ENSURING the unhampered flow of cargo, essential food supplies and medical equipment on the southern expressways is Roberto V. Bontia’s commitment to the public during the enhanced community quarantine (ECQ) while working from home.
The remote-work setup seems to make Mr. Bontia even more productive, as he now also heads the family’s kitchen apart from overseeing toll roads.
The bright side of the lockdown period is that it has become an opportunity for people to be more creative and innovative, he told BusinessWorld in an e-mail interview on April 25.
Mr. Bontia is the president and general manager of MPT South Corp. and its two main expressway companies towards the south — Cavitex Infrastructure Corp. (CIC) and MPCALA Holdings Corp. He is in charge of the company that operates the Manila-Cavite Toll Expressway (CAVITEx) and the Cavite-Laguna Expressway (CALAX).
The interview has been lightly edited.
WHAT IS YOUR PREFERRED ONLINE MEETING METHOD?
We use MS Teams for corporate video conferencing and calls. It is the official platform linked to our e-mail/communication system.
But I use Zoom in my personal devices to connect online with relatives and friends. The application has more flexibility (at least for now) in terms of having multiple video screens simultaneously displayed, making conversations much easier.
PLEASE DESCRIBE YOUR HOME OFFICE.
Nothing fancy. A simple working table at the corner of our common room. It is the spot where supposedly the signal (internet) is strongest and distraction from the usual activities (and noise) in the house is least.
I have an alternate working table in our living room [that] I usually use at the end of the day for my last call — just so I can have a break or change of view (somewhat) from the designated workspace. It’s also the table we use as a family to play mahjong as a night capper.
WHAT TIME DO YOU START YOUR WORKDAY NOW COMPARED TO BACK WHEN YOU ACTUALLY WENT TO THE OFFICE?
I still start the workday at 8 a.m. either with calls to direct reports or completing admin matters (online approvals or responding to e-mails). With the ECQ, we’ve instituted a daily check-in regimen with the management teams across the different business units as well as connecting with our skeletal frontline operations.
DOES WORKING FROM HOME MAKE YOUR WORK HOURS MORE FLUID?
Yes, it’s more fluid particularly for our tollways group where we’d not implemented a work-from-home setup prior to the ECQ. We adjusted, among others, our communication protocols internally to this work arrangement during the first week of the ECQ and likewise made necessary alignments with our external stakeholders. Given that developments and directives are now happening almost daily, the coordination and scheduling with different units have been very much fluid.
DO YOU TAKE BREAKS AT HOME?
I am the designated cook in our household during this ECQ, so apart from “breaks” being necessary as a way of getting my bearings for the subsequent work-related activities, I really have to take them for humanitarian purposes (as far as members of my family are concerned — otherwise I will be ganged up on by them).
DO YOU STILL DRESS UP FOR WORK?
I’d only wear a polo shirt during video conferences; but for online calls (without the need for video), it’s pretty much shirt, shorts, and slippers.
ANY INTERESTING STORIES
FROM YOUR WORK-FROM-HOME EXPERIENCE?
Relating to my cooking chores, sometimes the schedule of the online calls would overlap with the preparation of our meals — I would find myself muting video and audio while rushing to the kitchen to add more salt/spices to the food. One of the instances where you’re thankful for wireless headphones and digital technology — you’re able to still hear the ongoing online discussion while having a taste of the meal you’re preparing. And thankfully, I haven’t burnt anything (yet) in the kitchen!
WHAT IS THE MOST IMPORTANT LESSON YOU HAVE LEARNED FROM WORKING FROM HOME? HOW WILL THE “NEW NORMAL” AFTER THE QUARANTINE ENDS AFFECT THE WORLD OF WORK?
From a personal standpoint, my belief in the human capacity to be creative and innovative has been further crystalized during this period. I also experienced first-hand the prevalence of “goodness” across the general public. It would do us well, and our world as a whole, to harness our human capacities collectively with kindness and goodness beyond the ECQ — beyond this crisis.
IS THERE ANYTHING YOU WILL CONTINUE EVEN AFTER THE ECQ?
We all need to and will recover from this crisis but at the same time prepare and be ready to bounce back. These are plans we’re firming up as we navigate through this ECQ and would be our “blueprint for renaissance” moving forward beyond quarantine.