Bogdan Gherasim is Head of Financial Shared Services at Vertiv.
Tell us about what happened with you & your company VERTIV in the first weeks of this crisis.
The best way I can put this is paradoxically. Somehow the first weeks feel like a lifetime ago, while I perfectly remember the days when the events were unfolding. It’s like one of those moments in history when you know exactly what you were doing when it happened. We are privileged as a company, in the sense that the ecosystem we’ve built in the last year helped us adapt to these sudden changes. We had just deployed a new collaboration platform and its perks certainly helped the transition. I’d say we are well positioned to weather the current pandemic and continue providing the critical products and services needed to keep data flowing and people connected – especially as we’re all working remotely.
What are your company’ top 5 priorities in this period?
Safety is the main priority. We’re helping ensure business continuity while keeping the health and safety of our employees and customer first and foremost in our minds. We’ve taken numerous steps, heeding the advice and direction of CDC and other health agencies, to keep everyone safe. On the communication front, we’ve increased the frequency of our touchpoints. For example, our town halls are bi-weekly now. At the start of the year, we had settled on a quarterly schedule. Working remotely can be filled with distractions, so keeping a reasonable level of engagement throughout the teams was essential.
What were your challenges and how did you overcome them?
In the short-term, I missed the outdoors. Jogging with my friends and going to the gym or to the coffee shop down the street are activities that feed the social animal in me. It was hard to let them go. In time, I adjusted by running a few laps around the block and rope skipping or exercising at home. One month in, I’ll admit I was starting to get tired of working in the same office space. It had become unavoidable and even when I wanted to detach from it, the PC was still in sight. Opening one more e-mail was just one small step away. I eventually had to ask my girlfriend to hide my PC after I stepped away from it only to retrieve it in the morning. In all seriousness, I set some ground rules and tried to uphold them to the best of my human nature.
How did you organize your workspace at home? How does your office look like?
It is an open space, in the living room, but I have a desk with a monitor and docking station, providing more than I need. When I look for a breath of fresh air, the balcony is also accessible, with a decent view. I had been working remotely for longer periods in the previous years, so I designed my workspace with this requirement in mind.
How do you stay motivated and productive? – tips & tricks of WFH
Set up the basics, but not necessarily a home office. Having the proper IT equipment and a comfortable chair is the key. I keep a rubber band and a wooden stick around to stretch and straighten my back. I’m not a fan of dressing up, but I understand those who do. These are unprecedented times, so choose whatever feels comfortable. Showing up for a call in a suit and tie or a t-shirt are both acceptable. With everyone working remotely, the number of emails has become a problem. As much as we want to limit the links in an e-mail chain, everyone wants to say their part, so I try to filter the e-mail chain more efficiently and focus more on the more recent ones.
In all fairness, productivity during lockdown has been relatively high, despite the challenging business climate. We stayed optimistic while preparing for better days and keeping everyone fully informed of our plans.
What do you miss from the “old days” when you were at the office?
I miss talking to my colleagues and looking in their eyes. That is the type of rapport that tools like Teams, Skype or Zoom cannot replace.
How do you personally manage work-life balance during this period?
It has been a journey. I started off from being glued to my remote desk to figuring out the formula. Times like this stimulate, and even force, creativity. You’d be amazed with the number of ideas you can come up with to be more productive and embrace the personal time. I mentioned some of them above. Whether you’re a reader, a streamer, or a podcaster, there are still appealing non-work-related activities out there. Last week was heavy, so I swept the dust off my PS4 and finally started God of War (the new one, since 2019). From Saturday 10 am until midnight, I could not let the joystick go. Big win for the ‘Life’ team.
How do you use in your advantage “the quarantine time”?
I virtually let people in my living room. If there’s something good that my time in quarantine brought, it was a more real connection with people. Inevitably someone’s kid or pet pops up on the screen, or you see a cool-looking poster on someone’s wall, and you realize you have more in common with that person than you knew.
Looking back at the last month, do you have a favourite moment?
The first time I went for a longer jog, I ran for 5 km from my place to the Free Press Square. I felt a bit like Tom Cruise in that deserted Times Square scene in Vanilla Sky. Knowing the restless side of Bucharest, it was unique to see the peaceful one as well.
What habit, mechanism or idea will you preserve for your professional and personal life when quarantine will end?
I’ll continue the approach for the long e-mail chains. MS Teams and its integrated applications grew on me, so I’ll keep reaping its benefits.
What will be your company’ first 3 priorities when the lock down is over?
Safety first. We would not expose anyone to unnecessary risks. I mentioned earlier that we have a sound ecosystem, but it can be improved. Creating a more flexible one, including a review of our work-from-home policy is on the agenda. And when the time is right, getting everyone together for a few drinks, laughs and tears (of joy, of course).