How these corporate women shifted from the boardroom to WFH (and even started home-based new businesses)

HALF a year after the deadly virus started ravaging our populace, the pandemic is shaping up to be a marathon—not a sprint. With the finish line not yet in sight, “work from home” has become the mode of survival for a great number of professionals.

And we all have come to terms with it. Bosses who once resisted the idea of “telecommuting” have happily embraced it. And so have their staff. Everyone now savors more time for leisurely breakfasts and soaking in the morning sun instead of rushing through intolerable traffic. And what’s not to like about waking up a bit late or working beyond “office hours” as long as one keeps an eye on the bottom line?

Still, WFH tends to blur the lines between the start of official work hours and the end—or when we can finally relax and call it a day. More often than not, this is when some difficulties arise.

Here, four dynamic women achievers—and bosses all—that I am particularly close to relate how they successfully pivoted to WFH mode and share more useful insights than I asked for. These exceptionally creative, hardworking ladies were not just undaunted by the challenges they initially faced—they also found new opportunities or additional business ideas that make them even busier and more fulfilled. To top it all, they likewise found time to pursue their personal passion projects while working from home.

Daisy Yunam Go

Former President of Wrangler-Philippines

Founder: Awedible Concepts Consultancy & Marketing Services

Founder: Daisy’s Corner

Coming from my former strictly corporate setup, here are some tips for adapting to work-from-home routines that include zoom meetings as the new norm:

Wake up with a grateful heart. If you are alive and healthy and still have work to do, you are one of the lucky few! Get yourself in the right mindset. Put on a comfortable but professional-looking top. And a little makeup won’t hurt. It’s not just about looking good; smelling good also stimulates positive vibes and makes you feel more confident. Go ahead and spritz on your favorite fragrance. Find a quiet corner in the house where you will not be disrupted by your kids or pets. Always give 10 to 15 minutes allowance. Go to your zoom meeting earlier in case there are some technical glitches.

On the other hand, those who have or are migrating from corporate work to entrepreneurship need a different set of “survival tips” during the pandemic. Here are a few:

Be self-reliant. You no longer have an executive assistant nor a messenger to run errands for you.  Learn to organize your tasks and to-do lists. Now is the time to acquire the digital skills that you never had the opportunity to learn. You will need these skills to manage your online business and to make life easier for you.

Want to build a business but don’t know where to start? Look at things closest to your heart. Start from there and focus on one thing—whether it’s food, beverage, plants, photography or even pet grooming.

When considering ideas for your own business, aim to fill a gap in the market that other competitors have not filled in yet. Don’t be a “me-too” just because everyone is doing it.

Be kind to your suppliers, customers, and even noncustomers. You will need their support to grow your business.

Finally, keep your focus, have a general plan, but keep your eyes peeled for opportunities along the way.

Faith Fernandez-Mondejar

Former Director for Communication, Avon APAC and Philippines

President and Owner of Good Faith PR and Formaggical Food

After 19 years of service, the last three as director for Communication, Asia-Pacific and Philippines, I left Avon in March 2019. While it was intentional on my part to spend time and travel with family, and not rush into anything as I determined the next leg of my career journey, I remained fully conscious of my desire to continue growing as a PR and Communication professional. This led me to set up my own PR consultancy, Good Faith PR.

The first quarter of 2020 would have seen me working on my first two projects but alas, the pandemic struck and these projects got shelved. Life in quarantine, while it has shown the varying facets of crazy and challenging, became an opportunity for me to unleash a new passion—creating cheesecake desserts. After family and friends raved about my signature Peanut Butter Cheesecake, I realized I should spread this newfound love.

This gave birth to Formaggical, my small online business offering artisanal cheesecakes. Our first customers were family and friends but word-of-mouth feedback helped spread the magic and sent new customers our way. Making cheesecakes for Formaggical and doing speaking engagements for Good Faith PR have certainly kept my calendar full. These are the things that I find complete joy in doing. With PR pen in one hand and a whisk in the other, I am living up to my name, keeping faith and staying hopeful during this time of great disruption.

How do I manage to still look professional while working from home?

During designated WFH days when I was still in corporate, I already espoused the practice of dressing up even while at home. Putting on pretty clothes or sleek corporate attire has always helped me transition from my home persona to my professional persona.

