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Making sure food supply and demand are addressed, even while working from home

Prior to the COVID-19 pandemic, a typical work week for Zian Serranilla, a Key Accounts Executive of snacks company Mondelez Philippines assigned to the SM team, consisted of administrative and field days. 

“Field days are composed of visits to the head office of the accounts I’m handling for negotiation and alignment meetings as well as to stores for the usual audit/store check,” Serranilla told BusinessMirror. 

With the declaration of the enhanced community quarantine last March, Serranilla’s routine drastically changed. 

“Since I’m handling a retail giant in the country, it was only one of the few supermarkets that remained open during the critical period of the lockdown. With this, people flocked to their stores to stock up on their pantry supplies. It was crucial for us to constantly fill-up the shelves to satisfy the growing demand,” she explained.  

Being with the company for the last four years, Serranilla, 26, had already gotten the hang of working in the field. In any other circumstance, she would have had an easier time doing her job if she could personally monitor the situation and physically address the supply and demand of their snacks products. But since she is one of the company’s personnel who was advised to work from home throughout the lockdown, Serranilla’s job became a lot more challenging.

“The lockdown definitely amplified the value of technology in getting things done. It was challenging to implement store-specific directions virtually since that would be best accompanied with actual store visits to gauge the competition on field,” she pointed out.  

Serranilla’s co-worker, Shaun Mazen Sim, a Customer Finance Specialist at Mondelez Philippines, is also working from home and is also faced with similar technology-related challenges. 

Sim’s team is in charge of monitoring of collections and releasing of orders, so his work is just as vital to the company’s operations as Serranilla’s. But unlike the latter, Sim’s job did not change in a big way following the declaration of the ECQ. That doesn’t mean that it’s any less challenging. 

“Before the lockdown, I’d get all the files I’ll be needing throughout the day before I start checking my emails and responding to them, then I carry on with my daily tasks. Although I can still do that from home, it’s important that I have stable internet connection. Since we were working from home, our home wi-fi is sometimes not strong enough to access the company’s systems or even the shared folders.”

Because Sim is also part of the company’s customer team, he was also used to face-to-face meetings with business partners and personal appointments with clients. 

“Now we had to stick with phone calls, communicate through emails and hold our meetings via Skype,” he added.

Asked how they were able to adjust to this new way of doing their work, both Serranilla and Sim are one in saying that it’s all just a matter of getting used to. 

“At the start, I was kind of uneasy with the work from home (WFH) set-up since it deviates from my usual workday routine. Eventually, I have come to realize that the key to getting comfortable with WFH is to establish a routine much like what one had prior to the lockdown. It will give a sense of order, which will help us carry out our tasks the same way we did, just in a different work setting. A usual WFH routine for me consists of several online meetings/calls and a chunk of administrative work,” Serranilla shared. 

Sim admits that “WFH arrangements were initially tough since there are added challenges to the tasks we’re doing.” 

“Nowadays, I just appreciate that I don’t have to wake up really early in the morning just to get to work,” he added.

Even with all the challenges that they had to hurdle, both are nonetheless very pleased with the efforts made by Mondelez Philippines to put a premium on their safety first, and as Serranilla puts it, “Considers its people as its top priority.” It’s one of the ways Serranilla and Sim are able to make an impact through their work with Mondelez Philippines.

While the two were able to work from home, Mondelez Philippines’ courageous Manufacturing colleagues continued producing snack products throughout the lockdown. To ensure everyone’s safety, transportation to and from the office in Paranaque was provided, as well as on-site housing for those who needed it. Stricter sanitation and social distancing measures were also put in place at the 57-year strong manufacturing plant.

“[The company] has also been transparent with the position of the business in this climate, limited trips for essential/business-critical items only, conducted regular health surveys to keep track of everyone’s health condition, and sent over gloves, masks, sanitation wipes, alcohol and our IATF passes early on,” Serranilla further shared.

Sim concurs. “We were also not supposed to go to the office if not needed, to maintain social distancing. Our frontliners were also provided PPEs and necessary safety kits. Management also sets up regular calls with the employees to make sure we were safe and to update us on the issues,” he said. 

The difficulties arising from Covid-19 and the extreme measures it has forced authorities to impose, such as the lockdowns, are also being eased, however, by some people whose work may not easily draw attention, but is nonetheless vital to making our lives as normal as possible.

They are the “backliners”—the grocery store staff and market vendors who make sure we can buy basic items; the farmers and fishermen who put food in our markets and groceries; the bank employees; the Customs inspectors who must quickly clear cargo, especially vital equipment and supplies to fight the virus; pharmacists, garbage men, and the engineers and workmen who must rush to build or retrofit off-hospital quarantine centers, among others.

They cannot “stay at home” because they have tasks indispensable in this crisis.

In this series, the BusinessMirror pays tribute to them.

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