Working from home requires social stamina

March 20204 min read

Rachel Joyce-Gibbons, who heads our Latin American investment team for sustainable food, is a veteran as far as working from home is concerned. Covid-19 finds her staying in touch with portfolio companies and her team out of her Lima home.

How is the mandatory lockdown in Lima impacting your work?

It is special in that it came into effect the day our entire company was working from home. We were all expecting this to be only for a day and, all of the sudden we couldn’t go back to the office for material or equipment. Otherwise, we are all doing our best to proceed with our work as much as possible. Our Zurich head office relies on us to keep our ears to the ground as to what’s happening in Latin America, so the team is checking on portfolio companies a lot more than we usually would.

“Our Zurich head office relies on us to keep our ears to the ground as to what’s happening in Latin America.”

Rachel Joyce-Gibbons

What are the first reactions from your portfolio companies?

I feel there is a lot of support overall for the lockdown measures here in Peru. People completely understand that we don’t have the health system in place to withstand Covid-19. Across the Latin American portfolio, we see that the governments are taking measures to ensure that the agriculture export business continues with as little disruption as possible. The situation is complex, there was a lot of confusion on the early days of lockdown on who could work and not, impact on exports, impact on markets, and there is a lot of misinformation circulating. But all our portfolio companies are working to continue business as usual as much as possible and are adapting to the rapidly changing situation each day. On the bright side, Central American coffee clients have harvested all their coffee and it’s in the warehouse now. So we are closely monitoring developments and are in a good position to make careful decisions. 

How are you managing your team?

I am trying to remain very active online. There is a daily skype call with the whole Lima office. Not everybody likes this type of communications, but it is good because it provides a daily touch point where everybody can voice their concerns. I also organized a Zoom coffee with the agricultural investment team yesterday and will do this again soon. It’s hard to always work alone, with no one to share a laugh with or to talk to after a difficult meeting. 

With six years’ experience in working remotely, you are a home office veteran. What are your recommendations to everybody in this situation?

My top golden tip is: Create a separate space to do your work and make sure you don’t access it after hours. If you’re working from your dining room table, as many of us are, make sure you physically close down your computer and move it out of sight at the end of your day. Do this for yourself and help others, too. Sometimes we need some help to get offline. If you detect online activity by colleagues at all hours, reach out to them and tell them to stop and get some rest. And remember: Humans are social animals. Working from home requires a social stamina that not everybody has. There is no shame in having a hard time. It’s ok not to be ok, especially as the stress of the quarantine situation makes it doubly difficult. Use our networking tools to reach out to others and support with both work and personal matters, just as you would in the office.