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WFH during the ECQ: Ateneo de Davao’s Mark “Macoy” Samante

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FOR a unit involved in community engagement and advocacy, with disaster response and resilience among its main programs, working from home during a health emergency sounds rather contradictory.

But as people’s movements are restricted by quarantine protocols, Ateneo de Davao University’s Community Engagement and Advocacy Council (UCEAC) Chair Mark Paul O. Samante said they had to quickly adapt to keep their commitments — both internal or within the university’s different units, and external or those with other civil society organizations (CSOs) and local government units (LGUs) — going.

In an e-mail interview with BusinessWorld, Mr. Samante shared some of the challenges and lessons learned from adjusting to a work from home (WFH) scheme.

The interview has been lightly edited.

How has the WFH arrangement affected your tasks/responsibilities?

At the onset of the WFH arrangements brought about by the ECQ (enhanced community quarantine), greatly affected was our ability to interact and interface with CSO’ meetings, which may have led to a general response to uplift affected communities because of this pandemic.

While we were able to organize a goods distribution for stranded AdDU (Ateneo de Davao University) students in their boarding houses, coordinating in an online setting was something new for most of us. We were so used to being able to call for volunteers to repack and prepare the goods for distribution. This time around, we had to limit the volunteers physically present during the repacking. We had to re-tool volunteer work for online coordination with the affected students. It is tough to adjust to work that entails physical coordination and interaction, such as the one we have in the UCEAC.

What is your preferred meeting method and why?

For large meetings involving fellow university administrators, we use Zoom. The capability of Zoom to accommodate several users at once works well for administrative meetings. For office and other meetings, we usually use FB Messenger as the go-to method since most have access to this, and it uses fewer resources. We only have a small number of participants in these meetings.

Where is your “home office”?

I converted part of my toy customizing work station in my home as my office. It serves as my home office during the day and my regular hobby space during weekends.

What time do you start your workday now compared to when you actually went to the office? What time does it end?

On a regular workday, I usually start at eight in the morning and end at five p.m. With this WFH scheme, I typically begin daily office work at nine a.m., paper works, follow up with staff, online meetings, etc. However, I start checking e-mails as early as 8 a.m. and plot my schedule for the day based on the e-mails and the tasks entailed to those e-mails. I usually end my WFH office day at five p.m.

How do you take breaks at home?

You lose track of time when at home. You start working, and before you know it, it is already time for lunch. The first couple of days working from home was much like this, late lunches and working breaks. As it went on and I got adjusted to the routines, I have managed to squeeze in breaks. I join my kid for a while, watching him play his video games or prepare lunch as my breaks from the work I have to do online.

Any interesting or funny stories from working from home?

In one Zoom meeting I had, I had to use my wife’s laptop. I forgot to log off her account, and I just realized that the profile I had on was hers when we were about the begin the meeting. I had no time to log her off. In short, I had to continue using her account for the whole meeting duration. With her account I am using, I couldn’t turn off my video and had to stay put since turning off video would display her profile picture. It might make other administrators wonder who is in their meeting.

As a result, I had to stay “on video” the whole meeting and drink from my daughter’s Hello Kitty mug, which was the only thing available near me since I could not just turn off the video and stand up while the meeting was ongoing. It also meant no bathroom breaks while the meeting was going on. Next time, check your accounts before using Zoom.

When restrictions are eased, how do you and your organization intend to carry on with work arrangements? Will they be more flexible now in terms of a WFH scheme?

We are only five in the office; we can go back to regular reporting once this is allowed again. However, working from home may be an option for anybody who wants to avail of it. We just set up a regular meeting day in the office where we are all present, and then we can do three-day shifts per staff. It would mean only three people reporting per day. It also helps in maintaining physical distancing in the office while carrying out our tasks.

Right now… we are working on developing a system to help those affected by the No work, No pay policies.

As for the Ateneo de Davao University operations, we are preparing for a near fully online mode of class delivery, which has already started this summer. Near fully online education means to deliver outcomes expected of education in the Philippines based on minimum standards set by CHED (Commission on Higher Education) and DepEd (Department of Education).

Faculty were trained for the summer and are all preparing their online materials for the coming school year.

To quote University President Fr. Joel E. Tabora, “We will be harnessing the power of technology to deliver the education it is committed to give based on its mission and vision as a Filipino, Catholic, and Jesuit University operating in and for Mindanao.” — Marifi S. Jara





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