, we started taking turns coming to work from the office. However, I did ask for an exemption, as I unfortunately suffer from asthma, so didn’t want to take unnecessary risks. But at the end of the day, it didn’t make much difference as this policy, which was supposed to last for two full weeks, lasted for only about a week before the domestic situation started to take a turn for the worse, and pretty much all of us found ourselves working from home effectively from the third week of March onwards.
How was the first week like? What was the first things you guys had to adapt to?
TI: Actually the first week was pretty okay. Spirits were still high, you know. We were still quite excited about working from home. You know how it is (laughs). But the thing is, us in the activation team, we’re used to having this motto of never returning home before the sun sets. So we’re used to very long hours. So it was quite curious and exciting to see how working from home would pan out.
TW: Well the first week was definitely challenging because you know, it’s not something one does so often, right? It almost feels like a luxury. So all of us within the creative team were trying our best to adapt to these new conditions we found ourselves in. Because naturally, in these situations, one needs a lot of self discipline. But at the same time, it was also kind of relaxing (laughs). We knew we had things to do, lots of it actually, but we were able to just go with the flow, so to speak. But after the second week rolled by, we were pretty much already adapted to it.
Which brings me nicely to the next question. How have the subsequent weeks been? Has it been tougher, or easier, or pretty much the same?
TI: Well personally, I found this last week (second week of April), to be the hardest day yet, which coincidentally, marks exactly 30 days since I started working from home! But that’s pretty much a gradual thing, starting from the second week of March onwards. But you know, we’re all in the same boat really.
So from my team, we’d always find ways of managing and making sure the tedium doesn’t affect our work. And I particularly appreciate the efforts of Mrs. Maneha Widarso (Director of Operations at NAVA+), who set up the Iris Agile initiative, which is essentially designed to bring together clients and teams throughout NAVA+ to be able to ‘think outside the box’ and come up with novel solutions for each other’s problems. That has been a real pleasure to work with.
TW: As I said, by the second week, we started to have a much clearer picture of how to get about doing our work from home. But on a personal level, because I don’t get to see my team in person anymore, I had to start scheduling a compulsory daily skype call between everyone, just so we can keep things as ‘normal’ as possible as well as making sure that everyone is kept updated on all activities surrounding the team.
And essentially, I had two teams to handle, being the Iris creative team and also the Pathfinders creative team. So I would schedule two different timings in a day to ensure that both are handled in a correct fashion.
So how do you guys maintain self-discipline at home? Surely it can’t be that easy?
TW: I think in terms of productivity, it has been much higher. And that’s because I think one finds way fewer distractions at home compared to the office. I mean of course there are distractions at home, but I think the work output is much faster from home. There aren’t half a dozen colleagues calling you asking for this, that and the other (laughs).
As far as self-discipline is concerned, well I think the kay is sticking to the basics. You know, go about your daily routine as you would do at work. Make sure to wake up at the same time, eat breakfast at the same time, and dress as you would at work. Don’t work in your pyjamas (laughs).
TI: Well I definitely don’t dress like I’m going to the office (laughs), but I think it’s alright as long as the self-discipline is there. But other than the dress-code, I pretty much keep everything as close as possible as I would do in the office.
For instance, I would always make a point of writing notes down, instead of typing it on a laptop/mobile phone, as I would at the office. And I’ve found myself journaling my daily activities. I find this very important in keeping myself sane (laughs).
But I’d also make clear working hours to ensure I have enough ‘downtime’. I would clearly set my hours, for instance between 9am and 7pm, and would do my best to stick within those boundaries. And I think it has been working perfectly so far.
Finally, how do you guys see things change post COVID-19? How will the working culture be affected?
TW: Well first of all, nobody has any clue when things will start to ‘normalise’. But whenever that may be, be it four weeks or six months down the line, I think the biggest challenge would be how to readjust back to working from the office. Because the WFH culture is rapidly becoming the new norm, right?
I mean think about when you go on a two-week holiday. Once you return, everything changes right? One needs to re-adapt back to office-life. This will be the same, but many times over. And I think we’d end up really cherishing the time we got to work from home. And in the long run, I think things will change. Things can perhaps be set up way more efficiently, based on this invaluable experience we’re all going through.