With little option but to adapt to a world without the freedom to go outdoors, minus a mask, gloves and proximity, who would have thought that flexibility will come with risk!
Life is on ‘hold’ for the most part, however there is also resilience and great fortitude amidst this unexpected crisis. Some have temporarily redesigned their everyday life by balancing tasks which allows for seamless transition between new duties and schedules.
And in countries where an entire culture has little interest in equal sharing or where there is disproportionate sharing of physical work, this pandemic has been a teacher!
I spoke to a few people to find out how they were coping during this pandemic.
“I have learnt to do things on my own which otherwise would require outside help.My TV for instance stopped working and in normal circumstances I would call an electrician to fix it but this time I decided to go through an online DIY video to set it right,”said an entrepreneur.
“I am guilty that while people are finding it difficult to make ends meet, I am living in a high- rise with help. And when I see the inconvenience faced by many because of this pandemic, I feel like downsizing my lifestyle, why do I need so many things,” said a corporate head. “The strange desire to possess more and the need to keep acquiring that extra, seems so worthless now.”
A worried mother said, “My sixteen year old is visually fatigued with online classes and is looking forward to going back to school to ‘ real classes’ as she calls them, this online routine is just so artificial.”
Then there is the work from home concept, which is at an experimental stage for employees who have never worked remotely. I spoke to a few on the opportunities and obstacles of WFH, most did not see it as a game changer.
A banker said “I run a large operation and my teams engage with customers. While WFH is the solution right now, there are things corporates must consider if they are planning WFH in future. Are homes equipped for this concept?”
“I have a child who is in her last year of school, elderly parents who live with me and an ailing husband. Even though my home is large it is not set up for working from home or studying from home. The other day one of my colleagues called up his line manager and wept, he was distraught, he said his home was just not the kind of place where one could work from,” she said.
A retail Vice President said, “What surprises me when we do virtual video calls is to watch some of my colleagues sitting on the floor, some sitting on the bed and others on the desk. I did not know how most of my colleagues live till now and that is the harsh reality.”
The office is a level playing field. The bandwidth of wifi, whether a person has the right chair etc are not material or even asked for by an employee, as the infrastructure is provided for. Every employee is equal in that sense. But at home all this is dependent on the home owner and their ability to source these things.
For many going to office everyday allows interactions with colleagues from diverse social background hence during those hours at work, everyone forgets which background they come from.
A senior IT executive said, “Whilst this is fine temporarily, the idea to stay home and work is not a long term plan for me. Where is the cutoff point, I end up eating my dinner at 1:00 am as I have been in virtual meetings the entire day. I am now looking forward to going back to my work place.”
“There are advantages, the most important being the safety and wellbeing of the employees during this crisis. The ability to flex shifts, do break shifts etc. Working remote from our hometown rather than the office location have proven to be beneficial. However for me personally, I would like to go back to working from where I have been working these past 20 years, at my office,” said the banker. “My daughter and I have one desk to share and we take turns to occupy the desk. Staying at home and working, has been very inconvenient for us.”
These are very genuine concerns in the current time. But I also hear people say that this pandemic has taught them to reach out, solve issues and be self sufficient. And that they have started directing their energies in a much more constructive manner, more now than ever before.
‘Flexibility’ maybe at risk but it is also a personality trait defined as the ability to deal and respond to changing circumstances in a resourceful manner and perhaps this trait is most valuable during this unexpected crisis!
Life after all is a series of chapters and it maybe time to close a chapter and read the next!