It’s been over six months since employees across the world began working from their homes because of the pandemic. It’s been a new way of doing things — with work, childcare, pet care, families, household chores, fitness attempts, and more thrown into the same ring. While some took to it instantly, for many, it was a learning curve. In this story, Flipsters talk about the early days, the hits and misses, the a-ha moments and creating something as massive as The Big Billion Days remotely.
In this story: Flipsters talk about the balancing act of working from home, especially during The Big Billion Days.
Going virtual from Day 1!
Senior Manager, Talent Branding
Pallavi Nanda is a Senior Manager in the Talent Branding team. Her job requires constant collaboration with numerous teams, both at Flipkart and outside of it. She moved to Bengaluru in March 2020 to join Flipkart, just as the mandatory work from home directives were put in place for the safety of our employees. Read how she takes on a new workplace, new people, new challenges and a new city, all from her home.
On working from home since joining Flipkart
I joined Flipkart in March and I have not seen any of my team members in person yet. Even my induction was virtual. When the pandemic started and I was moving here, I thought that in some time I could go to the office – and I was looking forward to that. But in the interest of safety, that did not happen. There were hiccups, of course. It was a new city, new people, new job and I didn’t know anyone! Meeting people physically really helps you integrate with a new team. But I didn’t have that choice. However, after some initial hiccups, it’s gone surprisingly well.
The kinds of projects that I’m doing — all focus on showcasing Flipkart as an employer of choice — needs me to meet many people and collaborate with multiple teams across the organization to really feel the pulse of the company. But I quickly found that people at Flipkart are approachable, supportive, and always ready to help you out. I was initially worried, but my fears were put to rest because of this.
On the upside of working from home!
I can spend a lot of time with my little one. My son is three-and-a-half years old now so it’s also a blessing in disguise. My husband’s work also required him to travel a lot, but he is also home more now.
On the Flipkart culture that enables flexibility
The kind of care that Flipkart has taken, especially in relation to the wellness of its employees, has been phenomenal. There are many initiatives for us at any given point of time and that really helps. Through all of this, my manager has been very supportive and empathetic. If I feel that I’m stretched, I just have to talk to her and she extends her support. If you know that someone genuinely cares, that makes all the difference.
On her support system at home and how they help
I’m blessed that I stay with my in-laws. Initially we didn’t have any help at all, so everyone was pitching in, be it in taking care of my son or doing the household chores. It’s not like I or my mother-in-law had to do all of it. When you have a support system such as this at home, it also makes things on the work front smoother.
On boundaries between the personal and the professional
When you’re at work, you’re at work and you don’t need to take care of anything else actively as such. If these were normal times and we were working from the office, I would have enrolled my son in daycare. One of the things that have helped us draw the line between our lives at work and at home is planning our days. My husband and I plan our days with precision. For example, we make sure that both of us are not in meetings at the same time. We also set aside time for chores and make sure that we all pitch in. For me, I use some late night hours to get to something that I may not have been able to do during the day. We also ensure that we take a break. Every evening my son and I go for a walk for at least an hour.
On the importance of self-care and mental health
Work From Home can get exhausting. At the office, you can just reach out to someone sitting next to you and chat about work or anything else. That’s not a readily available option when you’re at working from home. I make sure that I reach out to my husband, because sometimes you just need to talk it out! I also try and find some balance and time to take it easy. For me meditation really helps.
Right now, I’m also taking out time to just switch off and maybe watch a show. I’m currently watching Emily In Paris as it’s fun and lighthearted! One of my passions is painting so my son and I also paint together.
With a little help from my dogs
Ritesh Savio Rodrigues
Assistant Manager, Social Media, Customer Experience.
Ritesh Savio Rodrigues leads a team of executives who handle Flipkart customer queries on social media. An animal lover, he lives with a friend and two dogs in Bengaluru, and takes care of over 15 street dogs near his locality. Here, he speaks about coordinating with a team of over 170 from home, the importance of mental health during a pandemic, and the age-old adage of ‘Be careful what you wish for!’
On the early days of working from home
I’ve always wanted to work from home. Now that my wish has come true, well – there is the good and the bad! One of our initial biggest challenges was that as Customer Experience, we are not a function that ideally works from home. But because of the pandemic, we had to shift our entire network so that Customer Support agents and the team could all safely work from their homes and hometowns. And because we have people in various places across India and even those from the Bengaluru teams had gone home, it was a massive logistical exercise. But we were able to pull it off, and now it’s been going on smoothly.
On the best thing about WFH
The upside is that I no longer have to deal with Bengaluru traffic! It used to take me about an hour to get to the office. I can now use that time for something else and plan my day accordingly.
On the remote Big Billion Days sale
This is my first Big Billion Days sale and I was really, really looking forward to the vibe and energy in the office that I have heard so much about during this time. I know that I would have loved it! There are many challenges when you’re working on something so big remotely — like managing people who report to me or even power cuts in team member’s houses across India. This is not in your control.
But the most helpful thing is that people in my team have been very understanding and help each other out in such situations. We are a team of over 170 – so physical connect is very important. But since we don’t have that now, everything is virtual. New joinees are inducted online, training sessions are also held online. I think there was a learning curve but we’re doing well now.
