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Close Up 4 Leaders Tell Us How To Thrive In A Hybrid Work Environment

4 Leaders Tell Us How To Thrive In A Hybrid Work Environment

4 Leaders Tell Us How To Thrive In A Hybrid Work Environment
Photo: d3sign/Getty Images
By Chong Jinn Xiung
By Chong Jinn Xiung
July 22, 2021
As workplaces transition into a hybrid work model, many of us are unsure how to balance life and work effectively. Here, four Gen.T honourees give their take on how to stay ahead in the new normal.

The last 18 months have brought about a fundamental shift in the way we work. Many companies adopted remote working and integrated it into everyday work life once lockdowns subsided. While chaotic at first, this change reimagined the way we work by placing an emphasis on flexibility.

Now, after a year of remote working, many are rethinking the traditional definition of work. According to Microsoft’s 2021 Work Trend Index, over 70 per cent of workers surveyed expressed a desire for more flexible remote work options after the pandemic. In addition, 66 per cent of businesses are considering redesigning physical spaces to accommodate hybrid work environments.

Nevertheless, while the future may be hybrid, many of us still struggle to balance work and home life. Here, we speak to four Gen.T honourees to learn how they stay productive in a hybrid work environment.

See also: 4 Ways To Avoid 'Toxic Positivity' At Work

Check in on each other’s well-being beyond work

Alena Murang
Alena Murang

Alena Murang

Musician and artist

What's your go-to method to stay productive? 
I’m most productive when I have a to-do list that covers not only work but personal errands, workouts, cooking and cleaning too. Of course, having a good playlist to get you in the mood to work goes along way.

What's your ideal home office setup? 
I’ve been working from home a lot more now. I set up my workspace in my living room and spend most of the time at my desk with my laptop. But sometimes I like to break things up by having my paintings around and a simple recording set-up for times when I want to record demos or write songs.

Any advice for working with family at home? 
When I was in lockdown at my parents' home, I discovered that we all have different work styles and schedules. I mostly adapted to their schedule, though if I had to record or shoot a video, my parents had to remain very quiet and that was very challenging for them because they were not used to being around a camera or recording microphone that picks up every sound.

What tips do you have for working with teams remotely? 
In my team, we are like family. So besides work, we share a lot about our personal life too as it is critical during lockdown when social isolation can set in. I find that it is important to check in on each other’s well-being beyond work. We are all supportive of each other and would sometimes take different days off based on what best works for each team member and their family.

Any final tip? 
I found that it’s important to add some laughter and non-work or non-Covid related conversations into meetings. These things are usually missing when we communicate primarily over Zoom or emails as we are so focused on the meeting agenda, we forget about these non-work aspects we used to have when working together in the same office.

See also: Alena Murang's Video Just Won These International Awards

Avoid having too many meetings

Ian Yee
Ian Yee

Ian Yee

Executive producer, R.AGE

What's your go-to way to stay productive? 
I’m a firm believer that taking care of your headspace is more important than your workspace. It’s not so much about finding the right workspace or buying a fancy ergonomic chair. Instead, I believe that a big part of working effectively is to take care of your mental and emotional state. By doing so, your physical work arrangement becomes more tolerable.

There are plenty of self-care online resources that help put you in a better headspace to be productive. I use a method called “box breathing” a lot, which I picked up from Acumen Fellows. It’s been a lifesaver.

What's your ideal home office setup? 
I don’t have a fancy home office set up. In fact, it is very low-tech. I just have my laptop and a cheap ring light to light up the scene when I take video calls. That being said, I cannot live without my Apple M1 MacBook Air because I do all my work and meetings on it.

Any advice for working with family at home? 
I’m pretty lucky because both my wife and I have very flexible working hours. We normally divide our responsibilities and schedules as clearly as possible. For example, we take turns monitoring our kids' online classes and catch up on work later at night if we were on class duty. Of course, there are times when you need to intuitively step in and offer help to each other. But for the most part, it’s best to set schedules and expectations.

