Working From Home Daily

A daily update on how WFH is changing our lives and how best to deal with the unanticipated challenges it is throwing up. April 7 edition: Beware the second arrow, listen to people, embrace tech

Founding Fuel

[Photo by Daria Shevtsova from Pexels]

Good morning,

What were your first thoughts when you realised that you will be working from home for an extended period of time? Did you think you will be saving a lot of time because, after all, you don’t need to commute, you don’t need to walk around, and you don’t need to wait in conference rooms? And when exactly did you realise that your work expanded not just to fill, but overflow, the available time? If you are still struggling to manage your time, here’s something worth thinking about. Maybe you are trying to manage the wrong thing. What you have to manage is not time, but energy. The energy that allows you to focus more, and get things done faster and better. Which means, you might have to set less time on work, and use that for physical exercises, meditation, and having fun with family members. 

Have a fantastic week ahead.  

Beware the ‘second arrow’

In Day 2 of Vijay Bhat’s 7-day plan to cultivate resilience in a crisis, Bhat quotes this idea from Buddhist teachings:

“The ‘first arrow’ is the pain caused by the event itself (the sudden shock of the lockdown).

“The ‘second arrow’ is the suffering caused by how our mind processes the event (fear and anxiety about the loss of normalcy). It is said that pain is universal i.e. everyone feels it, while suffering is optional i.e. you can choose your response.”

What you can do: Complete your Presence Practice. On a sheet of paper, create two columns. On the left (first arrow), capture the facts—what is actually happening/changing in your life? On the right (second arrow), note down your feelings—what are you experiencing in your body, and what stories or scenarios is your mind spinning? Just separating the facts from the feelings will give you a greater sense of taking charge of yourself and the situation. Perhaps some new and unexpected options will emerge.

ICYMI: Day 1 Practice

Listen to people

In February, we had a masterclass on navigating the great Indian slowdown. Some of the lessons that emerged from the discussion are very relevant to the pandemic-induced crisis we are facing today. Here are three takeaways. 

  • A top-down, centrally-controlled approach won’t work—especially in a country as diverse as India that has unique local challenges. Each city needs its own solutions.
  • This is a complex system that needs adaptive solutions with some basic rules. Let local solutions emerge. A live example of this is societal platforms. 
  • To enable local systems solutions, we must listen to real people about their very real problems.

We are listening. Anmol Shrivastava’s story on an experiment in Satara went viral, and we had some heartening feedback. There were also two recurring questions. 

  • Will small farmers be able to sustain this direct-to-home strategy post the lockdown? How do they hope to enjoy the patronage of customers after the lockdown is lifted?
  • Disintermediation isn’t easy. Will the middleman strike back? And will the farmers be able to tackle the vested interests in the local mandi system? What support does the government and the administration need to provide for small farmers to get their fair share?

Dig deeper

India is hurting. Why? What next?

The Satara uprising

Embrace technology

Here’s a cartoon from 1900 that says something about resistance to new technology.

What tech that instils fear today will become commonplace tomorrow? Share it with us on mail. Or post on Twitter, and tag us @foundingf. Or join our Slack channel and post it there. If you aren’t there already, here is the invite code

Bookmark Founding Fuel’s special section on Thriving in Volatile Times. All our stories on how individuals and businesses are responding to the pandemic until now are posted there. 

Warm regards,

Team Founding Fuel 

April 6: Access your Presence, think long term, and dress up 

Good morning,

From today, for the next seven days, we have Vijay Bhat guiding us on building resilience. Bhat worked in various leadership positions for Ogilvy & Mather, a global advertising agency in the first 25 years of his career. In 2001, he was diagnosed with colon cancer. After successful surgery, he decided against chemotherapy and turned to a holistic and integrated approach. He pioneered cancer coaching in India with the vision “Many millions must survive; one million must thrive”. His book, My Cancer Is Me: The Journey from Illness to Wholeness, published in 2013 captures his life story. He is now a highly sought after leadership coach and consultant for blue-chip companies. 

We are fortunate to have him guiding us through these stressful days. 

Have a fantastic week ahead.  

Bend, not break

How do you cultivate resilience in a crisis? Vijay Bhat says:

“Aesop’s Fables tells the tale of how a great storm toppled the mighty oak, while the lowly reed survived. ‘Bend, not break’ is the obvious lesson. Which is relevant in the current storm we are facing.

“Business leaders need to maintain stability and innovate rapidly. How can you do that if you are churned up inside?   

“In any crisis, resilience is the first and foundational quality that leaders need. Resilience arises from the internal state of ‘presence’. It comprises two capacities: Endurance, i.e. the ability to handle the immediate shock, and recovery, i.e. the ability to bounce-back to create a new normal.”

Bhat has a seven-day plan to cultivate resilience. Each takes 20-30 minutes. We’ll post each day’s plan in this newsletter. (It will really help if you start a journal to capture your reflections.)

