Anirban Roy Choudhury
Viral Diaries

"You can be more productive working from home than usual”: Vishnu Mohta, Hoichoi

In this interview for our Viral Diaries series, the co-founder of the digital video-on-demand platform recommends that people set up properly, even though it’s work for home.

If there was just ONE piece of advice you could give people in the media/marketing business right now, what would that be?

I think not just media or marketing, for any other business today, people have to start thinking in digital terms. How can they deliver some of the services online to the customer, how can they sell online, how can they enable their teams to do a vast majority of work remotely, as far as possible. Moving the business to cloud has been a theme over the last few years. I think the Coronavirus is just going to accelerate that tech momentum, more than ever.

Which app/tool are you using for video conferences with your team/clients? And what’s your go-to option for file sharing?

We were lucky to have moved a large part of our office to Microsoft Teams. A couple of years back, we were using Google Suite, but I think Microsoft Teams has added advantages... It's got a really good online platform, for collaboration and security. Microsoft Teams product has been phenomenal in terms of bringing what was already available on multiple platforms, like Slack and Hangouts, into one unified application. It's been a lifesaver for us.

For file sharing, we use multiple things. I am increasingly using OneDrive from Microsoft because it is just integrated so tightly with Office and Teams. With external people, we use Dropbox quite a bit.

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How are you dividing up your work day? Give us a sense of how you’re managing your time and what your work-from-home routine is like.

When this lockdown started, I had made up my mind that I would treat this like a normal day, and try to start work at exactly the time I used to earlier. That has helped me to stay focused about what I want to achieve in the day. I dress up almost the way I would if I was going to the office. The other thing is to create a space in the house. I have luckily got a room where I have set up a desk. I've brought in my desktop screen and, in fact, even my chair from the office, because it just allows me to be clearer and feels as if I am in the work environment.

The work timings are similar. However, given that there is a multitude of work at the moment because of the Coronavirus outbreak, especially for the digital space, it's been fairly busy. I've not had time to do a lot more, but I do try to take up some reading in the evenings.

What do you miss most about work?

Like everybody else, I miss that little bit of human interaction. On video conferences, especially from a work point of view, it's difficult to have a little bit of chit-chat and small talk before you actually start discussing the subject of the meeting. It's good, in a way, because it makes you more productive. You're just literally focused... It feels as if your time is limited and you need to complete that meeting, which doesn't happen in the office. I think there's a good side and a bad side to it...

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Ideally, how frequently should a team leader/manager check in on her/his team?

The structure we've decided to follow is that team leads will check in with their respective teams every day, even if it's over a brief call, just to know what everybody else is doing and what they want to achieve throughout the day. As far as meetings between team leads and me go, we do a video conference every alternate day in the morning for about one to two hours. The context of that is largely to sync up everyone with what everybody is up to and what they want to achieve, going forward. We also discuss challenges or interdependencies between departments that team leads might be facing. It has worked fairly well for us.

Any long distance people management tips?

When you want to speak to someone, it's extremely important to do it over video conference. The camera adds a lot more context. A vast majority of communication is, anyways, verbal, so having the video conference allows one to pick up nonverbal cues from the other side. And, since people are locked up in their houses, it also gives a lot of familiarity to what their usual life would have been otherwise.

So yes, put up your camera, always make sure you have a headphone because there's always going to be noise around you, set up a space, set your expectations with your family so that work doesn't enter your personal space for designated times. I think your family would appreciate that. Obviously, everybody is happy to be spending more time with their families. But, it is just as important to make sure that there is a little bit of a demarcation between the two (work and family), so that both can coexist.

What’s the one thing you see yourself doing differently once the work-from-home phase ends?

I've been more productive in this last week or so. The big takeaway for me is that when I want to do something that requires me to work alone, think laterally, be creative, or think about the future, I'm going to try and disconnect from the office and do that anywhere else. It could be home... As a leader, you have to look to the future and try to gauge where your next growth is going to come from.

What's the biggest lesson for you here?

I think one of the biggest lessons is that you can be more productive working from home than usual. I think that will be a thought that resonates with quite a few of my colleagues. It is because you are removed from a lot of noise, things that were not essential, and able to just focus entirely on what is important. This helps you to really distill what’s in your mind and what’s really important for you.