Claudiu Simion is Managing Director & Head of Air and Ocean Operations Support at @ DB Schenker Global Business Services Bucharest
Tell us about what happened with you & your company in the first weeks of this crisis.
We have reacted quickly, even before the state of emergency came into force. We already had in place an extensive business continuity plan (BCP), and we have tested the work from home alternative in full a couple of weeks before the state of emergency was announced. I believe we have started from a strong position, as all our colleagues are equipped with laptops to ensure mobility. As part of our BCP routine, we used to have employees working from home by rotation and testing that connections and systems work and are updated properly. For us, the transition to a mass work from home was not a huge undertaking, but rather a confirmation that what we were doing already paid off.
What are your company’s top 5 priorities in this period?
The top priority is to keep people safe, without doubt. The second is to make sure that the operations are not impacted in any way. Another priority and key element are frequent and transparent communication with both the employees and our main stakeholders, to provide clarity on where we are and how the company is handling the current situation. A fourth priority is preparing for the return to the office in a safe manner. The leadership team has dedicated time to establish in high detail how we will organize our teams and the office space in order to make sure that our colleagues have a safe environment to work in. Last but not least, a fifth priority is long-term planning and adjusting to a new environment where we will combine, in a balanced way, work from home with in-off work.
What were your challenges and how did you overcome them?
During our mass work from home testing, quite early on, we have encountered a few challenges, like providing additional equipment to certain functions to enable efficient remote work (such as an additional screen). Also, the VPN capacity has been put to the test at certain moments, but with the support of our IT colleagues, it was dealt with swiftly. On the human resources side, the current context gave us the opportunity to find efficient and creative solutions for several topics: smooth onboarding of our newly employed colleagues, even in the virtual environment, or administrative support through digital means are just two examples.
How did you adapt to the new working conditions?
There was a quick adjustment. The operations worked efficiently with minor hick-ups. Of course, the virtual working style is very different, and we had to use extensively the digital tools that we had already, but we did not fully use before. We also needed to have visibility and drive the productivity in a remote working environment. We have established daily huddles with the teams at all levels, as well as leadership meetings and video conferences. A positive experience represented the live virtual townhalls and coffee talk sessions held by the leadership team, where we could reach out to a high number of our colleagues very quickly. This realisation will also change the future interaction with our colleagues, and we foresee an increase in our virtual gatherings.
What will be your company’ first 3 priorities when the lock down is over?
First, we are preparing extensively to return to the office in a controlled manner, ensuring maximum safety for our colleagues. The second is to continue to run the business as usual and deliver high quality services to our stakeholders. Third, we are preparing for a future working model, investigating the possibility to combine high flexibility work from home with in-office work. It is clear to us that we need to change some paradigms and to adapt the model we have used thus far, to the benefit of both the employees and the company.
How did you organize your workspace at home? How does your office look like?
For me personally, the change was not dramatic. I already had in one of my rooms a desk, where I had set up my home office even before this crisis. The change came more from establishing a daily routine with the team, not being able to see them face to face. I like to keep some quiet music in the background – it helps me focus on my thoughts.
How do you stay motivated and productive? – tips & tricks of WFH
I like to make a demarcation between personal time and office time, where possible. I would wake up a bit earlier and either run outside or do some calisthenics in the apartment, or both. Coffee and a large breakfast are a must, when I also get up to date with the latest news. I must admit that often I take a peek at the laptop to see if there are any urgent messages or tasks that I need to take care of before starting the normal working hours. Usually, I do the round calls with my mom and my brother and then I start working.
I feel very productive working from home, and I believe my motivation comes from within. I do not really need many external motivators. I need to be careful to take breaks, get up from the chair regularly, and to plan my me time.
What do you miss from the “old days” when you were at the office?
The human interaction, for sure. Going around the office in the morning and greeting my colleagues is something that I miss. We are still chatting online or video conferencing, but you need at times that face-to-face communication. Also, when I used to have a topic to discuss at length with any of my colleagues, I would walk to their desk and settle it right away. I must admit, however, that the current technology, when used properly, provides a lot of tools that allows me to reach out to my colleagues very effectively, sometimes faster than offline.
How do you personally manage work-life balance during this period?
There is a thin line between work and personal life when working from home, and it is more difficult to manage. Working from home gives me about 2 hours extra time per day that I can spend either working or enjoying my family. This is a valuable time that I treasure. I think planning is very important. It is very easy to get pulled into the whirlwind and soon you realise that the day is gone without attending any of your personal tasks that you wanted to take care of. You need to plan your day, both for your work but also for personal matters, and to stick to the plan.
How do you use in your advantage “the quarantine time”?
From a professional point of view, I believe this quarantine forced us all to think outside the box and change some of the paradigms. Work from home versus in-office work is high on my agenda.
From a personal point of view, it made us all reassess the value of human interaction, of being even closer to our family and friends, to enjoy as much as possible the time spent with the loved ones.
Looking back at the last month, do you have a favourite moment?
Related to work, I could think of several moments, from team’s performance during April to the successes we had in automating some of the processes. From a personal perspective, working with my young son on a creative project he has started was a real fun.
What activities do you enjoy engaging in as a family or by yourself?
I enjoy sports and any outdoor activity. Unfortunately, during the lockdown the opportunities were limited to just running around the block or in-apartment activities, but I had to deal with what I had. I also enjoy cooking for my family and then enjoy the lunch or dinner together. I love spending time with my family, watching a movie or a series, playing games, or even helping with homework.
What habit, mechanism or idea will you preserve for your professional and personal life when quarantine will end?
From a professional perspective, continuing using the online tool as much as possible, not only for communication but also using different collaboration tools, which are valuable whether you work remotely or not. From a personal perspective, planning better my personal time and mix work from home with in-office work in a more efficient manner.