What you can do on Day 1: Access your ‘Presence’

The eye is the safest place to be in a storm. Similarly, your inner state of presence can ground and centre you amidst the tumult. The five signals of presence are a) even breath; b) clear, calm mind; c) open heart; d) sensitive sonar; and e) energetic induction.

Click Presence Practice to download a 13-minute audio file and practice it daily for 28 days, so that it is embedded in your muscle-memory.

Think long term, invest in human capital

The deeply reported feature by Anmol Shrivastava tells the story of a fascinating experiment going on in Satara, Maharashtra. It’s about how a group of farmers have collaborated to create a direct-to-home delivery model that benefits everyone—even within the constraints of lockdown and physical distancing. Here are two golden quotes from the story.  

“I had told farmers that your primary business is not to sell crops. It is to invest in human capital. This is a great chance not just to serve the residents of Satara during the lockdown, but to address a long-term business opportunity where you can build a direct bond with your customers,” ~ Dr Avinash Pol, a seasoned social worker and dentist

"Corona is making all of us reflect and bring in systems which are for the benefit of the citizens. I think we should not wait for the next virus to again set up such systems. Instead we should continue with the arrangements we have discovered this time so that we are prepared for the next pandemic," ~ Sanchit Dhumal, deputy chief officer and head of the health department at the municipal council

Dig deeper

Dress up

Here’s a cartoon that gave a new meaning to dressing up.

What are your favourite video conference hacks? Share it with us on mail. Or post on Twitter, and tag us @foundingf. Or join our Slack channel and post it there. If you aren’t there already, here is the invite code

Bookmark Founding Fuel’s special section on Thriving in Volatile Times. All our stories on how individuals and businesses are responding to the pandemic until now are posted there. 

Warm regards,

Team Founding Fuel 

April 5: Think in horizons, communicate like Cuomo, and introspect 

Good morning,

One of the many jokes that landed on our WhatsApp during the lockdown went like this: 

Who enabled digital transformation in your company? 

Option A: CEO 

Option B: CTO 

Option C: Coronavirus 

Irrespective of which option you chose, it might be worth thinking about the impact of digital transformation. Is it good, bad, or neutral? One of the big lessons that people learn from implementing big technology projects is that technology is neither good, nor bad, nor is it neutral. What technology does is to amplify the intent and capacity of the existing system. 

In the past two or so weeks you have been working from home, trying out new technologies, adapting to it, do you also feel the amplifying effects of technology? If so, what new truths has technology revealed about the capabilities and culture of your own business? 

This Sunday might be a good time to think about it. 

Here are three things we found interesting. 

Think in horizons

In the part two of his ongoing exploration of how we should shape the new economy in the coming weeks and months, Arun Maira writes we should think of the actions we must take in three horizons: 

H1: Respond swiftly to the medical emergency—best left to a centrally managed campaign.

H2: Enable life to carry on sufficiently and to prevent other deprivations causing harm—keep services open in innovative ways while following the principles of social distancing rigorously.

H3: Make the world more resilient against storms in the future. And more inclusive.

Dig deeper

Communicate like Cuomo

In a tweet, K Ramkumar, founder of Leadership Centre, and a key member of the Founding Fuel network, drew our attention to the communication style of New York governor Andrew Cuomo: “His communication is specific, confident, reassuring, caring & friendly. This signals to others he is in control & knows what he is doing.” 

A New York Times column breaks it down further. Here are three: 

“First, tone and mood. Mr. Cuomo does not hide how serious things are—far from it—but he is calm, composed, polite and authoritative throughout.

Second, hard fact, and detail. The TV screen is split, on one side his face, on the other a presentation that he is clicking through, setting out with simple clear graphics the many facts of the crisis: Deaths. Cases. Testing. Capacity of the health system. Masks. Ventilators. Mr. Cuomo gives detailed area-by-area breakdowns of figures, points out trends, tries to explain them.

Third, empathy. He intersperses the factual presentation with regular sincere thanks to groups and individuals, including Dr. Anthony Fauci, the immunologist who serves on the White House coronavirus task force who has become known the world over for his pained facial expressions as he stands behind President Trump at briefings.”

Dig deeper

Introspect

Here’s something from one of the foremost philosophers of our times:

What’s your favourite Calvin and Hobbes cartoon? Share it with us on mail. Or post on Twitter, and tag us @foundingf. Or join our Slack channel and post it there. If you aren’t there already, here is the invite code

Bookmark Founding Fuel’s special section on Thriving in Volatile Times. All our stories on how individuals and businesses are responding to the pandemic until now are posted there. 

Warm regards,

Team Founding Fuel 

April 4: Anticipate the future, learn from the veterans, and give space to others 

Good morning,

Yesterday, some of us at Founding Fuel had a fascinating conversion with Manish Sabharwal, chairman of Teamlease and a board member at the Reserve Bank of India. One of the many frameworks that he referred to during the one-and-a-half-hour-plus conversation is John Kingdon’s Policy Window framework. Kingdon argues that a policy window opens when three streams come together—the problem stream (people recognise there’s a problem), the policy stream (there are multiple solutions to solve the problem), and the political stream (there’s political will to solve the problem). Sabharwal sees a policy window opening in the aftermath of the lockdown. If it does, what problems will you solve, what solutions will you push?