On the importance of mental well-being
During the lockdown, it was a very stressful time, especially for team members who were from out of town. Many of them had to vacate the Paying Guest accommodations that they were living in. Getting approvals to travel, finding a new place — it was a lot especially during a pandemic. There were also people who had lost loved ones because of the pandemic or during the time. Add to it, we were all isolated. It can affect people very badly.
We made sure that there was counselling available for everyone, should they feel the need to reach out and talk to someone. I have a support system at home, but not everybody does. So, as a manager, it was very important for me to give my team support and help in any way that I could, however small it might be. Even if they needed to take some time off, and come back healthy and happy.
On the comfort that pets can provide in challenging times
I live with a friend and two dogs. Both my dogs are rescues — a 13-year-old Beagle (a Freagle who was rescued from a testing facility) and 9-year-old Beagle. I also take care of 15-20 street dogs every day. Animals can be of a lot of help during this time, especially dogs. They always live in the present — my beagle was in a testing lab for years, but right here right now, he’s happy. There’s so much you can learn from that. They teach you to be in the present moment, no matter what, and take it one day at a time.
On finding a way to balance work and life
I know my responsibilities at work — any small mistake, and it affects the company. That’s why for me, work takes priority. If there are days when I have to stay until 12 am, I do it. I also know that does not happen too often. Working from home also means that things take time. You can’t just walk up to someone and say ‘Hey, this needs to be done. Let’s get it done quickly.’
One of the things that has really helped me is creating a routine for myself. It helps me get some personal time and ensures that I’m not in front of the computer for long periods of time.
On finding the right stress-busters
I think something that anyone can relate to during this period is putting on weight because we tend to stay indoors and stationery for long hours. I’ve made sure to find time to exercise and go for a run. I’ve managed to lose some weight and it works as a great stress-buster! I also just like to stream shows online so I can just switch off and disengage.
The power of empathy
Manager, Corporate Affairs
Priyanka Serrao is a Manager with the Corporate Affairs team. She swears by schedules that are planned down to the minute on her calendar. But working from home, she says, has enabled her to become more flexible and prepared for anything to change. She lives in Bengaluru with her husband who is a ‘master chef’ in the kitchen. Here, she talks about taking constant change in her stride!
On the best things about working from home
For me, working from home has allowed me to become flexible. I’m someone who lives by schedule. I love planning, calendarizing and setting things up in advance. I’d say I’m process-driven and creative at the same time.
Working from home has prepared me for anything to change! I’m learning how to be more flexible – plans change, priorities change. I think I’ve identified another part of myself. My job comes with dynamic and often volatile situations. So this is definitely going to be a positive for me.
On the challenges of working from home
Pre-pandemic, work was in the office – there was that space and time dedicated to just that. Now, all of your lives are merging – your bed is there, your workspace right near it, your chores just a few steps away. But I’ve found that prioritizing helps. You need to make sure you do justice to each part of it.
On a TBBD that’s remote
I think it’s important to set up a support system that not just keeps you going, but also keeps your spirits high. At home, I set up time to talk about exciting aspects of The Big Billion Days. When we were in the office, it was a lot about the experience of The Big Billion Days. It was about brainstorming and collaborating with peers. I try to reinvent that in some way, virtually.
I also make sure to maintain relationships with my team, manager and stakeholders that’s outside of work and not just transactional.
On home, that’s beyond work
I live with my husband in Bengaluru. We’ve been together for 10 years now, but the lockdown and being at home constantly gives it a whole other dimension. I’m an extrovert and I like maintaining a steady stream of communication. My husband understands that and makes sure that I’m not in front of the computer endlessly and that we make time for something beyond work.
And it also turns out that he has a hidden Master Chef in him! Our help left for her hometown in the beginning of the lockdown and has not come back. So we take care of meals and chores ourselves and have some messy but fun cooking sessions in the kitchen!
My husband is a reminder for me to stay on track. And that I prioritize and check on myself regularly and basically make sure I’m not in a zombie zone!
On the one thing that’s the need of the hour
While understanding the importance of mental health is key, it is also imperative to take action proactively. Don’t wait until you are completely stressed out to do something about it. Understand your triggers and what works and does not work for you.
Sometimes, something as simple as taking a step back, taking a breath and realizing there’s more to life than a current situation helps. Having said that, I think empathy is the need of the hour. There’s a lot to be learned from the power of empathy.
Being Human in the WFH Loop
Assistant Manager, Human in the Loop operations, Catalog
Tabassum is an Assistant Manager, Human in the Loop operations, Catalog team, who spends considerable time helpfully clearing misconceptions about Machine Learning. Originally from Nepal, she’s been in Bengaluru for longer than she can remember and lives in the city with her parents and her pet turtle Trixie. Here she talks about learning to recognize and deal with stress, routine and reaching out to people.
On being home and away amid a pandemic
You can say I am from Bengaluru. I moved here years ago during my schooling but my family is from Nepal. I stayed with my family but during the pandemic, they moved back to Nepal. My father is a paralysis patient and we thought it was safer for him there. While my parents were here, my mother was of great help. She would make sure I got enough sleep, had my meals on time, ensured that my nephew would not play the TV too loud while I was in a meeting – she would really help with the smallest things that would add up to be of huge help.
