The Road Ahead

As we get into Q42020, almost all businesses, except those in some sectors like Education, Travel and Hospitality have resumed operations similar to pre-CoVid level, there is debate on what the so called “New Normal” looks like.

Hetal Sonpal

TEDx Speaker and Angel Investor

As we get into Q42020, almost all businesses, except those in some sectors like Education, Travel and Hospitality have resumed operations similar to pre-CoVid level, there is debate on what the so called “New Normal” looks like. There definitely will be lasting impact of the lockdown induced changes in the work place and pundits world over are making bold predictions on trends that are likely to stay, challenges that continue to evolve and issues that continue to bother, as we head into the holiday season.

There are reports citing spots of economic revival; sectors getting back to pre-CoVid level, segments beating the YoY numbers and businesses that are totally rocking. But the fact remains that millions of people globally are still jobless. Even among the sectors which have opened up, many companies are still trying to get the business rhythm back. Lets see what are the evident trends and practices evident so far:

Work, Workplace, Workforce: The very concept of how work is done in different industries, is being reviewed. The Gig economy and flexible working policies are here to stay. The Workforce will be expected to work in a dynamic, changing environment with changes made at short notice. Technology, thus will be a huge enabler to facilitate this flexible working environment. Work need not be executed from the workplace only; presence of workforce at the workplace is not a given; need for workforce itself is threatened by technology for many tasks.

Work from Home: A familiar term in the Tech industry long before Corona, it’s now a household name. While percentage of jobs to be WFH forever keeps changing, its clear that as an option, WFH is here to stay. It is interesting to note that all work was WFH before the industrial revolution made Industries and Factories as the new workplace. The weavers, artisans, cooks, carpenters, etc. all had their workplace in the backyard of their house.

In terms of work flexibility, an employee who earlier would brave heat, rains, traffic, bandh calls, etc. to commute from Virar to South Mumbai, can now choose to WFH on days of such hardship. If the executive commuting from West Delhi to Gurgaon sees long traffic snarls near Dwarka, he can go into the nearest co-working space or a Hotel Lobby and work from there or even go back home to work. They do not need to come to office ‘at any cost‘. Work from Home is also now “Work from Anywhere”.

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And the people who come to office, for them collaboration/team work, team meetings will be high up in the agenda. This will mean higher productivity when in office. Less time for gossip and small talk.

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The other significant change of WFH has been permanent work set up at home. Changes include better seating, well equipped table, noise free environment or even moving into a bigger house. Companies have gone out of the way to provide ergonomically designed chairs, high speed data connections and even noise cancelling headphones to employees at home to ensure zero compromise on ‘quality of work’.

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WFH has helped build a stronger and more personal bond among employees. The perceived rude boss shows softer side nursing his aged parents. The quiet employee had never mentioned the special child he is bringing up. The colleague who made all sorts of excuses for being alone at office parties is separated from his wife a while back. These bonds will remain strong, as they add another dimension to the relationships.

Technology: Technology’s domination, right from devices to data to applications, is reflected in technology stocks performance in stock market. In Education tech ensured continuation of learning for more than 600 million students forced to stay home. It was ironical that parents checked on ‘screen time’ for kids, were now getting the fanciest and most expensive devices for them. The crisis has also awakened us to the need for investment needed in healthcare technology, to ramp up vaccine development. 18-24 month period is just not acceptable as a solution for the pandemic of this nature.

Gratitude: We need to appreciate the importance of life and what matters during a crisis. Rather than woe on what we don’t have, we need to appreciate what we do. With the pain and sadness all around, have sense of gratitude to be still alive and healthy. If you have roof on your head, clothes to wear, food to eat and clean drinking water to drink, you are more fortunate than 75% of the people in the world.

Empathy: While we may all feel victimized to some extent, clearly the pandemic has not hurt all of us in the same way. The healthcare and public administration people have had to bear the worst of it all. And to know that there are elements of the society, who try to isolate these people due to threat of infection, is clearly hard to believe. As the cases have increased, more people have first person account of the way virus impacts your health and the helplessness of the medical staff in many cases. To empathize with the healthcare workers and to treat them with dignity is the least we can do.

Do Good: I am not just referring to charity. Talk to people. Understand what they are going through. Some of the most troubled people around you are the most quiet. They will not break down, they will not tell you what they are going through. The migrant labour crisis unfolded out of the blue as a consequence of the lockdown. Millions of people were caught unaware, stuck in the big cities without a source of income and without any food. They could not even step out of their house to beg. Even if they could, there was not a soul on the street to help them anyway. The art of giving when u don’t have is the noblest. If you can, then you are privileged, exercise the right.

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Lifestyle Changes: What is being done by mask, sanitizer and social distancing today by force, will be a lifestyle change by choice going forward. If there was anyone who needed a reason to be clean and hygienic, Corona has given them many. It’s interesting, Delhi’s pollution could not convince the people to wear mask regularly for years; a few months of Corona has made them change. The Japanese are known to be one of the most clean and disciplined people in the world. No wonder it ranks at the top in fight against Corona.

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Mindset: There can be many ways of dealing with the crisis. But ultimately, what matters is your ‘mindset’. As Carol Dweck has explained in her monumental book ‘Mindset’, if you have a growth mindset, then you look at things differently and look for a solution. If you have a ‘normal mindset’, like the masses, you let enormity of the problem get the better of you and give up without even trying. What Reliance has done throughout this crisis is not just wielded power of their brand or strength of their platform. Through an aggressive mindset, they have correctly read the situation, analyzed what is expected of them as an established player and delivered a pitch to the most attractive investors globally that is simply ‘too good to ignore’.

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Get going: We have all been privy to the debate which went behind getting IPL off the ground. It almost did not happen this year. Regardless of who lifts the trophy on Nov 10 in Dubai, Cricket is the real winner. Yes, I am aware of all that talk about IPL being a money spinner, cricketers doing it for money, etc.. But lets understand the reality. Its not easy for the players and the crew to go to the Middle East for the tournament. All the teams had a mandatory 14 day quarantine after landing in mid September, get into a secure Bio-Bubble and had to remain in the bubble all the way till the final on Nov 10. They can’t go to the beach or any fancy places anywhere in Dubai/Abu Dhabi/Sharjah. They are either playing, practicing, or are holed up in their hotel room. Its ‘strictly business’. That’s the level of commitment needed at work for all of us. Zero room for error now!

Finally, I am all about positivity. I strongly believe that everything happens for the good. Its for us to believe in this mindset and identify what is ‘good’ for us and ‘go for it’.

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