Have a happy weekend thinking about the future, without taking your eyes off the present.

Here are three things we found interesting. 

Anticipate the future

In his recent piece, Sangeet Paul Choudary (whom Infosys chairman and co-founder Nandan Nilekani once described as ‘the world’s most underrated management guru’ and whose value, however, is now increasingly being recognised the world over) lays out four big shifts as the platform economy takes centre stage in COVID-19.

  • The infrastructural shift will be larger than the immediate shifts to remote work and online streaming. (The biggest long-term winners of remote work aren’t Slack or Zoom. The companies best positioned to win are Microsoft and Amazon.)
  • Platform regulation is almost completely stalled, even as surveillance gets increasingly legitimised; expect deregulation of healthcare data next
  • Big Tech may take over parts of Big Government—it’s still early days, but interesting to watch. (During times of crisis, private firms often step in and take over activities which governments fail to perform.)
  • The dark side of platforms may gain greater ground in a post-COVID-19 world

Dig deeper

(But really, wait for our Masterclass with Sangeet Paul Choudary on Platforms in a post-COVID-19 world, which will explore the ideas mentioned above and more. It will be held on Thursday, April 16. Please wait for more information from us. Join our Slack channel to get early updates.)

Learn from those who have been through it

Texas Monthly has a fascinating feature on a retail chain, H-E-B, which is doing very well when most of its peers are struggling. It is not by accident. Here’s one of the many things they did right.

“Starting in January, we’ve been in close contact with several retailers and suppliers around the world. As this has started to emerge, we’ve been in close contact with retailers in China, starting with what happened in Wuhan in the early couple of months, and what kind of lessons they learned. Over the last couple of months, [we’ve been] in close contact with some of our Italian retailers and suppliers, understanding how things have evolved in Italy and now in Spain, talking to those countries that are ahead of us in the curve. We’ve been in daily contact, understanding the pace and the change and the need for product, and how things have progressed in each of those countries.”

Dig Deeper

Give others some space

We found this image on Twitter.

What else is competing for your space? Tell us about it on mail. Or post on Twitter, and tag us @foundingf. Or join our Slack channel and post it there. If you aren’t there already, here is the invite code

Bookmark Founding Fuel’s special section on Thriving in Volatile Times. All our stories on how individuals and businesses are responding to the pandemic until now are posted there. 

Warm regards,

Team Founding Fuel 

April 3: Take care of your team, think in phases, and be in the right zone 

Good morning,

In the book Fool’s Gold, a fascinating account of the global financial crisis, journalist Gillian Tett writes about a revelatory moment of an analyst who was looking at numbers to understand the risk of the home loan securities. His ‘aha’ moment was he didn’t have enough data to even quantify the risk. Gerd Gigerenzer, who has deeply studied the history of probability, and has done immense research on gut feelings, says it’s important to distinguish between ‘risk’ and ‘uncertainty’. You are dealing with risk when you know all the alternatives, outcomes, and their probabilities. You are dealing with uncertainty when you don’t know what these are. When you are dealing with risk, mathematical modelling might work. When you are dealing with uncertainty, you have to go by instinct, gut feeling, and simple rules. 

It’s clear we are dealing with uncertainty now. What does your gut say?

Here are three things we found interesting. 

Take care of your team

in Harvard Business Review, Chris Nichols et al write about four behaviours that help leaders manage a crisis. One of them is to engage for impact. 

“In times of crisis, no job is more important than taking care of your team. Effective leaders are understanding of their team’s circumstances and distractions, but they find ways to engage and motivate, clearly and thoroughly communicating important new goals and information. This point deserves extra attention, because although the COVID-19 pandemic is, of course, a health crisis, it has sparked a financial crisis as well. Your leaders need to reiterate new priorities  frequently to ensure continued alignment in this time of constant and stressful change.”

Dig deeper 

Think in phases

American Enterprise Institute has a useful framework to think about how the next phases will roll out. It’s of course written from an American perspective. However, keeping in mind this is a global war against the virus, there is merit in thinking about multiple scenarios and options.

Dig deeper

Be in the right zone

We got this useful image as a WhatsApp forward.

What zone are you in now? What has been your transition like? Share it with us on mail. Or post on Twitter, and tag us @foundingf. Or join our Slack channel and post it there. If you aren’t there already, here is the invite code

Bookmark Founding Fuel’s special section on Thriving in Volatile Times. All our stories on how individuals and businesses are responding to the pandemic until now are posted there. 

