JOJI Ilagan-Bian, an ASEAN Outstanding Women Entrepreneurs awardee, gets ready for her work-from-home (WFH) day the same way she did when heading to the office before the enhanced community quarantine (ECQ) measures were imposed.

The previous Mindanao Business Council chair said putting on nice clothes — though skipping much of the makeup — helps her maintain a sense of normalcy at a time when businesses need to adjust to the coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) crisis and modify plans for the future.

“Even during these times, I still need to put on and never put off my thinking cap as a business person and to think what is happening today and to anticipate what will happen in a post-COVID-19 era,” she said in an e-mail interview with BusinessWorld.

Ms. Bian’s JIB Group of Schools, which includes both primary and higher education institutions, also has a foundation that provides learning programs for those who have limited financial capacity, with housewives and household helpers among the biggest beneficiaries.

It also has a “mobile” welding school in response to the demand for skilled workers in the construction industry.

One of her biggest immediate concerns is taking care of employees.

“This is really the greatest challenge of the business sector now. We are working with nothing in our hands and yet we need to give out something to our people,” she said.

Her WFH day consists mostly of online meetings for continued marketing programs, planning with teachers, and talking to clients.

She has realized that a WFH arrangement works well for her and does not plan on going back to a five-day office schedule even after the restrictions are lifted.

The interview has been lightly edited.

WHAT IS YOUR PREFERRED MEETING METHOD AND WHY?
We use the Zoom app for our offices alternately with Skype. The platform (Zoom) is easy to use and available to all.

WHERE IS YOUR HOME OFFICE?
I have a small office table set up in our gazebo so that I have a beautiful view of the garden and all the greenery. It’s a welcome respite from the four walls of our home, plus the garden brings a certain joy amidst the environment of fear and uncertainty.

WHAT TIME DO YOU START YOUR WORKDAY NOW COMPARED TO WHEN YOU ACTUALLY WENT TO THE OFFICE?
Compared to what is normal — which is 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. work — my new work schedule starts from 2 p.m. to 5 p.m. This (lockdown) is also the best time to take a rest from all the stress and challenges of the normal work environment. The advantage of working from home is that you are not bound by time nor by the clock. We do not become slaves of time since we have all the time we have.

WHAT DO YOU DO TO TAKE A BREAK FROM WORK?
I use my breaks to play with my grandchildren and to catch up with my reading. I choose to be “away” from FB (Facebook) since I want to draw away from too much technology that dominates our life at this time.

ANY INTERESTING STORIES FROM YOUR EXPERIENCE WORKING AT HOME?
Working from home is also a great joy since it makes you realize that there is always a reason for all the seasons. Now is the time to put our bodies and perhaps mind at rest and savour the moments we have with all our family members. Imagine being with all of them for more than a month now. Getting all the members of my family even for three hours was so difficult during normal days. But now we all eat our meals together, relaxing and laughing. No more running and hurrying to go to work. The only distraction I have is my little grandchildren who would start running around with their voices so high and all the noises created by their toys, plus the goodies that are being baked for afternoon snacks, which makes eating (snacks) more of a habit now.

WHAT IS THE MOST IMPORTANT LESSON YOU HAVE LEARNED FROM WORKING FROM HOME?
Working from home has its blessings too. We need to focus on that rather than the negative thoughts it brings. I think after the pandemic, I will work only three days in the office and start enjoying the joys of working from home, especially [since I am in] my early senior years. This will lead to a better and healthier lifestyle. — Maya M. Padillo