Abid Hussain Barlaskar
Viral Diaries

“No good agency or network will treat their teams badly”: Shamsuddin Jasani

The group MD of Isobar South Asia shares his observations around WFH in this interview for our Viral Diaries series.

What’s your tip for media/marketing professionals dealing with anxiety during these times? How can one focus better while working from home?

It is a good time to rethink and skill up. Instead of looking at it as a problem, consider it an opportunity. No good agency or network will treat their teams badly. It’s just a phase that could extend to a few months, but we’ll be back. With this, it has also become more important to understand digital. It made us learn two things – one, we can work remotely using all the tools -and secondly, it’s going to unlock the potential of digital. So, please train yourselves, understand newer things. Say, the outdoor events are down but they are happening digitally. These changes are anyways inevitable, the current situation is only going to fast track these changes.

Which app/tool are you using to video conference with your team/clients? And what’s your go-to option for file sharing? And which is your go-to newspaper/website to stay updated?

We use Microsoft Teams internally, and client meeting happen on Zoom. We have 5-6 hours of meetings every day. We don’t use open file sharing platforms and use Qshare within our network. I get a lot of my news from Alexa and follow news publishers on Twitter.

How do you draw a line between using social media for information and cyber slacking?

It has been very easy for me. We have also discussed internally about what is expected of team members. We are not enforcing any kind of guidelines and trust team members to do the right thing. From what I have observed, I don’t see them cyber slacking too much. We all thought that we won’t be able to work from home and lacked that culture but we’ve all been surprised. It is up to the leaders to get the work done instead of enforcing something.

What do you miss most –and least– about office?

Least is the travel time. What I miss the most is having a great conversation. Coming from a digital background, I understand the power of digital, but, a face to face conversation is still the best. Say, when there is a brainstorming session, we are still not used to doing it on digital. It is still easier to do it in a room and vibing across each other. Especially, I miss face to face meetings with clients. The human connect of a physical environment is important.

How frequently do you check-in on your team? What’s the ideal frequently, according to you – any theories?

There is no theory or one size fits all approach. I speak to my leadership team every to days. Client based teams connect for 2-3 hours every day. It depends upon what is required and the objectives. Once it is laid out, you can check in on a regular frequency which could be every two hours or two days. I try to meet two to three times with the teams across the agencies that I handle. But there would be members within these teams who connect with me two to three hours a day.

Lastly, what’s the one thing you see yourself doing differently once the work-from-home phase ends? To rephrase, what’s the biggest lesson here, for you?

We started work-from-home around a year back which was a couple of days a month. And it worked. We have three offices and earlier, different offices used to request teams with certain skillsets to be physically present. The usual complaint would be the inability to work closely with a person in a different city needing them to be physically present. Personally, I feel that work from home showed us that it can be done digitally - if it can be done at a scale of 200 people working together from different locations. The barrier or requirement of having a person physically present has come down significantly. Also, a lot of unnecessary travel will go down. We would like more of it and allow people to have a better work life balance.

I feel that it will be better accepted post the crisis. While everyone is complaining about being unable to go out, I think they’ll miss the work life balance once this becomes normal.

Viral Diaries is a series of special interviews, a daily peek into how advertising, media and marketing professionals are dealing with working from home in these trying times.