Warm regards,

Team Founding Fuel 

April 2: Extend your runway, explore fresh sources, look back 

Good morning,

Movie fans will relate to this feeling. Just as we settle down to a certain rhythm on the screen, the best directors ensure that the pace changes. The protagonist is up against a new obstacle, tougher than the one they faced and overcame before. In some ways, COVID-19 is playing out like a movie directed by a master of horror films. A lot of people who are not worried about how this will play out, are simply not thinking about this hard enough. It’s not exactly a happy thought to start your day with. But then, it’s best to prepare for the worst, even when we are hoping for the best. 

Here are three things we found interesting. 

Extend your runway

We listened in to an AMA session with Rajan Anandan, Sequoia India boss, organised by TIE Delhi. Here’s one point that caught our attention:

“How much cash runway that you have, is very, very important because this is not a two or three week phenomenon. The impact on demand, the impact on revenue, the impact on your business is likely to last much more than two or three weeks, it's going to be at least a few months, if not many months. And then depending on your business, it could be even longer. For instance, If you're in the international travel industry, or in the hotel industry, it could be much longer. On the other hand, if you're a business that was profitable before the COVID-19 crisis, and you have, let's say, 18 months of cash runway. Even for those companies, we encourage you to figure out how can you create more runway, so that you have something like 24 months, and then you're in a much better zone.”

Dig deeper 

Best Practices for Founders in the wake of COVID-19

Explore fresh sources of funds

Anmol Shrivastava has posted a summary of the conversation Founding Fuel had with Rajiv Kaul, vice chair and CEO of CMS Info Systems, on our Slack channel: 

  • Some PEs were helping portfolio companies secure loans from banks. In most such cases, banks are usually comfortable lending to PE-backed firms because they tend to have better governance and internal controls.
  • In case bank credit is tough to secure, some limited partners (LPs) are considering opening up a line of credit through a separate credit fund for portfolio companies they trust. (Think of an LP as a passive investor who invests in the PE fund for a return, but plays no role in the investment decisions that are left to the general partners (GPs).)
  • There’s a reason why PE firms are perhaps being more supportive than usual. Unlike previous crises which hit certain sectors disproportionately, COVID-19 has spared no one. Many PE firms, unfortunately, have also lost friends and colleagues to COVID-19, given most of them are headquartered in the worst-hit areas in the US, UK and Hong Kong. That might explain why they have been a lot more supportive of their portfolio companies.”

Dig deeper

Join Slack 

Remember, quarantine is not new

We spotted this 100-year-old ad on Twitter 

Have you seen any old ad that’s suddenly relevant today? Share them with us on mail. Or post on Twitter, and tag us @foundingf. Or join our Slack channel and post it there. If you aren’t there already, here is the invite code

Bookmark Founding Fuel’s special section on Thriving in Volatile Times. All our stories on how individuals and businesses are responding to the pandemic until now are posted there. 

Warm regards,

Team Founding Fuel 

April 1: Think 2021, drive customer engagement contextually, take a power nap

Good morning,

Often, people’s character is tested in the battlefield, when there’s uncertainty all around, and when you don't know which side the next bullet might come from. Coronavirus has made the entire world a battlefield even as we fight the invisible enemy (virus), without a weapon (drugs) or shield (vaccines). American entrepreneur Mark Cuban is right when he says, how companies treat their employees and stakeholders “is going to define their brand for decades”. It only means the decisions we take should not only look good today, but should also look good decades down the road. 

That’s a tough ask. But then, we are on a battlefield. 

Here are three things we found interesting. 

Think 2021

Stanford News on a possible second order impact of working from home: Fewer new products in 2021.

“In-person collaboration is necessary for creativity and innovation, [Nicholas] Bloom says. His research has shown that face-to-face meetings are essential for developing new ideas and keeping staff motivated and focused.

“ ‘I fear this collapse in office face time will lead to a slump in innovation,’ he says. ‘The new ideas we are losing today could show up as fewer new products in 2021 and beyond, lowering long-run growth.’ ”

Dig deeper 

Drive customer engagement contextually

In response to Stories from inside India’s corporate war rooms by Indrajit Gupta, Joydeep Sarkar writes in our Slack channel:

Move sales from output-based to input-based metrics: Found it extremely relevant or else the sales team is just going to rot. One may also think about giving them group case studies on likely scenarios and ask them to plan for it.

“Customer engagement through contextual non-business ways. The financial institutions are leading from the front by wavering late fees / allowing delayed repayment. Lifebuoy is promoting hand washing by including the name of competitors’ brand (Dettol, Godrej No 1) in their ads.”

Dig deeper

Join Slack 

Read War Stories

Take a power nap

Kiran Ray Chaudhury shared this lovely photo of Bazinga with us on our Slack channel.

Thanks Kiran. Dear reader, how are your cats and dogs taking WFH? Share the photos with us on mail. Or post on Twitter, and tag us @foundingf. Or join our Slack channel and post it there. If you aren’t there already, here is the invite code

Bookmark Founding Fuel’s special section on Thriving in Volatile Times. All our stories on how individuals and businesses are responding to the pandemic until now are posted there. 

