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Challenges of Working From Home

Deepak Gupta

Product Manager at Amadeus

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Problem

During the pandemic, work from home has been a blessing for some and a curse for others. As a product manager, where I have to create something while nobody is telling me what to do, I can sometimes take a hit. At times, you need to find a source of inspiration, which is occasionally a function of the environment you might be a part of. A typical office scene for me was walking into my super dynamic team in the morning, huddled up with engineers on the floor, and discussing something passionately that they wanted to work on. I miss that!

If someone is not a self-motivated person, i.e., they do have no clue about why they are doing what they are doing, it could take a toll on you. An excellent example of such a situation would be someone asking you a question about the product, you know the answer, and responding a few minutes in responding to the email. However, subconsciously, that is all done with a low amount of involvement. That is when people need to start challenging themselves and not get caught up in the mundane and the tactical stuff. Ultimately, that would not move the needle to augment our product performance. So, are all the hopes lost for the remote PMs?

One more aspect of remote work for us is employee attrition. At the office, it all narrows down to two different reasons to stay with the company that you might be working for:

  • The quality of work that one is doing.
  • The quality of people that one works with.

In the case of remote work, it all comes down to work itself. You might come up with different kinds of interaction with your colleagues at the office pantry or even while taking the elevator. It is non-existent in the case of remote work. Interactions are driven by a specific reason with co-workers, where all they talk about is work. Imagine those 10-minute breaks you had in-between meetings when you could look around and informally connect with one another through small talks. Till date, there has not been any substitute for such rapport.

Actions taken

Luckily, our management was pretty flexible. They reviewed the situation and came up with an accommodating work-from-home policy that would work for all. We even developed a hybrid model, whereby everyone would come to the office for 2 days, while the alternate days would be home-office.

I understood the depth of the pandemic situation when my father went through a 17-day ordeal at the hospital. Since we were not allowed to see him inside the hospital, we would get all the updates from time to time. I passed on any detail such as medicine names, injections, or where people might find empty hospital beds to my team members. I believed that being their manager was one of my duties to pass on important information in such a dire situation.

My team size had a cutdown by 40 - 60 percent overnight in the travel and hospitality sector. We had huge layoffs within the company, which created massive insecurity among the existing staff members. Starting from our capacity, we had a considerable budget constraint. Things became more about, if we don’t do this, will that be a survival risk? Instead of what are the benefits of implementing such features at this point? If not, then we would not proceed in that direction.

Nonetheless, I would ensure that none of my team members were overworked. Consistent online research has shown that remote workers were working longer hours. Even though productivity has also increased, there was no doubt that many were working outside of their usual working hours. Some had kids at home that they needed to handle, while others had other responsibilities for which they were slacking on some of their office work, but I made sure that none of them felt overworked through regular meetings and interactions.

Lessons learned

  • Appreciate the little things while they last. Also, find something to enjoy and send it to them at the right time. It will help in focusing on what sustains and nurtures you in life.
  • Sometimes the question is not about whether it is possible, but whether you have enough motivation to do something. While none of us had imagined that we would encounter the work-from-home situation, since it did, every one of us found our solutions and motivation to work towards a better tomorrow.
  • Building trust with your team members is super important. Employees are adults, and they are aware of the goals and targets that they need to work towards. Instead of reinforcing duties on them, it would be nicer to leave them with specific tasks, especially during the chaotic pandemic.

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Deepak Gupta

Product Manager at Amadeus


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