IT is more than a month into the Luzon-wide quarantine and while many people still go to work as essential workers and frontliners, even more employees have had to adjust to a work from home lifestyle where video conferencing is the name of the game.
For Neil Trinidad, the chief marketing officer of e-commerce platform Lazada Philippines, it came as a surprise just how productive the company could be even without employees being physically present in an office. It says a lot about the importance of more companies going digital, he told BusinessWorld in an e-mail interview on April 21.
He also discussed how it’s important for him to keep a routine and shift into “work mode” at home — which means wearing linen shirts and pants and house slippers, and learning how to cut his own hair.
The interview has been edited for clarity.
WHAT IS YOUR PREFERRED MEETING METHOD AND WHY?
We use Dingtalk, which is [the Alibaba Group’s] enterprise communication and collaboration platform. Lazada is a regional company, so working remotely is not something new.
Daily, our communication tools enable me to stay connected with my team, make fast decisions, run multiple workstreams, and do quick work turnarounds. We also have video conferencing tools to stay engaged — we do weekly coffee sessions with the marketing team, dress up according to a theme, and share positive focus — things we’re grateful for or new things we’ve learned.
We also utilize the software to conduct company-wide livestreams for our employees, alternately hosted by our executive team, keeping them up-to-date on what’s happening with the business and staying connected even as we all work apart in our homes.
WHERE IS YOUR HOME OFFICE LOCATED?
My home office is in our study room/guest room. I have a great view of [Bonifacio Global City] with lots of natural light and fresh air. I realized early on how important it is to create an inspiring workspace at home. I set up my desk with a plant, an aromatherapy diffuser, a lamp, and a Google Home Mini for ambient music, which I turn on in between calls.
WHAT TIME DO YOU START YOUR WORKDAY NOW COMPARED TO BACK WHEN YOU ACTUALLY WENT TO THE OFFICE?
My day starts before 9 a.m., answering messages from the various teams and catching up on e-mails. Like many others, I have back-to-back meetings and calls throughout the day. I also always make sure that I do regular alignments with the team so we’re all aligned on things that need to be accomplished for the week.
I’ve been amazed at how productive work from home can be for us at Lazada. During the ECQ, we’ve been: able to resume operations of essential goods on our e-commerce platform; start a digital giving fundraiser for frontliners through LazadaForGood; created and operated new livestream shows, like our LazadaForGood #RadioGives Charity Concert Series, and a brand-new show, Sing It! with Mimiyuuuh, all of which were written, produced, and streamed from home.
DO YOU TAKE BREAKS?
In between meetings, I play with my dogs and catch up on social media. In the afternoon, I grab myself a cup of Nespresso and play blinks from Blinkist. I’ve been wanting to read more, but I haven’t had the time, so I catch up on the books I’ve wanted to read by listening to 15-minute blinks.
DO YOU STILL DRESS UP FOR WORK OR ARE YOU MORE CASUAL IN THE WORK FROM HOME SET UP?
It’s really important for me to mentally and physically transition to work mode. I still maintain my morning routine and I try to “dress up” for work, which now means linen shirts and pants and house slippers. And I learned how to cut my own hair, an [enhanced community quarantine] skill unlocked!
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 WORK?
From a personal view, working from home during ECQ has underscored the importance of empathy and staying connected. With so much uncertainty, I learned that you can never go wrong when you over-communicate with your team. It’s important to constantly reassure them, to clarify directions, and to keep them motivated.
From a business view, what’s clearer to me is that in this “new normal” all businesses need to be digital businesses and that all businesses need to do good. COVID-19 has been a disruptor for many SMEs (small-medium enterprises), but it’s also shown that it’s not too late to reposition your business and find new opportunities online.
Besides putting together consumer experiences as people stay indoors more, we also rallied the teams to develop a P100-million incentive seller package — the Lazada Bounce Back Together program — to help businesses have an easy, convenient [way], and the knowledge to tap into online selling for business continuity.
As I’ve mentioned, one important lesson that I share with the team was how we are able to pull off major campaigns and initiatives while working remotely. With the unprecedented circumstances, we were able to quickly rethink our strategies on what is badly needed during this time — help out in every way you can. And the only way to pull this off, it’s communication, communication, communication!
COVID-19 has also shown us that businesses and brands have the power to do good — whether it’s in helping frontliners, helping the community, or making it easier for people to transact and “live online.” Moving forward, I think all businesses and brands need to activate “purpose” as part of their business as usual. — Zsarlene B. Chua