March 27, 2020

What COVID-19 has taught me so far.

By Radhika Punshi, Managing Director, The Talent Enteprise

It was the best of times, it was the worst of times,
It was the age of wisdom, it was the age of foolishness
It was the epoch of belief, it was the epoch of incredulity
It was the season of Light, it was the season of Darkness
It was the spring of hope, it was the winter of despair,
We had everything before us, we had nothing before us…”
Charles Dickens, A Tale of Two Cities, 1859

These words written in the 1850’s couldn’t ring more true today as we continue to come to terms with the current situation. Everyone is talking about how the world will change after the COVID-19 crisis. In my mind, the world around us has already fundamentally changed. Upside down. Inside out.

For those of us who have been fortunate (and privileged) to be able to work from home for the past few weeks, we have more time to pause and appreciate the simpler things in life. Just as we should. I personally have. No more crazy flights, endless hotel nights and extended time away from our 4 year old daughter. For now. Yes, the air seems cleaner. The roads are quieter. I hear constant laughter from the kids in my neighborhood. Families are eating meals together. We are speaking to our parents more. We are reaching out to close friends and long lost contacts to say hello. We are focussing on being healthier. On eating better. We are protecting the youngest and oldest in our families from harm’s way.

From a work perspective, we are starting to do things that we should have done years ago. We didn’t need a pandemic to have more empathy for our personal family situations. To have the ability to laugh off screaming kids on conference calls. To be more understanding of what it takes for some of our team members to commute to work using public transport. To let others get the job done on their own time. To trust people to work flexibly. To empower our teams to do the right thing. To not be consumed by this constant state of busyness. Yes. It is all possible. And this is what the workplace of the 21st century should have looked like long before 2020. Without a crisis forcing us to fundamentally change the way we work. Working remotely is not easy, and having minimal social contact is no fun. But it is possible.

Don’t get me wrong. For many employees and businesses, these are probably the most turbulent times we have ever had to face. People are worried about their jobs. Many are coming to terms with significant pay cuts or extended unpaid leave. Families are concerned about where their next weeks groceries may come from. Companies are agonising about how they will continue to meet all their financial and business obligations keeping in mind an impending recession, and a truly unprecedented global slowdown impacting almost every industry, every sector, and every size of company, all over the world. No one knows how this will play out and for how long.

I find my mind wandering constantly. Obsessively checking the news. Reading the constant WhatsApp forwards. Worrying. Anxious. Wondering what I can do next. Wondering what I should have done. For my family. For those around me. For my team. For my company.

The worst we can do is do nothing. To procrastinate and think this will all go away. We have to commit to action. Now. To stay home. To be sensible. To let your employees know that their health and well-being matters. To pay them what is due. To pay your maids, drivers and house staff. To ask them to stay home with their families. To support local businesses. Your local restaurants and grocery stores.

For all companies, honour your contracts as long as financially feasible. Pay your partners and suppliers. Shift your mindset. Explore how projects can be executed differently. If 300 million students can be out of school and learn remotely, so can we. We can be much more innovative, agile and flexible about continuing to provide our services, products and solutions. To our customers. For our employees.

For larger companies, support start up’s and SME’s. Please. Without your help, many will cease to exist. Ensure that you spend that extra time understanding their services and providing them with business opportunities. Help them navigate your complex procurement loopholes. Make it simpler. Give them a chance.

And finally, for other entrepreneurs, who may be worried sick about keeping your lights on. For those dreading to say bye to a team who is like your extended family. I would just say hope for the best, but plan for the worst. Be wise. Think outside the box on possible diversification, of complementary business opportunities. Of partnerships and tie-ups. Of additional lines of credit from your banks. Of rental reductions from your landlords. Of providing for your employees, yet preserving whatever cash you can.

If there is any help that I can personally offer (or anyone at The Talent Enterprise) please do feel free to reach out. For a coaching session. For a resume review. For an assessment to discuss your next career move. For technology advice. For brand advice. For HR advice. For anything that may help you get through these difficult times.

In the meanwhile, hug your loved ones a bit tighter. Do what you can to support others in need. Do the right thing. Stay home. And importantly, thank those battling it out the front lines, so we can get a decent night’s sleep tonight.