Business

New Normal Home Office


Experts share tips on how to WFH successfully

With Thailand’s second wave of COVID-19 cases, many are back to remote working. For some people, working from home leads to an increase in productivity due to less time spent commuting and a more isolated environment. However, that might not be the case for everyone. Therefore, we ask the Future Listers for some tips on staying productive while working from home, and their must-have items for the WFH lifestyle. Here’s what Mark McDowell, managing director PRIMAL digital marketing platform; Natalie Phanpensophon, chief operations officer of Coca International and Mango Tree chain of restaurants; Carlo Herold, founder and CEO of Heroleads Asia and Mario Ferro, founder of Wedu Global social enterprise, have to say.

Carlo Herold

What is your must-have item for the WFH lifestyle?
Definitely comfortable noise-canceling headphones. They allow me to properly focus when I need to get things done or join in on conference calls. 

How have you personally adapted to the WFH environment?
Since the beginning of the pandemic, I have been a strong advocate for WFH to my team at Heroleads. In my opinion, a digital business like ours must be able to function with all employees working remotely. I have been trying to practice what I preach by finding ways to transition all aspects of work online without diluting their effectiveness - from meetings, over collaborative workshops, to regional townhall meetings with 180 people.

Could you share some tips on staying productive?
I need to have a strong daily routine in order to be productive. Exercise has always been an essential part of my routine but during WFH I try to place even greater emphasis on workouts and frequent movement since I often find myself glued to my workstation for hours at a time. I also keep an eye on my work-life balance and ensure that I don't let work creep in too much on family time. 

Natalie Phanpensophon

What is your must-have item for the WFH lifestyle?
Oregano Oil for daily dose for its natural healing properties: help build my immunity and fight inflammatory (cannot risk getting sick now!) 

How have you personally adapted to the WFH environment?
My home is my office! Because of the nature of the restaurant business, it hasn’t been possible to work from home, but we rearranged the office to spread out more. 

Could you share some tips on staying productive?
Having daily goals of six and more strict deadlines with the rest of the team. Make work tasks and new innovations super fun for the staff to keep them motivated and active in this difficult time. It’s important to keep everyone’s spirit lifted! 

Mark McDowell

How have you personally adapted to the WFH environment?
Wave 1 was harder and more unexpected. Much more prepared this time for 2nd wave – adapting well this time. 

What is your must-have item for the WFH lifestyle?
Comfy desk and chair.

Could you share some tips on staying productive?
Wake up like you normally would during a working day, eat breakfast and get changed to get into the right frame of mind. Secondly, over-communicate with people and use lots of emoticons in chat to express yourself since you can’t be there in person. 

Mario Ferro

How have you personally adapted to the WFH environment?
I have been working from home since November 2014, so I consider myself a pro and the pandemic didn't really change very much for me. However, I am thriving more than ever, because the pandemic has given me and the team licence to re-imagine our workflows and the future of the organization. I enjoy having more time to spend with family and not needing to travel for days for meetings that could have happened on a video call. It is hard for me to see how many people are really suffering in this new setting, so I do spend time encouraging and supporting friends and family that I see are coping less well and I make it a point to check in more than before.
As much as I crave to travel, meet colleagues and partners, I believe that some parts of WFH are here to stay and I really look forward to the future of work that we are shaping together. 

What is your must-have item for the WFH lifestyle?
I will stick to physical items, but actually there are some software that are even more important than the hardware. There are a few items actually: (1) a laptop that is pleasant to use (at home or to carry with me) - I use ThinkPad Carbon and love it; (2) good quality headphones with a good quality microphone (noise from street, neighbours, kids in the house can be a major distraction, good classical music a good productivity enhancer); (3) comfortable but smart clothes. We may not need to wear a suit and tie to go to work, but it is important not to stay all day in pajama as well; (4) lately I started appreciating having a large screen. 

Could you share some tips on staying productive?
(1) Fully embrace the benefits and differences of WFH and leverage those. The single most important aspect to understand is that WFH is a different process from being at the office with its own unique benefits and drawbacks. I see many getting stressed because they try to re-create an office-like environment and workflow. For instance: we are saving commute time, how do we choose to use it? It can be more work, more sleep, starting a little side project, finally finish that work or have a 30-min workout. Even better, not having a commute can help change the structure of the workday altogether! You can go in and out of work mode (since you don't have to waste time coming and going anywhere) as your mood/productivity shifts, you can do groceries at 11am (way fewer people at the supermarket) and complete your work later on. This is particularly powerful when the entire team, not individuals embrace a new rhythm. In my case, I decided to get fitter, start meditating, make sure to have every meal with my family, go kiss the kids a couple of times while they play and have an afternoon coffee/kombucha break with my wife every day. I understand this is not applicable to all jobs, but to many indeed. 
(2) Take care of yourself. These are extraordinarily stressful times. We have a tendency of forgetting self care in normal time and burnout, having a deliberate approach to self care is of paramount importance those days. Understand what you need (time for yourself? Chocolate? Hugs?) and get it, now.
(3) Deliberately experiment new workflows, find what you would like to keep doing after the pandemic and prove to your boss/team that you are more productive in this new setting. When I think about doing something as an emergency plan to avoid disaster I feel like I am wasting time, I get stressed and unproductive. But when I think that I am experimenting with something new that might improve my long term productivity, I get excited and that is a self-reinforcing prophecy. We are having a chance of trying out work arrangements that were unthinkable just a year ago and the scale of learning is enormous. I hope the learning from those experiments will change forever, for the better, productivity for me and my team.