AGI leaders share how they conquer the new normal while ‘working from home’

by Teresa Isla

The coronavirus pandemic has completely shaken our understanding of the norm. It has disrupted not only the way we live our daily lives individually, but also how the entire world now works under this new reality.

All forms of face-to-face interactions have now been reduced to online conversations through our smartphone screens or laptops. Gone are the days of languid lunches and dinners or lazy Sunday afternoons spent sipping coffee inside a café with friends. Nowadays, going out even for an errand feels like preparing for war. Alcohol? Check! Face mask? Check! Face shield? Check! Latex gloves? Check!

As they say, however, life truly must go on. Businesses have to reopen to help jumpstart the economy and bring life back on track. It has been back to business at Alliance Global Group, Inc. (AGI) for several months now, and some companies like Megaworld and Golden Arches Development Corporation (GADC) allow some of their employees to work from home or report to remote offices for now.

Like most of us, our leaders at AGI also have to face the same challenge of adapting to the changing times—and this includes working from the confines of their respective homes.

KEVIN L. TAN

A quick look at AGI chief executive officer Kevin L. Tan’s Instagram account will show you just how busy he has been since the quarantine was imposed back in March. Tan has been attending various meetings and has even managed to do live TV interviews (via Zoom!) and a press launch—all while inside the confines of his home.

Tan shares that he usually does his work inside his private meeting/study room that overlooks a garden. “That’s the most relaxing and most private part of our house. It’s also separated from where my kids usually stay and play,” he explains. A doting father to his two adorable children, Tan’s IG account is interspersed with a balance of work and play.

Prior to the pandemic, Tan was never without his trusty iPad when attending meetings. While he still uses this to work, Tan says he has added another gadget to his work-from-home set-up. “I use the iPad and a laptop. Previously, I would attend meetings and use my iPad to record videos and take notes. But now that I’m working from home, I prefer to have two different devices so it’s much easier to do both,” he explains.

Another important facet in working from home is wearing the proper outfit. In his IG account, Tan gives his followers a peek into his work outfits-of-the-day. In one of his posts, the AGI CEO even managed to share a quick laugh by posting about his alternative for a pocket square while clad in a suit.

While Tan agrees that one should choose comfortable clothes while working from home, the choice of outfits should never compromise the seriousness of work.

“There are some meetings where you will be required to dress up. If I’m meeting a government official, for example, I usually wear a collared shirt with a jacket or Barong Tagalog. If I’m meeting with stockholders, then I go with a more formal get-up and a tie,” he says.

As the head of one of the country’s largest conglomerates, Tan says the current work-at-home set up has provided a myriad of opportunities. With no traffic to consider, he is able to maximize each day, which include accommodating more meetings. “There’s no more excuse to lose focus because you are working alone. You can concentrate and fully devote your time to work, which allows you more time to think and strategize.”

One important aspect of business that has not been compromised by these uncertain times is productivity. Tan points out that in Megaworld’s case, the current arrangement has proven that work can still be done efficiently even without working on-site. This includes sales, leasing, and even customer relations.

“Who would have thought that I could preside over investor conferences and bond offerings through a virtual set-up? Even dealings overseas have been somewhat easier to manage with the current arrangement. Since we also have international businesses, dealing with different time zones make it more efficient when you‘re working from home,” he shares.

LOURDES T. GUTIERREZ-ALFONSO

How does a full work day for Megaworld’s chief operating officer Lourdes T. Gutierrez-Alfonso look like?

Imagine attending an average of six meetings in a day. And that’s just the tip of the iceberg. Gutierrez-Alfonso definitely does not take the heavy workload sitting down, literally.

“During video meetings, I usually stand up and walk around the room because it helps me think and focus more,” she says.

She uses an adjustable stand-table, which allows her the flexibility to do her work either sitting or standing up. She does her work inside the bedroom, with her table and chair facing the window.

Despite the current arrangement, productivity has never been compromised. In fact, she says, it has allowed her to listen to more ideas from leaders and members of each group while attending video meetings. The set-up has also allowed her to interact with employees on a more casual or relaxed environment, such as a department’s end-of-the-month virtual hangout to catch up.

She notes that the setup, although not ideal, has allowed everyone to ensure that the value of excellence is never compromised. “We can still be productive in a work-from-home setup, but there are advantages and disadvantages, and there are also limitations with this current situation. Since we’re doing this now, we have to focus on the opportunities that this setup brings so we can be more productive, we can continue to contribute, and we can champion excellence even if we’re not working in our corporate headquarters,” said Gutierrez-Alfonso.

This same value even translates to how Gutierrez-Alfonso chooses what to wear for work. With the exception of wearing a tailored blazer, she pretty much keeps her outfits the same as it was when she used to report to work in the office before COVID-19. “I actually wear a full office get-up while working from home. I do my own hair and make-up, and I even put on my office shoes and other accessories. Doing this puts me in working mode, and I feel energized and ready to fulfill the things that I need to accomplish,” she shares.

MARGOT B. TORRES 

Busy would definitely be an understatement to describe the work-at-home set-up of Golden Arches Development Corporation (GADC) managing director, Margot B. Torres.

Apart from her MacBook, Torres’ workspace is equipped with two ring lights and even a studio microphone. Right beside her laptop is a notebook and pen for writing down notes and important reminders.

Torres says this set-up has allowed for more time to be devoted for work. “I adjusted to work-from-home really quickly. I am more productive because I am able to maximize the day,” she says.

Despite working at home, Torres is always mindful of the type of clothes she wears. “My choice of attire depends on my meetings or video calls for the day. For women, apart from dressing for work appropriately, it is also important to keep your appearance presentable. The eyebrows and lipstick are the most important. I blow dry my hair if possible or pull it up in a clean tie. I also wear earrings when I can,” she narrates.

 

Rather than looking at the glass half empty, the pandemic has allowed companies like McDonald’s Philippines a window to discover and unlock new market opportunities. “With so much uncertainty, our creative juices and minds continue to be challenged, which eventually brings out many ideas,” she said.

On a more personal note, Torres sees working from home as an opportunity to balance time for work and personal growth. After attending meetings at work, Torres finds time to join webcasts to learn. She also catches up on reading and reconnecting with friends. The setup also allows her some quiet time to think, reflect and write.

She cites a favorite quote from Franciscan friar Fr. Richard Rohr that talks of reflecting about humanity and giving inspiration about the future: “Liminal space is an inner state and sometimes an outer situation where we can begin to think and act in new ways. It is where we are betwixt and between, having left one room or stage of life but not yet entered the next. We usually enter liminal space when our former way of being is challenged or changed—perhaps when we lose a job or a loved one, during illness, at the birth of a child, or a major relocation. It is a graced time, but often does not feel ‘graced’ in any way. In such space, we are not certain or in control. This global pandemic we now face is an example of an immense, collective liminal space.”

Torres says she personally calls the current situation a positive discomfort. “If there’s one thing certain about this entire situation, all of us whether as a company or as an individual, will come out stronger and better.”

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