WFH during the ECQ: DLSU Prof. Nina Tesoro-Poblador

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So what is it like to work from home (WFH) when home, for the duration, is paradise?

For Nina Tesoro-Poblador, it involves a work space with a beach view and a spot of sunbathing and swimming in between meetings.

Ms. Tesoro-Poblador — an Assistant Professor at the Marketing & Advertising Department of De La Salle University-Taft’s Ramon V. Del Rosario College of Business — normally splits her time between her apartment in Malate, Manila during the week, and San Pablo, Laguna where her mother, couturier Patis Tesoro, lives. Just before the enhanced community quarantine (ECQ) was announced, she had been out of town running a creative mentorship program for weavers in Museo Kordilyera in Baguio with her mother, before going on to Sagada to attend the 40th year commemoration of Santi Bose’s mural, the mentor of her late cousin Carlos Celdran.

“When news of the impending ECQ broke, I decided to inch my way towards San Pablo, Laguna where my family resides,” Ms. Tesoro-Poblador told BusinessWorld. “Honestly, I could not see myself joining the mad rush to go home. As a commuter, I advocate for sustainable transport so I know the stress of trying to get from one point to another in this country. As the lockdown date neared, I decided to stop by La Union before heading to Manila. When I arrived, I then realized I would not make it to Laguna as I would have to ride two public provincial buses just to get from La Union to Manila and then from Manila to San Pablo, Laguna. Too much to get through in 48 hours. I mean, I love Malate, but I knew getting locked down by the sea was a better option. I also did not want to either get sick or become a carrier, as my mom is 69 years old and at risk,” she said.

So she opted to ride out the quarantine at a family friend’s place in Coral Point, San Fernando, La Union.


But her proximity to the beach and the relatively lax quarantine in La Union did not mean neglecting her school work which involves teaching a dizzying array of subjects — Critical & Creative Problem Solving, Social Marketing, Consumer Behavior, Product Development, Service Marketing, Marketing in the Hospitality Industry and Visual Communication — to undergraduate business students. As if this was not enough, she also runs the Community Engagement and Service Learning program of her department and is writing her dissertation proposal for her DBA on Creativity in Philippine Handwoven Textiles Supply Chain.

What is your preferred meeting method and why?

As soon as the ECQ began, my university enjoined its faculty to meet via our learning management system: Animo Space powered by Canvas. We use Big Blue Button as a web conference platform in school. For other online conferences, such as those with my alma mater AIM (Asian Institute of Management), we use Zoom.

I communicate with my students via Animo Space and Facebook. I chose the asynchronous method of instruction and I have prepared videos and lecture decks for guidelines to assignments. I also have to transition properly to Blended Learning and Distance Education. For this, De La Salle University is actively providing us with training sessions which I attend regularly.

Apart from taking care of my students, my main goal now is to figure out a new normal strategy for myself and for our family business. This I plan to do while writing my dissertation proposal.

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

My eyes still automatically fly open at 6:30 a.m. every morning. I then grab a cup of coffee, do some yoga, play with the dogs, and then start working at around 9 a.m. This is the same schedule I kept while at work. Teachers are creatures of habit.

Do you take breaks?

Do breaks include going to the mobile market and cooking? If yes, I certainly do. I bike to the covered basketball court down the road and procure fresh produce for native dishes. I share with the bantays and savor the sense of fulfillment and peace of mind cooking brings.

I also sunbathe, read non-academic books, have the occasional beer while watching the sunset, and swim in the sea. And, of course, I keep in touch with my family and friends over social media. Right now I am hooked on Netflix’s The Blacklist as James Spader is simply sublime. And oh, I also like to dance as there is no one watching!

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

Honestly, since I am right by the shore, I am mostly in either a bathing suit or in my yoga wear. It can get stiflingly hot so I just throw on a tapis or malong (wrap around skirts) when I go down to cook, eat or do laundry. Remember, most of the clothes I have with me are for mountain weather.

(Asked how she dresses for video conferences, she cheekily says, “I don’t turn on my video,” before explaining, “When I have to, it’s a sundress and makeup.”)

Have you had any slip-ups during official work stuff — meetings interrupted by a pet for example?

Well there was that one time I forgot to turn off my mic in an online training session! The instructor was asking us to discuss in breakout sessions, but the technology was faltering. Turns out my objections were heard by all! Teachers can be bad students too.

What is the most important lesson you learned about working from home? How will the “new normal” after the quarantine ends affect the world of your work?

Keep to a schedule! Suddenly we are no longer time impoverished as we have nowhere to go, so every day feels like a holiday. A schedule will ensure productivity while in transition to the new normal.

I am actually quite excited as DLSU will be implementing Blended Learning full force by next trimester. Therefore, 50% of the time, our students will be working remotely, and I am hoping that some of these times can be in parks, art centers, and heritage sites. Community engagement can also be further practiced in off site classrooms. Pending of course the absence of a pandemic crisis such as this one.

On the homefront, my family’s destination will be offering short creative mentorship courses set in an agricultural context. My mom has always believed that ensuring survival means going back to the land, and going back to basics. Studies show that immersing in arts and crafts addresses depression and anxiety.

This being the case, I see myself continuing to travel to and from the province. I predict a lot of other people will do the same, as Manila will decongest and decentralize after this life changing experience. This is a good thing as knowledge and skills will finally be shared with the provincial communities.