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Glass half full – looking at the bright side of COVID-19 lockdown

Daily schedules, deadlines and timelines, meetings and appointments; human beings have always been a breed of meticulous planners. The last 4 weeks, however, have been an enlightening experience. The COVID-19 lockdown has left all our plans distraught. We wonder, if we will ever return to the “normalcy” we had before the pandemic struck globally, in February 2020.

While the pandemic has posed several difficulties for businesses and the society at large, it has also presented us with a unique opportunity. It is a window to reflect by, in order to consider some of the positives that could come out of the lockdown.

As the cacophony of urban life is silenced, the forced confinement has already reintroduced us to the magic of nature. The air quality is now breathable and life in general has mellowed down. Amidst all the risk predictions for the post-COVID world, there are positives to be drawn for the world of business also.

In managing new challenges of anticipating business continuity risks, tackling sudden changes in volume, handling decision-making in a rapidly changing environment, ensuring workforce productivity, and safeguarding against security risks, we have sufficiently proven that we can be resilient and agile when faced with a crisis situation.

The COVID-19 lockdown has also been a catalyst in driving organizations to rush back to the drawing board and devise new innovative ways to handle operations. These labour pangs are a passage to a new world order. Surely, there are several other silver linings to this dark cloud of a pandemic looming over us.

Here are a few other positives of the lockdown on the top of my mind:

The human touch

Our attitude towards leadership has gone through an insinuating change. As companies in general put the safety and wellbeing of employees high on the priority list, managers are also trying to move beyond KRAs and deliverables to connect with teams on a human level. Leaders are learning new ways of forging trust with the workforce, and in turn positioning their businesses for a renewed growth in the near future. The lockdown has hammered in the importance of people management as a path to a long-haul business success. In terms of business, companies are also more attentive to the real needs of customers, prioritizing their likes and dislikes, in order to build relevant solutions.

The power of motivation

While the option to work from home has existed for long, it was never considered as an alternative to the office setup. The lockdown has shown us that work-life balance is possible while also ensuring that productivity and delivery of services to our clients is not impacted. The benefits of enabling work from home for the majority of workforce rests on my first point above – the human touch. It automatically accommodates for unique personal issues an employee might be facing and is a no-cost motivating factor. The employees have the power to own their productivity, and “with great power comes great responsibility.” In fact, we have seen higher productivity from employees, while they work from home.

Health and wellbeing

Enabling work from home is a huge motivator for employees, especially for women. There is more time to be spent with families, there is time to catch up on long lost hobbies, and it eliminates the perils of traffic. People are now more aware of their health and the importance of exercising that may have suffered as workhours and travelling to and from home encroached on most of our time in a given day. We must strive to continue this way of life in the post lockdown period also. It has a direct impact on productivity levels, as employees are more fulfilled and relaxed.

Sustainable living

Every family has started to clearly prioritize the essential from the non-essential. This means higher savings and less wastage. The supply chain, as a result, is breathing a sigh of relief. The receding consumerism has also reduced the strain on our fragile garbage disposal system. With travel time reduced to nil, CO2 emissions reduce, aiding the carbon footprint targets for businesses. At the same time, it has a wider impact on climate change. Less people travelling at a given time also reduces the load on public transport networks. For long, we have contemplated on an office set up, where employees mandatorily work from home on a rolling basis, as a solution to tackle traffic snarls in cities. The lockdown may just be the push we need to actually implement it.

Less expenditure

Enabling a significant part of the employee base to work from home implies that organizations may no longer need huge office spaces. If we embrace this opportunity to adapt to remote working, the real estate cost for organizations will almost halve, while also cutting down on overhead costs. Maybe, this will also transform the ergonomics of a workspace with more flexible and agile work zones, blurring the straight jacketed lines of a traditional work environment. Companies will also spend less on transport and infrastructure maintenance, which has further potential to cut down on operational expenses.

Technology reasserts

The lockdown, although forced by circumstances, has made us realize that we don’t really need to be face-to-face to have a meeting. Subject Matter experts can be located anywhere in the world, and it will still be possible to deliver timely service to clients. Collaboration tools are now being used effectively, not just to conclude meetings, but also for creative brainstorming. This is also changing the way we articulate our brand image. We have seen tell-tale signs of an impending change in the last few days, as economic activity gradually resumes. Jewellery stores are denying the touch-and-feel shopping experience to its users, the inventory-less concept popularized by French sporting goods brand Decathlon, is gaining steam, food-on-demand companies are offering zero-contact delivery, and no more crowding in Zara to grab that favorite piece of clothing.

Simply put, we have found a smarter way to achieve the same goals we were chasing three months ago. We must carry forward these positive learnings from the lockdown to implement effective solutions in the post COVID era also. Because, let’s face it, we are at the throes of a tectonic shift, and we have no other choice but to embrace the change with its most positive aspect firmly in sight.