Suits out, PJs in: Agency heads share their WFH stations, challenges and comforts


By now most of us are probably in our PJs, catching up with this week's meetings or heavily involved in planning.

Last Friday, Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong addressed the nation to unveil the “circuit breaker” measures that has now been implemented to flatten the COVID-19 curve. According to the PM, Singapore has been tightening its safe-distancing measures progressively but said that the country will now move on to pre-empt escalating infections. Significantly stricter measures will now be imposed as the circuit breaker will apply for one month. 

These include closure of most workplaces, except for essential services and key economic sectors. In addition, further restrictions have also been set in place to avoid physical contact and limit gatherings. 

I for one, if you are following us on our new Instagram page, am involved in all three of the situations mentioned above.

While no doubt, working from home has its set of comforts, it also requires a fair amount of discipline and adjusting. In this edition, as the country gets into the "circuit breaker" mode, agency heads in Singapore shared with us images of their WFH stations, and their challenges and comforts. Let's take a look: 

Avery Akkineni, head of VaynerMedia Singapore

Missing your team during the WFH period? You're not alone. Akkineni shares with Marketing that being apart from the team has been most challenging for her. "Our team is highly collaborative, so working apart - particularly in the creative side - has been tough, as we find our rhythm with virtual break storms, feedback sessions and reviews," she said. 

However, for Akkineni, the best part of this WFH measure is maximising technology to become more efficient as an organisation. "We’ve leaned in to video calls, and suddenly, it’s amazing to see teams across the globe collaborating seamlessly," she explained. 

WFH station:

avery vaynermedia

Ashish Bhasin, CEO, Dentsu Aegis Network APAC

“One of the challenges that you face when you are working from home is to keep your mouth zipped and not keep on eating continuously,” Bhasin candidly shares with Marketing, adding that it is tough for a foodie like him with all the goodies lying around at home.  In the midst of these temptations, he explained that it is important to keep up some physical activity, meditation and the concern for basic health, otherwise it might just end in a very unhealthy scenario. 

“Hence developing the will power to say ‘no’ to delicious food all around you, is one of the biggest hassles I face on working from home!” he said. 

However, working from home also comes with benefits that puts a smile on your faces. “You get more time to spend with your family. Since we are in a lockdown kind of scenario, you are together with the family all the time and, unfortunate as it sounds, I don’t think I have spent as much time with my immediate family in the last few years as I have in the last few weeks. This has to be a good thing!” Bhasin agreed.

WFH station:


Jacqui Lim, group CEO, Havas Group Singapore  

For Lim, knowing when to stop is definitely a challenging feat. “While working from home, nobody comes along to tell you it's time to have lunch, or time to go home,” she said. As such, keeping track of time when you are engrossed is one of the hardest challenges.  However, being at home means having kids come home from school and immediately learning about their day, and that counts as the best part of it all, she added. 

WFH station:

jacquilim havas

Ian Loon, CEO, Publicis Media Singapore 

"Best thing? Comfort in shorts and a tank top," says the newly promoted CEO. According to Loon, Publicis Media has been opening up to flexible work arrangements for the last two years, hence the idea of working from home was not foreign to the team.

"The idea centres around maintaining high level of client accountability and digital connectivity amidst integrating work and personal commitments. I've personally been a huge advocate of this idea in favour of productivity gains, and feel positively about how the current situation is accelerating everyone's need to adopt," he said. However, he was quick to add that nothing beats face to face engagements especially when heavier discussions are to be had with less familiar people.

But apart from that, the only other challenge is knowing how all employees are personally doing at a distance to cope with the circumstances, and trusting that they will come forward to the leaders if they have challenges, Loon added. 

WFH station: 

ianloon publicis

Chris Riley, group chairman, Ogilvy Singapore & Malaysia  

According to Riley, the extra time and technology it takes to drive team collaboration has been the most challenging amid the WFH situation. "All the software is good, but it's not the same as meeting face to face," he said, echoing the same sentiments from fellow agency heads. 

But when you have an exercise mat set right next to your desk, there are no excuses to avoid exercising and even heading to the gym, Riley said. 

WFH station: 

chrisriley ogilvy

Rika Sharma, managing director for ASEAN, Digitas 

For Sharma, she is more effective and efficient with time amid the WFH situation and said that everyone is so much more respectful of each other’s time and that meetings now start and end on time! 

Albeit the effective video calls, Sharma does miss the face-to-face interaction, the hallway chatter, the expressions in boardrooms and how it is especially hard to motivate and rally large teams. 

“We are a services industry and our greatest strength is our people,” she said, adding that if the WFH measure lasts longer, it will be interesting to understand the impact it will have on employees - for those with families and young kids, the impact on productivity in the long-run and for those living alone, the psychological impact.

However, it is also impossible to then forget blessings that comes in small forms amid these trying times.  

“Whether one realises it or not it’s such a blessing to be around family even though it can be a real test of one’s patience. I have a four-month-old baby so it’s lovely to be able to see her first smile, giggle and expressions all day. Even cuter getting to watch her interaction with her elder sister. Lots of priceless family moments for which, I’m grateful,” Sharma opened up. 

WFH station:

rikasharma digitas

Zayn Khan, CEO, Dragon Rouge Southeast Asia

Chiming in was Khan, who is thankful for being able to stay in his pyjamas until 2pm. According to Khan, the WFH measure has allowed the agency to use technology more to collaborate and team meetings are more focused and timely. 

“The most challenging is the lack of real human interaction and temptation to walk to the fridge,” he admits. 

WFH station:

zayn khandragonrouge