WFH during the ECQ: Kumu’s Roland Ros

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ROLAND ROS

LIVE streaming company Kumu Holdings has been responding to a surge in demand for entertainment and online community spaces since the start of the enhanced community quarantine.

A busy work-from-home (WFH) schedule means work sometimes seeps into personal time. To keep up with the demands of running a start-up, Kumu co-founder and Chief Executive Officer Roland Ros said he created a home-based “commute.” In an online interview on May 7, he also talked about how he helps maintain workplace morale for a team that found itself working at a distance.

The interview has been edited for length and clarity.

WHAT IS YOUR WORK FROM HOME SET UP?
Prior to COVID-19, we were sharing an office with Summit Media in Pioneer, Mandaluyong. I’m in Makati. I’ve had to really mentally say, okay, I’m in my bed — I’m in Makati, my desk is Mandaluyong, and my living room is Ortigas. I’ve turned my condo [into districts so moving through the rooms] is like commuting, just to get out of that headspace of trying to do everything in my bed because that’s not good. I’ve just really been able to create a space for my desk — and really use the table in my kitchen and use the table in my living room to break out. Because of that I can’t really start my day until I do my morning ritual… so that when I walk to my desk it feels like that was my commute. And it helps with my headspace.

When the quarantine first hit, I was just waking up and throwing the laptop on my lap and working from there. But I noticed that there was this kind of unhealthy balance of no boundaries between personal and work life. Having to actually create boundaries in my actual space at home helps to create a routine: commuting to my desk, and then commuting to my kitchen to do lunch, and a lot of my social things happening in my living room.

HOW MUCH HAS YOUR SCHEDULE CHANGED?
Zoom fatigue is real. It’s crazy. I’ve been doing so many meetings on Zoom… I just read an article yesterday about Zoom and Google Meet fatigue where the video — because you’re constantly aware of people looking at you because it’s not in person, we’re utilizing our eyes and our ears and we’re conscious of how we look a lot more. For me, I found that doing this nine to 10 times a day, it can really be tiring.

We realized that in one way we’re a lot more efficient in getting things done and getting meetings done than when we were in an office, but at the same time too, we’ve noticed that it’s been more mentally taxing.

WHAT HAS SURPRISED YOU ABOUT THE SETUP?
I’ve just been really surprised with how efficient we’ve been with our time. One thing was, wow, this many meetings can actually happen on Zoom rather than a three-hour Grab ride to Quezon City and back. That’s really game changing.

HOW DO YOU MAINTAIN PRODUCTIVITY, MORALE, AND HELP ENSURE MENTAL HEALTH AMONG YOUR STAFF?
Because we’re a livestream app, we do these weekly tambay sessions with the whole team, where we’re all hanging out with each other, talking, joking. I have a very strict one-on-one policy with my managers. So what I do is I check in with each of my managers on a one-on-one basis to, one, hear how they can improve the company, and, two, how they can improve their relationship. It’s a weekly check-in to see how they’re doing. It’s something I’ve always done prior to the quarantine — it’s just even more important now.

By leading by example, “look I’m spending all this time with you managers, now I expect you to do the same thing with your teams as well” and so it’s been a really great experience hearing and listening to everyone’s concerns and thinking about how a lot of people at the company feel heard.

Also, yes, there’s Slack and WhatsApp, but we created some boundaries after a certain period. For example, only me and some key co-founders really communicate with each other on the weekends, but with other senior leaders and other key employees, we try to agree on things by Friday so that if anything happens during the weekend I don’t need to contact them. Also, late night. I tend to go on these two to three o’clock in the morning spazz sessions — I try to communicate to my team that other than the co-founders, they don’t have to get back to me. They can get back to me after nine o’clock in the morning. — Jenina P. Ibañez





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