The COVID-19 pandemic has been the greatest disruptor as well as shaper in terms of the way we live and conduct ourselves. Whether it is our personal or social behaviour or professional life, there have been various changes and lessons to learn for all of us. For instance, until 2019, every behavioural trainer would have confidently elaborated on the importance of a ‘handshake’ or a ‘hug’. Today, a nod and smile from 6 feet distance or at best a fist-bump is the ‘in’ thing. And, of course, we greet all visitors with hand sanitizers and temperature scanners.
Such social and behavioural changes are here to stay because a contagion like this keeps coming back in waveforms and the best option to stay healthy and happy is to stay alert at all times. However, there are other personal and professional lessons that the pandemic has taught us which have a direct bearing on our life’s flow and success, such as the way we managed relationships.We were so used to be lost in the business of our routines that the better we perceived ourselves to be doing in life, the less time we had for relationships. However, the realization came only when the pandemic suddenly brought things to a standstill. There was no going to college or office. Friend circles, hang-out groups, office water-cooler friends or the mates at the club, all the social circles dried up, leaving many of us feeling completely isolated.
However, as time passed, one realized the value and impact of core personal relationships such as family and a few close friends. Truth be told, we all have limited energy and mental bandwidth to spare, and after the pandemic spread, we started spending more of it on the people closer at home and watering relationships which stand with us even when we hop from one job to another or switch residences from one city to another. While all other social relationships are important, it is the core that is back to limelight now.
Change is the only constant
From being a weather-beaten quote in philosophy books, it has become the way of life now. The changes that the pandemic ushered in have been diverse and drastic. In many areas, the changes are so extreme that they have completely changed the face of processes and actions such as the ‘hug’ in personal relationships. A large number of people and companies were hit so hard that they went clueless about what to do next while some others quickly adapted to the changes. From the first wave last year to the second wave this summer and the impending third wave, situations keep changing rapidly. One can be almost certain that operating situations undergo a change every few months or so in the prevailing circumstances. The greatest change that we see in the work arena is the amount of ‘flexibility’ or ‘dynamism’ that has entered the work culture.
In 2019, flexible approach to work meant being able to work from home occasionally. A year later, it became the norm, and today, flexibility implies working from anywhere, but, in a manageable way. In the early days of the pandemic, work-from-home was turned into working round-the-clock and that left people experiencing burnouts, frustration and mental health issues. More work hours meant more stress and demands of output from the employers as pink slips became a threat.
Now the focus is on ‘flexibility’ being the ability to merge personal and professional lives in ways that can be better managed and add value to both. At an organizational level, flexibility is the ability to quickly readjust the sails according to the winds. A number of startups and even some of the established companies pivoted completely or partially to keep going strong and to generate revenue during the pandemic peaks. Car companies made ventilators, cab companies offered to deliver essentials and groceries, and hotels turned into makeshift hospitals. Local stores across India that had traditionally never focused on home deliveries, turned up being prompter, and precise with doorstep deliveries than the multi-billion-dollar logistics firms. On the other hand, the travel and hospitality sector has been among the worst hit. International tourism continues to operate only in pockets that too subject to frequently changing regulations. Even domestically, many of the states especially the North-Eastern and Himalayan states have been mostly out of bounds for travellers.
Food delivery apps, online pharmacies, and tele-health have been some of the change areas that are evolving really fast. From being a brand that faced serious ‘image management’ challenges to being the first Indian food-delivery app to go for a billion dollar plus IPO, Zomato has come a long way. This is just the beginning as ecommerce is now the future of retail. It is one sector that has flourished in the face of the adversity due to the fact that it caters to the public’s needs through virtual shopping and doorstep contactless delivery of almost all types of products.
Evidently, the pandemic has turned out to be a transition that has made us focus on the core values in personal and professional lives. Importance of value and core relationships, being adaptive to change, resourcefulness and approaching situations with a solutions mindset in social and corporate environments is the key. While the adversities like the pandemic waves are unavoidable, we can mitigate their impact by implementing the lessons learned from the experience gained during the last year and a half.
Article is authored by Shiraz Khan, Founder/Director, SpiceTree Design Agency.