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This Is How 8 Powerful and Influential Men Work from Home

They're just like everyone else.
ILLUSTRATOR Bianca Papa
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It's been five months since we all went into quarantine, and at this point, there still is no end in sight, at least, until a vaccine arrives.

We asked some of the nation's bigwigs what it's been like for them working from home, and we found out they're pretty much like the rest of us.

Top Story: Korina Sanchez Leaves ABS-CBN

Missing physical interaction with colleagues, doing Zoom calls in shorts and slippers, spending inordinate amounts of time with family, although some of the lucky ones even get to be at the beach. 

Juan Miguel Zubiri, Senator of the Philippines

Juan Miguel Zubiri
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"Because of this pandemic where safety of all is our utmost concern, we amended our rules to allow online sessions to participate in our Senate sessions virtually.

"Working from home from a legislative point of view has both its advantages and disadvantages.

"One of the advantages is you are always marked present since you can work literally from anywhere in the country as long as you log on at 3 p.m. to join the discussions and debates. In the past, when Senators had official functions outside the Senate halls, you would be marked absent because of the lack of physical presence.

"That's why these last few months we’ve had record-breaking attendance with almost all the Senators present both physically and virtually during the session days.

"One of the disadvantages though of online sessions is the difficulty to 'huddle' or to call for caucuses between members. In legislation, there are a lot of debates but also amendments that are usually settled in small private face-to-face caucuses to get the consensus of all the members.

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"We can't have that now under this new normal and, because of that, it makes the passage of legislation more difficult and challenging."

Ryan Cayabyab, National Artist for Music

Ryan Cayabyab

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Ryan Cayabyab

"I do all my demos here at home, usually in boxers or pajamas and a tattered T-shirt, unshowered. I'm better dressed than usual in this photo because I shot two other 'shout out' greetings or mini speeches in another part of the house.

"We started Bayan Musikahan in our living room. (Editor's note: Cayabyab's initiative with musical artists eventually raised over P120 million pesos in cash and kind for Filipinos affected by the pandemic.)

"I've rarely written songs in the past 10 years. Then suddenly in 100 days, my turnout was nine songs. Three were for institutions, two have been released on Spotify. And a new Christmas song I wrote is just waiting for the right time to release.

"One is titled 'Kapit Lahat.' The other is 'Nandyan Ka.' Both are performed by the Ryan Cayabyab Singers. I probably have much time in my hands because I also did the art cover of 'Nandiyan Ka' (finalized by Jhett Baroma). I do doodle art."

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Kevin Tan, CEO, Alliance Global

Kevin Tan

"I've been doing a combination of work from home, meetings, CSR work, reading books, exercising, and spending time with the kids.

"We also invested in an app called Pick.A.Roo, a consumer delivery app. Even before the pandemic, we spent the entire year researching and planning a fresh concept that bridges the gap between premium offline brands and the growing online segment. 

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"I finished a book written by Lee Kuan Yew in 2000 called Third World to First. I'm also reading a book now by Scott Galloway 2017 called The Four. Amazon, Facebook, Apple, and Google. I still prefer physical books to digital books. I'm not really into Netflix much, just the one-off movie.

"I've been helping the kids with their homeschooling. Well, my wife does most of the work, and I help. I help teach Katy and Drew mathematics."

Ernest Cu, President and CEO, Globe Telecom

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Globe Telecom

"Since the beginning of ECQ on March 16, the majority of Globe management and HQ staff have been on a work-from-home setup.

"Working from home does have some pluses. First, of course, is not having to commute, as my 'office' is now just next door. The regularity of the schedule has also allowed me to workout consistently. I do 30 minutes of Peloton bike every morning before my meetings begin. I have also been able to have dinner at home with my family, which is a big change. In the old days, I could only be home for dinner on Saturdays and Sundays. 

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"A nice new thing that I picked up during ECQ is cooking. I have been helping our cook in the kitchen, and sometimes even come up with dishes myself.

"Being relaxed in casual dress while working is also another plus. But, as a person who likes to dress, I sometimes miss being in nice clothing, but it is great to be comfy all day.

"The downside of this current setup, however, is the lack of social interaction with colleagues. At Globe, we are very socially oriented and have a lot of drinks and meals together. Collaboration and camaraderie is a big part of our culture. The concept of being 'friends on a mission' is really taken seriously at Globe.

"Interacting socially is an important dynamic for us. Having no ability to see each other now, and having a screen between you and the other person makes it difficult to handle sensitive conversations at times. It also feels a bit impersonal when you’re having a tough discussion over the screen. I miss the ability to project emotions more easily, e.g. showing support, showing sympathy, etc.

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"The number of meetings has also increased and it can be pretty tiring. By the time you get to Friday, you are mentally worn out with all the issues of the week that you had to deal with. 