On overcoming challenges
The first week of working from home was fun because it’s something we all want to do. But from the second week onwards, I was also alone at home, I began to feel anxious and realized I needed to do something about it.
We often take time and routine for granted – we sleep whenever, eat our meals at odd times. I changed that. I brought in a routine to my day – I woke up earlier, ate on time. I worked out every day. I also began to plan my days ahead. I’m a very social person — I love going out and meeting my friends and just socializing. But since that was not an option amid the pandemic, I began to connect with family and friends on video calls and phones. These changes really helped me adapt to a new normal.
On a silver lining
It definitely was a challenge but that time really helped in a way – I got into fitness, I began planning and I was a lot more mindful of the way I was spending my time. You tend to spill your work into off-work hours, not because someone has asked you to, but because you’re working from and everything else is also in the same place and within reach. Plus, you can’t really go out because of the pandemic!
But it was a lot of good learning for me. I defined boundaries and structured my day in such a way that I get done with work by 6.30 pm at the maximum. Before, if there are notifications, I would address it immediately even though I didn’t have to. But I leave it for the next day if it is not urgent. I’m glad that at Flipkart I have the liberty and flexibility to work at my convenience. There is the understanding and trust that enables me to do that.
On the wisdom of turtles
I have a turtle named Trixie. Turtles as pets aren’t exactly there for you to cuddle or play with but they get habituated to you. I take time out to spend with them, clean him and feed him. Pets are like therapy.
On reaching out
A lot of us live on our own and it can be tough during this time. My team is my greatest support right now – if I feel low, I talk to them. It’s important to have a healthy body and a mind. Take a deep breath, get some air. And if you aren’t able to help yourself, try to reach out to someone if you can.
Laughter, Chai, and the Wheel of Life
Associate Director, Strategy & Business Transformation Team
Rajat Jain is Associate Director, Strategy and Business Transformation team. A firm believer in routine and balance in life, he also writes about mindfulness and leadership on his personal blog. Here, he talks about the best, the worst and finding the WFH sweet spot.
On the early days of WFH
Initially it was a feeling of saving the commute time and being more productive though I wasn’t sure lockdown would stay for so long. After a few months or so I started missing the coffee/tea breaks with colleagues and catch-ups. The best thing about WFH is you can spend more time with your family members and kids.
The worst thing? At times, your routine gets disturbed unless you consciously plan your days and adhere to it. In a few months of lockdown, I realized that my weight increased, a sedentary lifestyle led me to feel a bit irritated at times and that affected my wheel of life. Now I am coming back!
On managing #TBBD from home
Flipkart has great minds and great people. People at Flipkart have values embedded in them — be it Audacity, Bias for Action, Customer First, Ownership, Respect with Work Ethics. We have also been adaptive to challenging times in the past.
When you are working with great people with great attitudes and values, managing big-scale projects such as The Big Billion Days is never a challenge.
On an organization that prioritizes wellness
I love the ‘Bite-sized Wellness’ virtual sessions organized by Flipkart for employees. I keep going there, doing yoga, laughter therapies, music and the other themes. I hope these sessions continue after the lockdown is over as well.
I heard from the Laughter mentor that 20 minutes of laughter is equal to 2.5 hours spent on the treadmill. Well, these sessions have helped me a lot in bringing me back from the sedentary lifestyle that I was experiencing at the beginning of lockdown.
The regular ‘chai pe charcha’ with teams and managers also cools you down. It’s important to have the catch ups and discuss IPL or things other than work.
On learning from his son
My support system has been quite supportive. My 10-year-old son initially taught me the zoom features – how to change your background pictures, etc. and a few other cool tips that he is learning from his school online classes!
On the elements of success
It’s important to manage your day’s routine. The routine requires all the elements
linked to the Wheel of Life — Physical, Spiritual, Emotional, Mental and Passion. It again depends upon person to person. For me if any element is missing, it affects my day, my energy and my performance.
I start my day by waking up early at 5 am, meditation, yoga, 30 minutes of reading or writing (my passion area), then I sit at my workstation. Evening is the family time, watching some science fiction movie or Netflix series or playing board games. These days I watch IPL with my family. I would say, It’s critical to manage your day’s routine.
On passion projects
I read and I write. I love reading non-fiction books, sometimes fiction as well though I prefer if the ‘non-fiction content’ is packaged into ‘fiction story’ format.
I also keep writing blogs on ‘Mindfulness’ or ‘Leadership’ or any new thing I learned and feel like sharing it with my friends and family.
For me, reading and writing is a kind of therapy and it relaxes me. I am reading an awesome book right now and would recommend it here. The book is called The Miracle Morning – 6 Habits that will transform your life before 8 AM, by Hal Elrod.
I would say 30 minutes in a day, do something you always wanted to do (your passion project). It could be either singing or dancing or writing or reading, painting or anything else. The 30 minutes spent on your morning routine will bring you happiness the whole day.
Watch this space for more WFH stories by Flipsters!