When I retired, I made careful choices in what I would wear inside the house on “work days.” Having nowhere to go was no reason not to dress up a little. Most of the time, a casual outfit that I felt comfortable in would do the trick. It could be a simple slip dress or a weekend top jazzed up with one or two accessories like a bangle or a nice pair of drop earrings.

A practical side to dressing up is that my clothes are not going to waste. I get to use them, and let them spark a smidgen of much-needed joy during this period of restrictions and troubling news. And at this time when a health crisis seems to have banished all sense of normalcy, I never underestimate the power of a bright lip color and the benefits of moisturizer on my skin.

Nikki Boncan Buensalido

Design Ambassador, Associate Architect

VP-Business Development, Buensalido+Architects

It has been six months since the lockdown and it took a while for me to adjust and find my bearings again. One day, we all found ourselves in the dark figuring out how to operate our office and work from home. It was not an easy transition but with my husband leading the way, we figured out how to run our architectural firm remotely, taking it one day at a time.

Before the pandemic, I helped run our architectural firm, Buensalido Architects, with my husband Jason but I was also a hands-on mom to our four-year-old daughter. Fast forward to six months later, my roles have changed. I still manage the business part of the firm while organizing our B+Abble community talks online. I have also become a full-time mom and teacher to my daughter. It has been quite a challenge to do both, but by God’s grace, I am able to work while cherishing every moment with my daughter. Moreover, I am more hands-on in running the household. I have started baking bread and pastries for my husband, and taking care of our small urban veggie garden. And to help farmers in Baguio, I recently started selling vegetables and fresh produce in our local community with the help of my mom and sister.

My husband and I have also conceived of ways on how to help our office community. We are blessed with a team of talented architects and artists whom we encouraged to create art that inspires others to dream and imagine possibilities. We commissioned them to come up with playful art, digital artwork, paintings, and sculpture that we can sell to help them earn a little extra on the side.

Artisanal Architecture, or AA, was born. Artisanal Architecture is an experimental, multi-disciplinary, digital platform designed to empower creatives to express themselves, showcase their artistic capabilities, and send meaningful and socially relevant messages through the production of optimistic, architecture-centric art (or in the future, art-centric architecture) that will hopefully inspire people to effect positive change toward a better built environment and, therefore, a better world. This initiative was meant to assist creatives in acquiring other sources of income during the challenging times of the pandemic and even beyond.

The past six months have truly been a challenge for me but God has also taught me to look beyond the present and focus on Him and His promises for me.  That’s what keeps me going. I take it one day, one hour at a time, and I am extremely grateful for the grace and favor that God has been showing us since the beginning of the lockdown. It hasn’t been a walk in the park but it sure has taught me that I can do more and be more for others.

Cristina Ong-Cruz

Director of Sales and Marketing

Marco Polo Ortigas, Manila

Working from home has its gains and some challenges.

We speak of gains when we realize that there are so many things you can do digitally in terms of meetings, calls, reports, and follow-throughs from home. You simply need good Internet connection, adequate workspace, and a laptop that is equipped to access reports and data needed. Virtual meetings, virtual ocular inspection (amazingly done by the team), meeting minutes and slides can be shared in different platforms such as zoom, teams, and google meet. One advantage I have that I appreciate is a great view of the pool and the lush landscape of the community. I can play music I like through “hey Google,” which is like Alexa. This enhances my creativity.

The disadvantage, of course, is time.You cannot simply log out when work is done. At home, work can extend until midnight—even on weekends—especially when clients are on a different time zone and when coordination of group arrivals is needed.

On the plus side, quarantine measures have given me more time to develop other interests such as taking care and arranging small and medium-sized plants, stuff that give me joy. I also learned how to do online pasabuy of essentials such as vitamins. I have also started asking neighbors if they need to pasabuy. This allows me to get better volume discounts on the items I like. Even better, I have built stronger relationships in the community where I live.

Overall, WFH has made me realize what incredible blessings I have and led me to learn new skills that I wouldn’t have thought of at any other time.

PR Matters is a roundtable column by members of the local chapter of the United Kingdom-based International Public Relations Association (Ipra), the world’s premiere association for senior communications professionals around the world. Joy Lumawig-Buensalido is the President and CEO of Buensalido & Associates Public Relations.

PR Matters is devoting a special column each month to answer our readers’ questions about public relations. Please send your questions or comments to [email protected]

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