Warm regards,

Team Founding Fuel 

March 31: Bracket work and non-work, take heart, make it fun

Good morning,

In the existentialist philosophy, the word abandonment is used to refer to the tremendous sense of freedom one feels without the existence of a higher power. As some businesses get used to remote working, at least some are feeling a sense of freedom. The idea that they don’t owe a lot to their constraints designed in the pre-digital era. A quote from a Forbes magazine piece captures this sentiment. “Whether they know it or not, Global 2000 companies have been set free from their legacy constraints.”

Now, we don’t believe that we will be able to cut ourselves from the past. But we should recognise that the present times give us an opportunity to do a rethink on the way we work. 

Here are three things we found interesting. 

Bracket work and non-work

Final Mile, a part of Fractal, has a very useful document on managing the cognitive and emotional aspects of working remotely. One of the issues it tackles is the ‘always on’ feeling.

“Another aspect of working remotely entails mentally calculating outcome probabilities (probabilities of certain events occurring, and the possible outcomes of those events)—‘what if I’m at lunch and my boss calls—he’ll think I’m shirking work’, ‘what if I’m on a break and I miss something important’. Expecting negative outcome probabilities could lead to coping mechanisms like being ‘always on’, leading to distortion of the already blurred lines between home and work. Additionally, the commute home, which gives us time to wind down and switch modes, is also missing—exacerbating the ‘always on’ feeling.”

The document offers a few ways to deal with this. A summary:

  • establish brackets for when work starts and ends
  • block off ‘no-meetings’ slot on the calendar.
  • switch off for 2 minutes on the hour, every hour, and reset

Dig Deeper (pdf)

Take heart, even Silicon Valley is struggling

WSJ reports:

“Silicon Valley’s tech giants are a week ahead of the rest of the country in conducting a nearly million-person, real-time experiment into whether it is possible to operate a fully remote workforce in the age of the coronavirus….. 

“Still, the forced transition hasn’t been smooth, and that raises questions about what lies ahead for other industries less accustomed to life outside the office.

“Yelp Inc. in recent weeks spent millions of dollars on work-from-home equipment, including buying a laptop for every employee who didn’t already have one, according to people familiar with the matter.

“ ‘You’ll start seeing the breaking points,’ said Aaron Levie, chief executive of Box, whose 2,000 employees have been home for a week. ‘A lot of organisations don’t have the technologies or culture to work this way.’ ”

Dig deeper 

Make it fun for your family

We got this on WhatsApp:  

What funny messages do you send your family? Share with us on mail. Or post on Twitter, and tag us @foundingf. Or join our Slack channel and post it there. If you aren’t there already, here is the invite code

Bookmark Founding Fuel’s special section on Thriving in Volatile Times. All our stories on how individuals and businesses are responding to the COVID-19 pandemic until now are posted there. 

Warm regards,

Team Founding Fuel 

March 30: Recognise chaos, reflect, and mind your posture

Good morning,

As recently as two weeks ago, Mondays had a different ring to it. It meant shaking off the weekend stupor of going out, of meeting relatives or friends, of movie plots and preparing for a different setting. What does your Monday feel like today? Do you change into formals to get into the mood? Do you rearrange your new ‘office’ desk? Do you point your kids to the calendar to suggest there is a line it has drawn that they must not cross? Do you also wonder how long will this last, and how may this extraordinary experience change the way you work, play and live?

Welcome to the new normal.

Here are three things we found interesting. 

Recognise chaos. Know that old rules don’t work here.

During one of our morning calls, Kavi Arasu spoke about the ‘Cynefin framework’. He told us this is something we can use to make sense of what’s happening today. You will hear more on that from us soon. Meanwhile, here’s Jennifer Garvey Berger on one aspect of the framework: 

“So, some things are never knowable. He calls those chaos. That’s where things are moving around so quickly, there are so many pieces, you actually can’t tell cause and effect. It’s too unpatterned for us to be even able to draw that out. In complexity, you can look back at it and get most of the patterns of it, like, ‘Why did the culture of this organisation go in that direction? Oh, well, we can trace that back, but then if we want the culture of the next organisation to go in the same direction, we can’t just do those things as though they are now a laundry list of steps to take, because the next organisation is going to be contextually different. It’s going to have a different set of issues, a different set of people.’ So, we can’t follow the same steps in a complex space that we would be able to if it were just merely complicated.”

Dig Deeper

Reflect

Anand Mahindra, chairman of Mahindra Group, had this interesting exercise going on his Twitter timeline:

“It’s clear that the post-COVID world will be a very different one. Trying to reflect on what will change permanently & what will revert to normal. Can you fill in the rest of the sentence? ‘After the pandemic, we will…’ Example: ‘...we will still avoid shaking hands.’ ”

Dig deeper 

Anand Mahindra’s Thread

How business leaders are thinking about it (A Founding Fuel story by Indrajit Gupta)

Mind your posture

We found this to be funny and true.  

