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WFH during the ECQ: Lenovo’s Michael Ngan

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MICHAEL NGAN

THE pandemic may have brought several industries to their knees because of quarantine measures which limit people’s movements outside their homes — but not Lenovo as the computer manufacturing company is expecting to see a rise in demand for its laptops and other productivity accessories. That optimism also led the company to hold the Philippine launch of the new additions to its Legion gaming line via a digital press conference, the first time it has ever done so.

Michael Ngan, president and general manager of Lenovo Philippines, said the world of work will change with the pandemic — there will be a greater focus on flexibility and agility — which means more people working from home and using laptops and other mobile devices for productivity.

A month after the enhanced community quarantine (ECQ) started, Mr. Ngan noted that while he still prefers to start his days early, he is appreciating having more time with his children even if they do tend to barge in on virtual meetings every so often.

(The responses were lightly edited.)

WHAT IS YOUR PREFERRED MEETING METHOD AND WHY?
We’ve been using Microsoft Teams and so far, we’ve had a seamless experience with it for conference calls which helps us keep the business running as usual amid the enforced remote work arrangements. Recently, we hosted a launch event in the same platform for Lenovo Legion with over 70 participants from the Philippines and other countries, and to be able to pull that off with the technology we have now is truly incredible.

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WHERE IS YOUR HOME OFFICE LOCATED?
I’m currently using a guest room in our home which is now a fully functioning work area, set up with Lenovo’s productivity tools — my laptop, a portable extra monitor, and noise-cancelling headsets. Our company has always advocated “work from anywhere” and while the circumstances are extraordinary, we find ourselves living that lifestyle now and thriving because of our own products. It makes me genuinely proud of seeing how our technology helped several others quickly transition into their new reality.

WHAT TIME DO YOU START YOUR WORKDAY NOW COMPARED TO WHEN YOU ACTUALLY WENT TO THE OFFICE?
Before ECQ, I’d start my day at around 5 a.m. because I’d have to drop off my kids at school. These days, I still prefer to start as early as possible, say, around 6 a.m. Now that I don’t spend as much time on the road, I have more time to go through e-mails and attend to them after a good cup of coffee. While my schedule is largely flexible, I only pick the most important things I have to accomplish for the day and set attainable goals. Because when that’s all clear to you, you face the day with purpose.

DO YOU TAKE BREAKS?
I mostly spend my breaks enjoying time with my children, especially my youngest daughter. Sometimes she just comes into the room, all curious about what I’m up to. I find that bonding and catching up with my children is a meaningful way to spend my free time and it’s something I relish as much as I can.

DO YOU STILL DRESS FOR WORK OR ARE YOU MORE CASUAL IN THE WORK-FROM-HOME SETUP?
While our work-from-home (WFH) setup today doesn’t call for a full business attire like in the office, dressing well helps me be in the right headspace and transition to work mode. You’ll often catch me in a casual shirt or our Lenovo gear. In addition, we at Lenovo make it a point to always be on video during conference calls which is a good enough reason to pay attention to what you’re wearing.

ANY INTERESTING STORIES FROM YOUR EXPERIENCE OF WORKING FROM HOME?
When you have children in the house, it’s inevitable that they occasionally barge in the room and demand your immediate attention. Despite things like that, however, I encourage my team to still communicate with the camera turned on.

The WFH scheme also prompted us as a company to think of more creative ways to engage our people while we are all cooped up at home. We have started doing non-business-related conference calls weekly, just drinking coffee together or doing morning fitness exercises. Sometimes, these are even personally led by business leaders across the Asia-Pacific region. Aside from the fun part, we look forward to these social activities to keep our mental health in check.

WHAT IS THE MOST IMPORTANT LESSON YOU LEARNED FROM WORKING FROM HOME? WHAT WILL THE WORLD OF WORK BE LIKE AFTER THE PANDEMIC?
The past month and so of social distancing disrupted almost everything, pushed us way out of our comfort zones, and defined a new normal for our society. The world of work post-pandemic will demand greater flexibility and agility among workers and as a technology company, we recognize our social responsibility to equip them with good productivity tools. The academe, which is also severely disrupted by the pandemic, will also find itself in the middle of digital transformation as the government is now starting to build an online education platform that we are planning to support using our LanSchool proprietary classroom management software.

As different aspects of life are driven by the current pandemic to subsist online, we will start to develop a BYOD or Bring Your Own Device culture across industries. Regardless if it’s a phone, tablet, or laptop, being able to conduct business from anywhere will empower more businesses and workers. When we fulfill our mission of bringing Smarter Technology for All, we help them easily adapt to any situation and introduce new ways of doing things that challenge the status quo. — Zsarlene B. Chua

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