The biggest learning from the lockdown is 'do more from less and be lean', says Bansal
The lockdown triggered by the coronavirus is into its 38th day and entrepreneurs, the original hustlers, have had to make plenty of changes to their daily routine to adapt to working from home (WFH). Their daily schedules have been disrupted and their long drawn out meetings have been replaced by video calls. Not to mention the stress of a looming economic slowdown and pressure from investors.
Moneycontrol looks at how a scrum of business leaders is dealing with these fast-changing times. In today’s edition of Virtual Leaders, M Sriram speaks to Abhishek Bansal, the co-founder and CEO of logistics firm Shadowfax.
You can read other editions of Virtual Leaders here.
Edited excerpts from the interview:
Q: What does your average day look like now, given your normal routine has been disrupted?
A: The lockdown has crafted a new routine for all of us but a disciplined schedule is a must to get work done. It helps me keep track of all that needs to be achieved in the course of a day without losing out on any critical issue.
I start my day with meditation and some exercise for my daily dose of physical activity, which is followed by a quick catch up with the team. I try to do my best to help with the household chores in between calls and have realised this is the most I have ever helped around the house. Although my wife continues to draw my attention to the late working hours and how work from home is keeping me further busy and the time spent together has reduced, as work continues till late evening.
Q: How do you manage your office teams and how are you keeping them motivated? Can you share some unique experiences you have had during this time?
A: At Shadowfax, we have embraced the new normal rather seamlessly as the day begins with a joint video call with all the functional leaders where we set priorities of the day and discuss matters that need attention. Teams hold their morning catch-up to set the tone of the day with their respective leaders. Regular calls and e-meetings also help me connect with folks and gauge their unspoken concerns which are equally important to be addressed, more now given the situation.
We also witnessed a 100 percent surge and movement as we integrated Shadowfax on a business communication platform early into the lockdown-- within three days, we got 400 members on board. This was done to avoid using personal chat platforms for work.
We just celebrated our fifth anniversary virtually over a video conference with over 500+ team members logged in to share their joy, memories and witness performances by each other. In the last five years, we have not only grown in success but also in people and creativity. Employee engagement and connect at Shadowfax is a key mandate to the human resources team and we take it very seriously. This applies not only to our corporate teams but also to our on-ground teams of delivery partners--we pride ourselves on having continued our training, huddles and catch-up with our partners virtually throughout the lockdown period.
Q: Do you e-socialise with your teams outside work, given all of your colleagues might be remote?
A: Yes, we celebrated Shadowfax’s fifth anniversary with an online party-- it is one of the biggest gatherings I have attended during the lockdown or otherwise! We even had external talent perform for us, which included a live stand-up comedy act and a live concert by a YouTube singing star. Our HR department has taken it upon itself to ensure that we are working from home but still connected by bringing teams together--be it a panel discussion, workshops or a musical. We have been having fun quizzes and challenges every evening and exchange general banter to de-stress and interact with each other.
Q: Now that you are working from home, how much time do you spend with family? Any activity that you take up regularly with your family and enjoy it?
A: The lockdown has changed quite a few things and it is paramount to strike a balance between work and home while working from home. Work has been uninterrupted and goes on seamlessly--thanks to technology and efficient teams.
But, staying at home does give you time to spend with the family more than before. Considering the business we are in, we are watching all the updates really closely to keep agile and move with the regulations as and when they are shaping up. I certainly have managed to catch up on my reading and ended up watching a few movies long due on our watchlist with the family.
Q: Did you have a separate workstation at home or you had to set one because of the lockdown?
A: I have a dedicated space for work at my home. As entrepreneurs, we usually work late at night and at times, we work from home. My workspace was already set up with an ergonomic workstation, that is a huge blessing now that I am spending hours in that space.
Q: Is there a hobby that you gave up because of work but have picked up again over the last few weeks?
A: Not really, but like I said, this period has given me time to catch up on my reading. My reading has again picked up pace. I am happy to be reading a book every week. I do miss playing sports--I have always made time for a game of football, squash or tennis almost every single day into my routine prior to the lockdown. I am sure the team misses our football and badminton club and our regular sports practice sessions to prepare for our quarterly sports event at Shadowfax called Shaolympics
Q: Did you manage to catch up with an old friend or a relative, someone who has not been in touch with you?
A: Work from home is still working and given that we still follow our office routine across the board at Shadowfax - keeps us occupied like just another day at work only you are not in the office.
But COVID has given all of us a strong reason to reach out and reconnect with our friends across the globe--and it has done the same for me. I, too, have managed to reach out to friends and family to check in on them during these challenging times to generally catch up. We are social beings at the end of it all and a good conversation, reminiscing good memories, puts us all in a happy mood in these times.
Q: What is that one big management learning you have gained during the lockdown?
A: Shadowfax has innovation and agility rooted deep in its organisational culture and the lockdown has given us the time to put both of those to practice. Now more than ever being a technologically driven enterprise has paid off.The lesson I have taken away from the forced lockdown is: do more from less, be lean. The last few weeks have made us realise the importance of a strong business, continuity plan for times like these. Also, it has allowed us to rethink and learn new ways of functioning as a team!