Keeping connections while staying apart

With family and friends physically separated due to the current crisis, connectivity becomes more essential to ensure that people stay together despite being miles apart.

When the director-general of the World Health Organization (WHO) declared COVID-19 a pandemic, my worst fears since early January had been confirmed. Instinctively, I realized then and there that I had to figure out a way to keep my family, especially my two kids studying overseas, safe. 

Equally important, as Globe’s chief risk officer, I need to ensure that we are doing all that we can to keep our employees safe and operations undisrupted. And as chief finance officer, I also need to ensure that the company will be financially secure as the pandemic is sure to wreak havoc on the economy. 

Early on, we had been keeping a close eye on the viral outbreak, and taking necessary steps to minimize the risk of our employees contracting the virus. Globe’s risk teams, in January, had been immediately mobilized to closely monitor and plan for worst-case scenarios. Plans to ramp-up capabilities to prepare for and mitigate the risks of a possible pandemic scenario were quickly put to motion as we enhanced our emerging infectious diseases contingency plan. 

My husband and I won’t be able to travel and check on our kids. This brought a whole new meaning to a line from one of our infomercials: “Diyan ka muna, at dito ako. Magkalayo, dahil close tayo."

Soon after, the purchase of protective tools and supplies was initialized and we had more frequent disinfection of offices. Employees have been advised and regularly informed to take necessary precautionary measures through our digital and social media communications platforms. We also had to prohibit employees from moving from one office building to another, disallowed guests from entering our premises, shifted to virtual meetings and banned local and international travels for both business and leisure.  

The international travel ban was particularly a hard pill to swallow for me as that also meant that my husband and I won’t be able to travel and check on our kids. This brought a whole new meaning to a line from one of our infomercials: “Diyan ka muna, at dito ako. Magkalayo, dahil close tayo.”

By mid-March, the government pushed for radical quarantine protocols, putting Luzon under enhanced community quarantine to curb the spread of COVID-19. That meant that we had to comply with government protocols while ensuring that cell sites are maintained and continue to be of service to our customers and the nation. 

Meanwhile, overseas, my kids were competing in different countries as the situation worsened — my 15-year-old daughter, Alex in Tunisia; and my 17-year old son, Miko in Puerto Rico. As the Spanish government announced a nationwide lockdown, my husband and I had to make a choice: fly them back to their school in Spain and rely on the school to keep them safe, or fly them back to the Philippines but risk their health with the connecting flights, layovers and any last-minute, 14-day quarantine rules that may be imposed in any of the connection points along their trip home.

My first priority had to be Alex and Miko. It was a tough call, but my husband and I decided to allow the school to fly our kids back to Spain where they will be kept safe. Fortunately, their school is committed to keeping its students safe. The school also acted swiftly and decisively tackling the crisis head-on. They've had coaches, kitchen and cleaning staff to stay-in at the academy facilities. No one was allowed in or out of the academy for close to 90 days until the Spanish government relaxed quarantine restrictions.

The power of connectivity through the internet, and Zoom, has enabled us to be together as one family albeit being thousands of miles apart. My husband and I long for the day when we can physically hug Alex and Miko, but for now online dinner sessions with them would have to do.

In a lot of ways, that value of placing family first is also present in Globe, as the company’s commitment to keeping employees and their families safe during times like these is a foremost priority. Our chief executive office has ably led our organization and relentlessly ensured the safety of everyone while maintaining the business during the crisis. As his enabler wearing two hats, being both the CFO and CRO, I needed to make sure that the best options were chosen for decisions made and backed-up by relevant information given the slew of relevant data points.  

In light of the outbreak, we initially planned for rotating operations, but quickly shifted to a full work from home with critical skeleton force working arrangement given the lockdown. Our set-up was enabled by the fruits of our digital transformation initiatives that started a few years ago; our transactions, project proposals, contracts, memos, disbursement requests, are all digital, end-to-end. The state-of-the-artwork and collaboration tools we have acquired from top-notch IT and software developers over the years have paid off. 

Seeing that we are in a prime position to give more to the nation beyond delivering quality communications services, we extended help through various donations and free telecommunication services. We also enabled our partners in any way we can to keep them afloat financially during this time, also helping them secure the needed rapid passes to continue working.

To enable us to secure our workforce’s health and provide the necessary medical assistance needed, we developed our own in-house app to perform health checks, location-based contact tracing and self-assessment diagnosis for our skeleton workforce.  

Meanwhile, work-from-home employees are continuously being monitored by an automated health concierge bot. Rapid antibody tests for skeleton force and frontline teams were conducted starting mid-May. We have also created various programs to ensure that the mental health of our employees are secured, using the power of connectivity to host various wellness seminars, activities, and even in-house game shows to let off some work stress. 

This time also brought about new ways of reaching out to our family and friends, new ways of being of help to others in need, and showing the world the undying and unrelenting Filipino spirit of overcoming challenges no matter the odds may be.

Moving forward, we are now working on our pilot of a “work from anywhere” setup. We have started configuring our offices to accommodate hot-desking and fitted with necessary safety protocols, with plans of expanding this set-up through more hubs to be opened in key cities across the country.

With the pandemic in its fourth month, things have been very difficult for most of us, and we may not be able to go back to some of the things we used to take for granted before COVID-19, like going out for dinner with friends, chatting with our office mates during break time. 

However, this time also brought about new ways of reaching out to our family and friends, new ways of being of help to others in need, and showing the world the undying and unrelenting Filipino spirit of overcoming challenges no matter the odds may be. 

As we commit to creating a Globe of good for the nation, we will continue to deliver products and services aligned with the changing needs of our customers as they demand for more data.

The focus remains to help the nation and our fellow countrymen in every endeavor they may have right now through the power of connectivity — to keep connected with family and friends and to manage their livelihood and various businesses. Connectivity for us also includes making sure that our contactless payments and e-telehealth services such as GCash and KonsultaMD, which have seen massive surge in transactions since the start of the pandemic, will continue to serve even more Filipinos. 

We also continue with the commitment to do our part in preventing further spread of the virus and enjoin everyone to do the same. 

Until the day when we can go out safely without masks, please stay safe.


Edited by Janvic Mateo

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