"But the best part of working from home is the dynamic in the family has changed. We live in a very busy household, more so now that my kids are grown and have their own careers and schedules. It's nice that we now have sort of a routine together. They have their own place around here in our community, but they come for dinner more often during the week. We now also have regular Sunday dinners that my daughter and I plan for, midweek. I truly look forward to having these evenings with the family."

 

Jim Fuentebella, Director and Chief Marketing Officer, Max's Inc. 

Jim Fuentebella
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"We were in Batangas for the lockdown. All our calls shifted to online so it worked out for me.

"Of course, I miss the dynamics of meeting in person, but we easily adjusted once we all got familiar with this new way of relating with each other.

"Creative collaborations remain challenging. It’s hard to appreciate moments of inspiration or emotions like excitement online but we find ways to ensure the quality of our work is not compromised. Perhaps it takes a bit more back and forth to gain momentum on an idea, but it's doable. We manage.

"For now, we have to accept the protocols in place for the safety of everyone. I hope it will not replace the value of a warm and sincere handshake though.

"But this occurrence has definitely proven that there are other ways to be productive and use technology for the general good.

"This was my typical workday at the beach:

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"Wake up and make my oatmeal and coffee breakfast.

"Google chat calls from 9:30 a.m. to 2 p.m.

"Work outdoors while watching the tide roll in and out.

"Yoga at 5 p.m.

"Dinner around 7 p.m.

"Watch the stars before bed at 9 p.m. or 10 p.m.

"Repeat for the next 90 days!"

Steven Tan, President, SM Supermalls

Steven Tan
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"Working from home definitely has its advantages.

"On one hand, I can get more done since I can skip the office commute. Taking meetings online in succession, without 'dead air' also aids productivity.

"Of course, one needs the right tools: strong Internet connection and a private workspace for focused work. However, I can also see how one can miss out on the equally important benefits of working from the office. For those who like to have their peers around them for teamwork, motivation, and networking, you don't really get this from work from home.

"For those in leadership roles, maintaining physical presence is important. As we maintain a culture of agility in SM, face-to-face interaction is also better for in-depth discussions and real-time decisionmaking. So essentially, a mix of both work from home and work from office would be ideal.

"We are currently on rotational manning where we work only three days a week. The rest of the week I work from home."

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Roland Ros, CEO, KUMU

Roland Ros

"My team has been working from home since March 12th. The execs have a daily standup meeting every morning. Each manager uses their own system to communicate with their teams. Every week we use Kumu to do a Tambayan livestream together as a team.

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"I live with one of my co-founders Angelo Mendez (co-owner of Black Market, Finders Keepers, 20/20, Boogie Manila, etc) and DJ Skratchmark from Wave 89.1. We live in one of those older buildings where there's only two units per floor. It's a typical bachelor pad. A lot of space to workout, street art on the wall, DJ equipment, toys, books, and a lot of video games. Angelo is a huge collector of vintage video game consoles and arcade games.

"It's been tough not seeing my team. I've been using this as an opportunity to eat healthy and do lots of yoga, meditation, and praying. I've lost over 20 pounds already. But most importantly, mentally, I just feel refreshed and ready to take Kumu to the next level.

"When I do get into that isolated feeling, I tap into that inward energy.  I've really been using this time in gratitude, confronting and healing any remaining particular fears and insecurities that need work and really focusing on core values around patience, perseverance, and hope.

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"I've been very lucky and grateful with Kumu. As a livestreaming platform focused on community, we've noticed a big spike in users, who have downloaded Kumu, who want to connect with others during this unique moment in human history. Most of the time, people just tambay. They use our group livestream feature and keep the app on in the background for the entire day. It's almost like turning on the radio, but the radio talks back to you."

Ton Concepcion, President, SMEG Philippines

Photo by Karen Concepcion
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"It’s been a wonderful experience working from home and I sometimes don’t see the point why we have to be physically present at the office.

"I just need to make sure I have a routine like 'dressing up for work' at the same hour every day and making time for exercise at the end of the workday.

"Two of my daughters are now working for SMEG. It’s great fun working with Mykie with her creativity and Izzy with her business sense. It’s a blessing to be able to mentor both of them. Occasionally, I have to tutor the boys and study again myself to be sure I am teaching them the right thing. 

"The best part is I still am able to productively connect with my teams but, at the same time, have an unprecedented amount of priceless bonding with Karen and the kids, and with Louie, my Golden Retriever. I need to make my obsessive dog cariño as he is always literally at my side the whole day. And of course, I have to make sure I hug Karen every day lest she makes tampo and gives me a karate chop." 

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Yvette Fernandez
Yvette Fernandez is the editor in chief of Esquire Philippines.
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