How do you make sure you maintain good posture while working from home? Share your tips with us on mail. Or post on Twitter, and tag us @foundingf. Or join our Slack channel and post it there. If you aren’t there already, here is the invite code

Bookmark Founding Fuel’s special section on Working From Home (WFH). All our stories on the theme until now are posted there. 

Warm regards,

Team Founding Fuel 

March 29: Recognize problems early, embrace disruptions, and share your snacks

Good morning,

If you haven’t read Stories from inside India’s corporate war rooms by Indrajit Gupta already, Sunday might be a good day to read it. 

What is common between a pilot who was flying a plane that got hit by a bird, a psychologist who spent most of her time helping people overcome their fears, and a guy who gave up his well-paying job to start a yoga studio a day before 9/11? They all have interesting stories to tell that will help us wade through this crisis. D Shivakumar, President (Corporate Strategy and Business Development), Aditya Birla Group, shares the gist of those stories and what we can learn from them. You might draw your own lessons from the three books he recommends to manage in the times of crisis. 

Sometimes we get so carried away putting out the fires that we don’t pause and take stock of the situation. Sunday might be the right time to do it. If you have been busy the whole week with your work, this is the time to pull back and see the bigger picture. 

Wish you a peaceful Sunday and productive week ahead. 

Here are three things we found interesting. 

Recognise problems early

Gary P. Pisano et al write about lessons from Italy’s response to coronavirus. The lessons apply to other situations too. 

“Threats such as pandemics that evolve in a nonlinear fashion (i.e., they start small but exponentially intensify) are especially tricky to confront because of the challenges of rapidly interpreting what is happening in real time. The most effective time to take strong action is extremely early, when the threat appears to be small—or even before there are any cases. But if the intervention actually works, it will appear in retrospect as if the strong actions were an overreaction. This is a game many politicians don’t want to play.”

Dig Deeper

Don’t fight against disruptions, embrace them

WSJ’s piece on those balancing their work and their kids’ schooling has useful advice. Here’s one:

“Your work is going to be broken up during the day. Try to embrace it and leverage it instead of fighting against it,” Ms. Gordon said. “Use the times of disruption, when the kids are getting rowdy or wired, to take a break and spend time with them. You probably need a break from work and they clearly need a break, and you can always come back to it later. Fighting them off when they get antsy, that just stresses everyone out.” 

Dig deeper 

Share your snacks 

We discovered that some people no longer try to hide their snacks from Zoom calls

What’s your favourite WFH snack? Share it with us on mail. Or post on Twitter, and tag us @foundingf. Or share it on our Slack channel.

If you are not on our Slack channel already, here is the invite code

Bookmark Founding Fuel’s special section on WFH. All our stories on the subject will go here. 

Warm regards,

Team Founding Fuel 

March 28: Build scenarios, accept that you are stressed, and share a moment

Good morning,

In Sapiens, Yuval Noah Harari writes, “unlike physics or economics, history is not a means for making accurate predictions. We study history not to know the future but to widen our horizons, to understand that our present situation is neither natural nor inevitable, and that we consequently have many more possibilities before us than we can imagine.”  

And history, by definition, is ‘study of change’. What’s happening today is ‘change’ at a great scale and at a great speed. It’s decades happening in a week. Just by paying attention to what’s happening around us, we are studying history. And therefore it should tell us that ‘we have many more possibilities before us than we can imagine’.

What possibilities do you see before you? 

Here are three things we found interesting. 

Build scenarios 

After several conversations with CEOs and business leaders, Indrajit Gupta writes: “Making sense of the enormous shifts is proving to be tricky. And volatility seems to be the new normal. But breaking all this down at the highest levels is not something everyone can do. Most large companies understand this and are assiduously at work on it.

“When I last spoke to them, for four days on a trot, the chairman, executive directors and independent board members at a leading diversified company were immersed in a massive scenario planning exercise. 

“This is the first time they have done a board meeting where everyone joined remotely from their homes. The intense process, involving a senior leadership team of about 20 executives across the group, finally concluded on Thursday. 

“The exercise was mind-bogglingly complex. They had to map everything that could impact demand and supply—not just for India, but for all their global operations. 

“It meant examining a variety of issues on the demand side: financiers, customers and networks. 

“On the supply side: logistics, global and local supply chains, and migrant labour.”

Dig deeper

Accept that you're stressed and don’t feel guilty 

Peter Martin, Bloomberg correspondent in Beijing, has 10 brilliant pieces of advice on life under lockdown: “You're worried about yourself. Your family. Your friends. The world. And there's a sense of fear in the air. Don't try to talk yourself out of it. 

“Tell your friends. Write it down. Meditate. Exercise. Do whatever you need to do to deal with it.

“Talking of stress, don't feel guilty that you're consumed with your own feelings when others (doctors, the elderly, the socially isolated) have it harder. 

