My WFH Routine: Hadia Mostafa, managing partner and co-founder of Inktank
Hadia Mostafa, managing partner and co-founder of Inktank: My Morning Routine looks each week at how a successful member of the community starts their day — and then throws in a couple of random business questions just for fun. Speaking to us this week is our own Hadia Mostafa, managing partner of Enterprise’s parent company, Inktank.
I’m Hadia Mostafa, managing partner and co-founder of Inktank, the Egypt-based investor relations and strategic communications firm that provides services to more than 40 publicly traded and private companies in Egypt, Saudi Arabia, the UAE, and Bahrain. Inktank is also the proud parent company of Enterprise.
We’ve been through curfews and economic downswings in the past, but covid-19 has brought a new set of drastic changes for everyone. Since starting Inktank in 2007, my business partner and I have seen the company through a global financial crisis in 2008, two revolutions in 2011 and 2013, and the devaluation of the EGP in 2016. But nothing could have prepared me for the situation we now find ourselves in.
Within the span of one week, my son had moved to work from home (WFH) out of his bedroom, my husband was running a factory out of our living room, and my daughter was packing up her dorm room in Boston to catch one of the last flights back to Cairo. And I was at a tiny desk in my guest bedroom advising clients in four countries (which at the beginning was all about how to stay calm and well-informed), helping our staff juggle priorities, and working on my own deliverables.
Now in our fourth week of WFH, so far it’s not about routine, but about coping with the loss of the very fast-paced routine that I had perfected and thrived on for years.
The first and last thing that I do every day is check the news on my phone. My day in lockdown usually starts between 6:30 and 7:00am and ends somewhere around midnight. I’ll start my morning reading Enterprise and in the evening it’s usually a combination of the New York Times, Crooked Media Podcasts (to feed my US politics addiction) and the White House Coronavirus press briefing on MSNBC. I have coffee on my balcony before everyone else in the house wakes up, and I go through my emails and Teams messages to try and get a sense of what the day ahead will be like.
In the first two weeks of WFH, we were establishing a new system for the whole company. We had daily 8:45 am management committee conference calls and afternoon wrap-ups at 5:00 pm, which gave us a sense of connection and reassured us that all client and staff needs were being met. Recently, we’ve found it more efficient to minimize the calls and communicate more in writing.
I don’t know if there is such a thing as a typical day anymore, but all my days are still very client-focused. The day usually consists of juggling client deliverables that I am personally creating or supervising and talking both internally and with clients on how to mitigate risks to their businesses and weather the storm.
Managing meals and household chores without outside help has also been a huge challenge, despite the fact that I am fortunate enough to have adult children and a supportive spouse, who all help out.
With no hard end to the workday, I initially found that I was semi-working round the clock. Now I schedule a daily evening walk, and spending an hour outdoors has become the highlight of my day. It really helps to clear my mind. After walking, I cook dinner and then either catch up on work that didn’t get done or hang out with my family and watch Netflix. Occasionally I indulge in some nighttime baking with my daughter.
Having both my children under one roof is the one positive aspect of this whole ordeal, and for that I’m very grateful.
The blurred lines between different aspects of my life sometimes leave me with a feeling that I’m not giving 100% to anything. I am, however, coming to realize that 100% productivity is not necessarily the goal right now. What we’re going through is not a typical WFH experiment. We’re at home, in the middle of a crisis, and all trying our best to work.
On particularly stressful days, stretching and meditation help a lot. I keep a yoga mat near my desk and do a 10-minute stretch or guided meditation in the middle of the day. Exercise is also invaluable. I can’t do what I love (spinning and Pilates classes) so I downloaded a running app called From Couch to 5K and I do an occasional Pilates class on Zoom.
I’m currently reading book three of Elena Ferrante’s Neapolitan Novels, “Those Who Leave and Those Who Stay.” On Netflix I’m watching the series Fargo, and re-watching one of my all-time favorite shows, Mad Men. I’m finding it incredibly soothing to watch a beautifully written and executed drama, knowing how it ends. I’m behind on my podcasts because I no longer have my daily two-hour commute, but I try to keep up with NYT’s The Daily, NPR’s How I Built This, and Crooked Media’s Pod Save America. I’ve recently tuned in to Samin Nosrat’s Home Cooking, and I look forward to resuming our own production, Making It.
The biggest thing that I’ve learned about myself in this period is that tech is not my enemy. I’m the least tech-savvy person on my team, but WFH has given me a new appreciation for technology. Without it, we would not have been able to run the company as smoothly and efficiently as we have in the past few weeks.
I’m so grateful to be working with an exceptionally talented and dedicated group of individuals who’ve really stepped up during this crisis. Everyone, from our most junior analysts to senior analysts, associates, designers, and developers to our department heads, finance, sales and strategy teams, has been doing an amazing job working from home, and meeting the needs of our clients. This is under extremely challenging conditions, often while dealing with young children, slow internet, and the uncertainty of what the future holds.
I think the number-one priority for any business right now is to take care of its people and safeguard their health. Other than that, the secret is really to communicate clearly about the stuff that matters most. We have started a new series of advisory notes to clients that can be accessed here.
What am I dreaming about during lockdown? Greco coffee, fast internet in my office, and the beach.