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WFH during ECQ: Salcedo Auctions’ Richie Lerma

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AUCTION houses, much as art fairs and galleries, are now selling and exhibiting online, having made a total shift to digital platforms during the quarantine period.

Salcedo Auctions director Ramon “Richie” Lerma observed that their staff remain focused while working from home despite the lack of face-to-face interaction.

“Nothing can, of course, compare to in-person contact when meeting or providing feedback, particularly to our creative staff. I haven’t really felt a big change in terms of productivity — in fact sometimes I feel that we are able to do more given that people can focus more on their work while in lockdown (laughs),” Mr. Lerma wrote in an e-mail to BusinessWorld.

On April 18, Salcedo Auctions held its first benefit online auction since the enhanced community quarantine (ECQ) was imposed, selling Romulo Galicano’s painting The Wrath of God for P4 million. A second benefit online auction under Salcedo Auctions’ subsidiary Gavel&Block will be held on May 23 at 2 p.m. Proceeds from the first auction went to the purchase of personal protective equipment for hospitals around the country. Money raised in the upcoming auction will benefit the international food relief organization Rise Against Hunger (RAH) Philippines.

Mr. Lerma noted that everyone in the team “is coping with the situation as best as they can.”

Here’s how Mr. Lerma has been working from home over the past few weeks.

WHERE IS YOUR HOME OFFICE?
I have a home office set up inside the bedroom, but I hardly use it. My family loves to hang out in the kitchen, so my “home office” right now is the dining table adjacent to it.

WHAT IS YOUR PREFERRED MEETING METHOD AND WHY?
I like Zoom, particularly because of the many functionalities of the platform. Our recently concluded Gavel&Block #WeBidAsOne community call was a nice way to introduce a new way for people in the art and community to gather in a convivial online setting. We received good feedback from it, and hope to do more as we deal with the COVID-19 situation.

WHAT TIME DO YOU START YOUR DAY FOR WORK? IS IT EARLIER OR LATER THAN YOUR USUAL SCHEDULE? WHAT TIME DO YOU END?

We maintain our usual work-week schedule even while working from home, so I’m usually online — on my laptop or on the phone — with my staff starting at 9 a.m. Unofficially, we end the day at 6 p.m., but it usually goes beyond that time.

DO YOU TAKE BREAKS?
Yes, certainly! [Watching] Netflix. [Doing a bit of] cooking, or tasting [my wife] Karen’s cooking is a great respite from work.

DO YOU STILL DRESS UP FOR WORK OR HAVE YOU SWITCHED TO A MORE CASUAL ATTIRE?
I’m in my home lounge attire [on] most days, so I’m usually off-cam with the staff. On those days where work necessitates needing to be on-cam, then I dress appropriately.

WHAT DIFFICULTIES OR CHALLENGES DID YOU EXPERIENCE? ANY DISTRACTIONS?
Fortunately, we have not had much difficulty work-wise transitioning to operating online during this period. Luckily, our sons have their own private spaces where they can attend school online, so there has not been any distraction.

WHAT IS THE MOST IMPORTANT LESSON YOU HAVE LEARNED FROM WORKING FROM HOME?
The new work arrangements we have put in place as a response to the ECQ allowed us to reassess our operational requirements as well as the responsibilities that we delegated to our staff. A number of them were deployed to take on new tasks, which gave them the opportunity to show their added capabilities. Their resilience throughout this situation, for which I must commend them — has enabled us to continue to be productive. It’s not so much a lesson, but rather a reassurance that I’ve gleaned from this experience about the quality of our staff, and the immense trust that our organization has built over the past 10 years seeing the community‘s enthusiastic response to our auction and exhibition programs, which continue with enthusiastic resolve, and a deep commitment to society and its future. — Michelle Anne P. Soliman





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