“Your stress is real too. And unless you deal with it properly, you won't be able to support others.”

Dig deeper 

Have coffee together

This is a cool idea if your spouse also works from home (or at home) 

You want to send us a photograph of your coffee mugs? Share it with us on mail. Or post on Twitter, and tag us @foundingf. Or share it on our Slack channel.

If you are not on our Slack channel already, here is the invite code

Bookmark Founding Fuel’s special section on WFH. All our stories on the subject will go here. 

Warm regards,

Team Founding Fuel 

March 27: How to look good on video calls, ignore social media when you wake up, and give space to kids

Good morning,

In Learning How To Learn, a hugely recommended online course, Barbara Oakley says we have two fundamentally different modes of thinking— the Focused and the Diffuse modes. We learn best when there is a balance between the two. We find and settle into an equilibrium sooner or later at our workspaces. Part of the reason why working from home came as a shock to many of us is that the equilibrium is lost, and in this transition phase, we are struggling to find it. The answer then is in becoming more aware of our focused and diffuse modes. And realign our schedule according to it.  

Here are three things we found interesting. 

Check the background

Bob Sacha, filmmaker and photographer, has some great tips on how to look good on video calls. Here are two.

  • Put the device (laptop, phone, tablet, aka the camera) at eye level. Set your laptop or phone up on some books or boxes so the camera is level with your eyes.
  • For a film interview, I’m always trying to place my subject as far away from the background as possible to give a sense of depth. Some people like being against a plain wall. If you like the plain wall, try to be far enough away so distracting shadows don’t fall directly behind you. Just be aware that people are going to obsess on what’s in the background so be careful what’s back there. Avoid trees sprouting out of your head.

Dig deeper 

[Want to dig even deeper? Our colleague Anmol Shrivastava has a fantastic list of tried and tested best practices for Zoom calls, based on his experience with our Masterclass guests. You can ask him for tips on our Slack channel. Join.] 

Ignore social media when you wake up

In the latest Sounding Board column, Charles Assisi has some practical tips on staying focussed: “Peer-reviewed literature has meticulously documented the downsides of looking at the phone screen first thing in the morning. These include higher levels of anxiety and stress when you look at news feeds and IQ depletion after staring at social media. While at work, it can take anywhere between 23-25 minutes to recover focus after an interruption—or a distraction. 

“That is why, Nir Eyal keeps making the point, it is important to “gain traction”, which is the opposite of “distraction”. In other words, be indistractable. I had a lovely conversation with him on the theme. If you haven’t heard it yet, may I urge you to? There are some lovely pointers he offers on how to stay focused.”

Dig deeper

Give space to kids

We saw this lovely photo with a profound hashtag #TheyGrowUpSoFast on Twitter. 

When was the last time you saw your kids in their ‘workspace’?  How are they coping? Share your stories with us on mail. Or post on Twitter, and tag us @foundingf. Or share it on our Slack channel.

If you are not on our Slack channel already, here is the invite code

Bookmark Founding Fuel’s special section on WFH. All our stories on the subject will go here. 

Warm regards,

Team Founding Fuel 

March 26: Take it slow, listen, and choose the right channel to collaborate, communicate and coordinate

Good morning,

If there is one brand that is top-of-mind for everybody these days, it’s Zoom, the video conferencing tool. Its sales this year have been phenomenal. Its share price has been moving up when most other stocks are down. (Unintended consequence: the share price of a Beijing-based mobile phone components manufacturer has been also been surging. Reason: its name is also Zoom.) Perhaps the best compliment for Zoom is that in one corner of Twitterverse, some people are already complaining about Zoom fatigue

What’s happening to Zoom could well be a metaphor for our tendency to rush and overdo things. Our colleague Kavi Arasu has a piece of simple advice to all of us for these days: slow down. 

Here are three things we found interesting. 

Listen

In Founding Fuel’s Sounding Board column, Kavi Arasu writes: Encourage your leaders to share their struggles of working from home with the team. Just that one act will loosen up the team and help them see that everybody is in it together. With one organisation that I am working with, leaders resolved to set listening calls with their team members. They found interesting stories. But it started with leaders sharing their own situation. One of them shared how he has to share household chores and wash the dishes. Something that he hasn’t done in a long while. Plus, his wife who also works took his desk and the daughter took the living room for lessons that came from school. There was dead silence on the call for a while before it opened the floodgates for sharing!”

Dig deeper

Choose the right channel

Raphael Bick et al write in McKinsey Digital: “Choosing the right channel matters. Video conferences are great for discussing complicated topics in real-time and for creating a sense of community, but they require team-wide coordination and focus. Channel (chat) based collaboration software is great for quick synchronization or easily answered questions, while email can be used to record outcomes and communicate more formally.”

Here’s a useful chart from the essay:

Dig deeper

Have fun with your friends

However, we are not sure if in this particular case, man’s best friend found it amusing.

Do you want to send us some of your pet pictures as you work from home? Mail it to us. Or post on Twitter, and tag us @foundingf. Or share it on our Slack channel.

