Since the school year was cut short because of the coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) pandemic, Joseph Noel M. Estrada — Managing Director of the Coordinating Council of Private Educational Associations (COCOPEA) and Managing Partner of the Estrada & Aquino Law, Co. — has been working with government officials to craft a recovery plan for colleges and universities, all while adapting to the work from home setup.

In an e-mail interview with BusinessWorld on May 16, Mr. Estrada shared his experience and some of the lessons he learned from working from home.

The interview has been lightly edited.

What is your preferred online meeting method and why?

For my meetings and virtual lectures, Zoom fits the purpose more. Skype on the other hand, I find more convenient for my media interviews.

Where is your home office? Can you describe it?

I have a room at home where I keep and do everything from my hobbies to work. It’s what is usually referred to as a “mancave.” Prior to COVID-19, I made it a music room, library, and work space at home. I actually thought about this because traffic in Manila was getting worse and instead of wasting time in the car, I worked a lot at home. So it actually prepared me for the long lockdown without me knowing it.

What time do you start your work day now compared to when you actually went to your office? What time does it end? Does working from home make work hours even more fluid now than before?

I start early at 6:30 a.m. and end late around 9 or 10 p.m., sometimes even later. Much like before the lockdown. Except that now, there’s hardly anything that keeps me from working. Before, when I got home from work, even when I could still work, being at home kept my mind off from work and just looking forward to the next day.

How do you take breaks between meetings?

I turn off the video of the Zoom to eat with the family, then come back immediately.

Do you still dress for work or are you more casual in the work from home set-up?

I usually dress up for work, wearing a suit, especially when I attend virtual public hearings in Congress and Senate, and meetings with government officials from CHED (Commission on Higher Education), DepEd (Department of Education), and the IATF (Inter-Agency Task Force for the Management of Emerging Infectious Diseases). But only for the upper half body. Then pajamas or boxers down. But when I meet with my law office partners and associates, I usually just wear home clothes.

Any interesting slip-ups while working from home?

While talking in a live webinar, I got tired sitting down so I put my foot up and the camera caught it, showing my legs and shorts while I wore a suit.

What is the most important lesson you have learned from working from home? Is there anything that you have been doing while working from home that you think you will keep doing after the pandemic?

Prior to the pandemic, while at the office or out for work, half of my mind would wander towards thoughts of home or my kids’ school. Usually, I couldn’t really stay very late in the office because I wanted to catch my family still awake when I got home.

But now, while at home, I can do a lot of work because I know my family, my kids, are just in the other room and it gives me a sense of security as head of the family, and comfort knowing I can just peek into my kids’ room anytime, or have a quick snack with my wife in the kitchen then go back to work anytime.

I think the best lesson which we can all take from this pandemic is focusing on the essentials of life. For me it’s family. Why I work, why I do what I do finds meaning because of them.

I’d probably stay home much more, doing work here rather than at the law office, even after the quarantine has been lifted. — Genshen L. Espedido