What tips do you have for working with teams remotely? 
The teams that I’ve worked with are already used to working remotely and autonomously even before the lockdowns. I’ve always given my teams a lot of trust and support to work independently, which has made the transition to working remotely seamless.

We mostly communicate over WhatsApp and avoid having too many meetings. I normally keep in-person meetings to just once every two weeks or so. I find that keeping a sense of trust with teammates is important because as managers, we do a lot more one-on-one check-ins just to make sure everyone is doing alright.

Any final tip? 
A little empathy goes a long way. I’ve had so many team members who struggled under the stress of the pandemic. Simply demanding them to up their game in such situations is counterproductive. Take the time to understand why they are struggling and put yourself in their shoes, and it makes addressing the issue better. 

See also: 5 Young CEOs In Malaysia On The Perks Of Working From Home

Be transparent and communicative

Mark Koh
Mark Koh

Mark Koh

CEO, Supahands

What's your go-to way to stay productive? 
I find that working in different places in the house works for me. I usually spend my mornings working outside on my balcony or in the living room, where there is a lot of natural light and fresh air to keep me energised. In the afternoons I move into my ‘office’, where it's cooler and have my entire setup with a monitor, keyboard and mouse at the ready.

What's your ideal home office setup? 
I have a workspace with café style tall desks that allows me to vary between sitting and standing as I work and conduct meetings. I have a walking pad next to the tall table that is perfect to use in meetings. This allows me to clock some kilometres for my health tracker, and it also keeps me attentive during meetings.

Any advice for working with family at home? 
For the time being, it's just my partner, myself and our dogs at home, so we are quite fortunate to have the space and quiet time when we need it, which admittedly is not the same for everyone.

What tips do you have for working with teams remotely? 
We use a number of tools that help us stay aligned in a remote working environment. This includes Basecamp, a project management tool for sharing information, meeting updates and memos. Discord is our primary chat and voice tool to talk to everyone in the organisation. We also keep everyone up to date with organisation-wide meetings like town halls. Our work culture is based around transparency and feedback. This means that information is disseminated openly across teams and feedback is encouraged. 

Any final tip? 
Having an open line of communication with teams is so important. You never know when someone needs a hand or someone to talk to, and it doesn’t always have to be about work either. At Supahands, everyone gets a weekly one-to-one meeting with their manager or lead where they can privately catch up to provide feedback or ask for assistance if they need it. To keep teams aligned, we normally have team-wide discussions throughout the week.

See also: Supahands' CEO Mark Koh Credits Endurance Racing For His Entrepreneurial Success

Give your team space

Cheryl Ann Fernando
Cheryl Ann Fernando

Cheryl Ann Fernando

Director, Pemimpin Global School Leaders

What's your go-to way to stay productive? 
I find a corner in the house where I can work while monitoring my daughter’s online classes. What has worked for me in terms of my work environment was to be near my children, so they can reach out to me anytime and at the same time, I can also get work done.

What's your ideal home office setup? 
I cannot live without my AirPods as they allow me to multitask while listening in on calls.

Any advice for working with family at home? 
Despite having worked from home for over a year now, it is still a challenge having two children around the house, but setting a routine helps us cope better.

My husband and I share our schedules with each other every day, so we always know who has urgent calls or work that needs to be done. We take turns to take care of our children and allow the other to work when they need extra time.

We also have a strict routine for our children: they go to bed by 8pm. This way, we can complete the rest of our work at night or use that time to rest and relax. 

What tips do you have for working with teams remotely? 
My team uses Asana to track our tasks and deadlines. We also frequently communicate via Slack. We also do frequent check-ins with one another, so we are all updated on what’s going on. 

As the leader of the organisation, I do not message them beyond 5pm, as I know it's important to allow them to have time and space after work. I often encourage my team to talk to me or reach out for help if they are struggling with anything or any part of their work.

Any final tip? 
During my time working from home, I've learned to put my trust in my team and to give them the space to do their work to the best of their ability. Besides that, I’ve also learned how important it is to have clear communication and manage the expectations of the team, especially given how most of us work remotely.

See also: How Cheryl Ann Fernando Is Improving Access To Education In Malaysia

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