Working (very) remotely during the corona crisis

Perseus Backend Developer Chaitanya Waikar was visiting his family in India when the Corona crisis reached South Asia. He has been working for Perseus from Nagpur in central India ever since. What has it been like to work so far away from all his colleagues? We asked him.

Chaitanya was born and raised in India and moved to Berlin to join the Perseus’ engineering department almost a year ago. He has since become a highly valued member of the team. 

He had planned to take a longer vacation in March to visit his family in India. In  retrospect, the timing couldn’t have been worse. The COVID-19 virus spread globally and lead to the closing of national borders. For better or worse Chaitanya is “stuck” in India and cannot return to Germany for now and so far, nobody knows when he will be able to. 

Thankfully, he can work remotely, just like everyone else at Perseus. This has allowed him to continue doing his job. We asked him how he has been coping with this exceptional situation.

 

Perseus: Chaitanya, how did you end up working from India?

Chaitanya Waikar: I had come here on vacation and just before I was going to return to Berlin, travel restrictions were imposed in Europe and India due to the coronavirus pandemic. I contacted my manager and our CEO asking if I could postpone my trip back. They were very generous, providing me with a solution to my unforeseen problem by allowing me to work remotely.

 

How is the political and economic situation there due to COVID-19? Tell us a bit about the restrictions.

India took a very comprehensive step by imposing a nationwide lockdown even when the number of coronavirus infections was less than 500. Due to these restrictions, citizens are only allowed to leave their homes for essential things like buying food or going to the doctor. There are police cars patrolling the streets throughout the city and people who are caught outside without a valid reason are fined.

 

What does a workday look like for you now? What about the time difference? How is your work setup and your routine?

The time difference between Germany and India is just 3 ½ hours, so that’s very manageable. I start my work around 11:30 IST (8 a.m. CET) and work until 21:30 IST (6 p.m. CET). I take my usual breaks for dinner and try to maintain the routine I have in the office.

Regarding the setup: I did not bring my office laptop to India; however, my personal notebook has the same configurations as my office laptop and my manager allowed me to set up everything on my personal machine to allow me to work from home. I already had a desk at home, so that was not a problem either.

 

What are the benefits of working from India? What are the drawbacks? 

I feel like I have more time to work on features of our product, that I do not manage to work on on a busy day at the office. There are less distractions and I find it easier to focus. From a personal perspective, I am quite happy to be with my family in these times of uncertainty and to be able to help out whenever I am needed.

On the other hand, I miss our positive and open office environment and all the members of the team. Being able to chat and laugh with my colleagues was always something to look forward to. There are still a lot of meetings though and my work schedule is very busy. 

 

How do you try to stay connected to the company?

We have a companywide daily meeting each morning where we get all the necessary updates from our CEO. Also, there are daily meetings within my engineering team where we discuss our progress, come together and collaborate. That helps me stay in the loop.

 

Generally, how are you coping with working from home? Did your tasks change? What do you miss most about being in the office?

One thing that helps me is to keep changing where I work within the house. It keeps me from getting bored. Another difference is that I now have lunch before I start my work. If I have any questions or doubts, everyone on the team in Berlin has been very approachable, so that helps. I very much miss the office colleagues, team events and office environment though and I’m hoping to see everyone soon!

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