Giulio Medda, CEO of Office Depot SSC
Tell us about what happened with you & your company in the first weeks of this crisis
The current crisis presented a lot of challenges for companies all around the world, Office Depot SSC included. But I think that what’s impressive is the way it enabled some remarkable quick thinking and outstanding teamwork, things that were essential in response to the crisis. As soon as we acknowledged the imminent crisis, we implemented the best-known guidelines available, while closely monitoring global health guides. The first preventative measure we took to minimize the risk was placing hand sanitizers at key points, while implementing a very strict daily cleaning program at the end of the workday. We also advised self-isolation for those who have returned from affected countries and started to plan the work from home procedure for all our employees.
What are your company’ top 5 priorities in this period?
The top priority is taking care of our people, so everything revolves around this concept. This crisis reinforces the fact that the efforts of employees and the loyalty of customers are what will see a company through these extraordinary time. Engaging and enabling the employees, as well as continuing to take care of our customers, as we support business continuity, are some of the top priorities we have. In the light of current events, planning to get back to the office is also on our short list.
What were your challenges and how did you overcome them?
We are witnessing what will surely be remembered as a historic deployment of remote work and digital access to services across every domain. Besides the obvious advantages presented by the situation, we all know that remote work comes with some technical difficulties. Fortunately, we managed to set up the work from home procedure very quickly, making sure that every employee had all the essential tools to manage high-priority tasks from the safety of their own homes.
The most challenging thing for everybody in the first few days of the crisis was the fear of the unknown. The coronavirus news created great uncertainty, and as a result, there was a desire for honesty, guidance, and making sense out of what has happened. In this situation, it was crucial to supply a transparent communication channel for the employees across the business, to make sure they are well- informed. Also, the team leaders played a big role in supporting their teams in any way possible, to make this abrupt transition as smooth as possible.
How did you adapt to the new working conditions?
As I have worked in multinational companies all my life, with people all across the world, I got used to relying on technology in order to stay in touch with people from different locations. I think it’s amazing how technology has enabled companies to offer us the flexibility of working from home, and that means that even in the midst of a global crisis, we were still able to carry on productively, with limited impact, in a secure and collaborative way.
How did you organize your workspace at home? How does your office look like?
I believe that the best thing that you can do is to keep professional and personal obligations from melding together, as much as possible. Having a dedicated workspace with an office set up is essential to anyone who works at home. When setting your home office, it helps to make the room look like an actual office, with a proper desk and armchair and having all the needed technology at hand. By doing this, I tried to recreate the professional, yet relaxing atmosphere we have at Office Depot.
How do you stay motivated and productive? – tips & tricks of WFH
I manage to stay productive by treating every work from home day as an office day. If you set out clear objectives for the day ahead, you are more likely to stay focused and achieve your self-imposed deadlines. It’s also important to keep up your morale and team meetings are a great way to do that.
What do you miss from the “old days” when you were at the office?
The things I miss the most are the friendly faces and the cheerful greetings that used to welcome me at Office Depot. I still communicate often, if not more often than before with my team, but the human connection and the office atmosphere are definitely things I miss.
How do you personally manage work-life balance during this period?
It’s crucial to allow yourself time to rest and recuperate. It’s important to remember to log out, even if most times it is nearly impossible, as there are always things to take care of. As I am a family oriented person, the time spent with them gives me energy and helps me concentrate even better on my work. My wife and daughter are great time keepers and they make sure I close the office when it’s time to close.
How do you use in your advantage “the quarantine time”?
The quarantine, alongside and the travelling ban, actually worked pretty well for myself. It’s been a long time since I was able to spend so much time with my family and live a sort of regular life, so I try to take full advantage of it. Taking small breaks and playing with my daughter or helping her with homework can refill my energy levels and bring a positive turn to a normally stressful day.
Looking back at the last month, do you have a favourite moment?
The best moment was the day we had everybody safely working from home. It was a very stressful period for everybody and to see the end of a demanding situation was both mentally relaxing and gave me an energy boost.
What activities do you enjoy engaging in as a family or by yourself?
I am lucky enough to have a garden at home so I can enjoy gardening and sport.
What habit, mechanism or idea will you preserve for your professional and personal life when quarantine will end?
One of the habits I will be preserving for the post-quarantine life is to keep a clear line between working time and personal time.
What will be your company’ first 3 priorities when the lock down is over?
To return from widespread quarantine to some semblance of normal is still a giant unknown for everybody, but what can be certain is that the the safety and well-being of the employees will remain the top priority. We will ensure the safest possible environment for returning to work, as well as making a smooth readjustment to office work.