Embracing the Lockdown – Every dark cloud has a silver lining!
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I remember my grandfather narrating the times of India’s pre independence struggle and my father narrating the early struggles of the young independent country. They talked about oppression, wars, famines and cholera like epidemics. I was very young when I experienced wars with neighbors, or at least the drills that came along with them. All this gave me an understanding of communities, social support, bravery and hope, mainly through the stories I heard. As I grew up, these stories seemed like the distant past. Me, and everyone around me belonged to a generation where every decade, there was something new, better and flashy. From television to telecom, education to healthcare – we witnessed only progress and major breakthroughs! This made us all become more independent, know-it-alls, apathetic to all the other species, in fact superior to nature itself. We became invincible – or so we thought. We wanted to amass more wealth, even if at the cost of our fellow human beings, species and environment. Until one day we faced a 0.12 microns odd virus. A virus which taught us how interconnected and fragile we and all that we have built are!
I believe every generation needs and faces its own crises. I believe this, because a crisis brings friends and foes together to battle a common enemy while brushing petty issues under the rug. Priorities suddenly change. The example closest to home is enabling “Work from home” for all employees. For years now, everyone in the Indian BFSI sector is talking about this flexible working solution that other service sector counterparts like the IT offer. With gig-economy gaining foothold, with daily commute becoming a hassle, with millennials wanting to know if the sector offered them this option, eyeing it as a perk to follow their several passions, everyone knew that this was going to be a future possibility. But we also had our apprehensions. Several of us tried to put it across as baseless, called it unproductive, unsocial and languid under our breaths. Until one day, a small virus shuts big physical enterprises, bringing businesses to a standstill. Even then, the unconquerable things that human souls are – everyone rises up to the occasion and signs up to “Work From Home”. Overnight as a team, everyone accelerates solutions for managing work from home for teams across departments and functions, keeping in mind that business goes on as usual while ensuring safety of employees as well. And just like that, an imported but now global virus, makes us unanimously realize that we already have most of the technologies in place. That yes it is a service industry, but unlike the olden days, technology is the bridge between customers and the enterprise, between enterprise and its employees. We also realize that people are in fact more productive, more enthused and much higher on their “work-life balance” metrics.
I personally feel that “work from home” helps me spend more time with my family, have more meals with them, have more interactions with them. Being able to help out around the house with household chores is yet another mindfulness exercise in itself. Many people I spoke to told me that their home is a more positive space to work rather than an office. Add to it the time saved in commute thus considerably reducing transit stress as a result of which everyone is happier and more productive. With proper technology in place, support functions can perform their duties efficiently from home and are in fact able to give superior service. The worklife balance also ensures that we can also achieve our personal to do lists which otherwise was always put to “some other day”. Work from home has worked wonders for expecting mothers with access to more hygienic conditions at home and provide them the flexibility to rest and work as per their convenience. This has also been a noteworthy move for mothers or fathers with young children who are now able to balance their professional and personal commitments better.
Of course there were and there are challenges and initial hiccups as well. But I think the positives outweigh the negatives, and at the end of the day, like most things in life, it is a question of one’s mind-set. If we are able to adapt and evolve to the reality of today, it helps in handling challenges better. Imagine the level of digital readiness and connectivity an “all work from home” scenario has helped us build. Today customers and partners are more responsive to digital solutions, employees are standing up to the task and leaders are on the forefront of this adoption drive ensuring that business is run as usual. In the future it will build more gender parity, result into better family dynamics, with more men equally investing themselves in childcare roles. It’s not like insurers are reinventing the wheel since a lot of consulting and tech companies are already doing this, it’s just that industries that have not done this before are doing it now. This could just be the future of how work is looked at where one can only come to office when there is a need to access office infrastructure or for trouble shooting or for the monthly team get togethers.
Just like my father and my grandfather – as of today, I too have a story to narrate to my future generations. Yes I wasn’t in a war, but the situation was universal. Just like a war, it affected everyone, the prepared and the unprepared – alike. Just like a war – it was a crisis that brought everyone together, and caused major systemic changes: the effects of which whole of humanity saw, comprehended and adopted to – in order to create a more equitable world for everyone. And that human resilience once again won, and we adapted solutions that didn’t need a global pandemic to be pushed into existence, but nevertheless gave us a good legacy to leave behind!