If you are not on our Slack channel already, here is the invite code

Bookmark Founding Fuel’s special section on WFH. All our stories on the subject will go here. 

Warm regards,

Team Founding Fuel 

March 25: Take care of your people, establish rituals, make it beautiful

Good morning,

It’s said all is fair in love and war. The proverb suggests we have to throw out our rulebooks during times of war because things change so rapidly. The rules that evolved in gentler times might hurt rather than help. However, the universe is always governed by rules. Only, the rules might change. Our success, then, depends on how fast we identify the new rules, and how quickly we adapt to them.  

Here are three things we found interesting. 

Take care of your people

Aamer Baig et al write in McKinsey Digital: “The CIO’s first order of business is to take care of her employees. It’s important to acknowledge that people are focused on caring for loved ones, managing their kids who are no longer in school, stocking up on necessities, and trying to stay healthy, all while trying to do their jobs. This requires empathy and flexibility from CIOs.

“CIOs are moving to provide flexible work arrange­ments—working remotely, in flexible shifts, and preparing for absences. One CIO recognized that employees working from home will be affected by school closures and quickly designed a backup support model for each essential individual…. 

“For those people who still need to come into work, CIOs have a responsibility to make the work environment safe. One company, for example, has created six work zones. People cannot cross from one zone into another. If someone gets sick in one zone, they can isolate it from the other zones quickly.”

Dig deeper

Establish rituals

Over at our Slack channel Charles Assisi writes: “Rituals are REALLY important to me when working from home. It’s come to a point where there’s this narrative in my head that borders on the near ridiculous. It says I MUST wake up early, spend time alone, not touch the phone or access the internet before 9 am, brew my own tea, among a bunch of other things. One-on-one meet ups with people are fine. But no screen time. Sounds silly. But it sets the tone for the day. Feel superstitious about it. If that time goes well, productivity amps up. Else, it is a downward spiral.”

Dig deeper

Make it beautiful

We found this lovely photograph of a WFH setup on Twitter. 

What does your WFH workspace look like? 

Want to share it with us to inspire others? Mail it to us. Or post on Twitter, and tag us @foundingf. Or share it on our Slack channel.

If you are not on our Slack channel already, here is the invite code

Bookmark Founding Fuel’s special section on WFH. All our stories on the subject will go here. 

Warm regards,

Team Founding Fuel 

March 24: Be creative, prepare for surprises, and take it with a smile

Good morning,

And welcome to WFH Daily. 

Over the last few days, all of us at Founding Fuel have spent several hours talking to people like you—those in leadership roles, entrepreneurs, and professionals—to understand what working from home really means in the war-like situation we are in now. These conversations were followed by internal discussions and debates. ably guided by our colleague Kavi Arasu, on what useful contribution we can make. 

One outcome is this Daily Newsletter on how WFH is changing our lives. 

Our intent is to sift through all of what is out there, to cull perspectives and actionables that matter most as you transition to WFH. 

We’ll keep it crisp and have it delivered into your inbox by 8 am every weekday. Think of it as a cup of morning coffee or tea to get started. (For the full course, join our Slack channel and visit our site.) If you think friends or colleagues may find value in this, share it. This is going to be a long haul, and it’s best we travel together and learn from each other. 

Three things that got our attention today

Be creative

WSJ reports: “Working from home in the Hamptons, CEO Michael Kirban of coconut-water maker Vita Coco on Thursday hosted the company’s first virtual happy hour—something of an instant coronavirus-age fixture, in which colleagues pour their own drinks and log on to chat. “It’s my job to keep it as light as possible,” he said. “These are really tough times. People are scared.”

Dig deeper

Be prepared for surprises—even good ones

Joydeep Sarkar writes in our Slack channel: “I felt people are displaying higher order listening behaviour, meaning allowing everyone to complete, no critical comments in between and a pause after someone finishes, which is an extremely mature behaviour—no immediate rush thru with comment. Honestly, I was not expecting this semblance in the 1st meeting.

“Also got a sense that the seriousness is higher. Is it that extra effort to make up for the physical absence? Not sure but everyone was quite engaged & committed.”

Dig deeper

Take it with a smile

If face-to-face meetings were like online meetings 

If you are not on our Slack channel already, here is the invite code: 

Bookmark the WFH section on Founding Fuel. All our stories on the subject will go here. 

Warm regards,

Team Founding Fuel 

Was this article useful? Sign up and we'll send you articles like this every week. Here's a sample

Comments

Login to comment

About the author

Founding Fuel

Founding Fuel aims to create the new playbook of entrepreneurship. Think of us as a hub for entrepreneurs- the go-to place for ideas, insights, practices and wisdom essential to build the enterprise of tomorrow. It is co-founded by veteran journalists Indrajit Gupta and Charles Assisi, along with CS Swaminathan, the former president of Pearson's online learning venture.

Also by me

You might also like