Businesses have been badly hit due to the pandemic. As an entrepreneur-businessman, trying to manage with the lockdowns and staying afloat while meeting targets has not been an easy feat. I’ve been reading that almost all small businesses have experienced impact, and it will take time to recover to the pre-pandemic levels for sure. The shock is obviously being felt in all industries and in all aspects of life. I have personally felt the pain across all my businesses.
Let’s go with the thought that though this is a crisis, like any, this is also going to be short lived. I was happy that during the second wave this year, though there were lockdowns, there was more thought put into its better management by allowing economic activity and a reduced period of lockdown. This time around, many sectors were not as impacted as last time, with construction, manufacturing,logistics, transport, agriculture, continuous process industries and exporters being given some relief.Micro regional lockdowns rather than nationwide ones made a lot of sense.
Having said that, sectors like auto, retail, travel, entertainment, hospitality, consumer durables and the rest have taken a big hit. There has been a huge setback, and this is where we need to rethink our approach to the pandemic. What does this mean for Indian businesses and the people associated with it? Here are some thoughts, realizations and some open questions that I have pondered over and found both interesting as well as significant considering the times.
Living with Covid
With the advent of vaccination and in many cases potential herd immunity, some nations like Denmark, Singapore, South Africa, Thailand are looking at ditching the Zero–Covid policy. Rather they want to look at a “Living with covid” by enhancing their healthcare infrastructure and keeping some pragmatic precautions in place. Some have enviable vaccination rates; others have decided that the costs of continued economic and social restrictions outweigh the benefits.
The Danish government lifted all remaining coronavirus restrictions in the country on September 10, saying COVID-19 was no longer “an illness which is a critical threat to society.” India’s recent sero-survey has indicated that many states have reached almost 80% exposure of their population to COVID-19 and we can perhaps take some hope from this and approach covid management with a lot more pragmatism rather by being in a panic mode all the time.
Invest on talent
One thing that is certain is that people matter more than ever. It is therefore important to invest in people even amidst the lockdowns, Work from Home and the Hybrid model of work. Interestingly, I have noticed that many companies/businesses have been investing in people even in the current times while some have cut back. This shows some amazing leadership and understanding of the overall picture as well as a futuristic outlook. A McKinsey Survey noted that 87 percent of executives were experiencing skill gaps in the workforce or expected them within a few years. This will get accentuated with the uncertainty that looms large on us. It is thus certain that adapting employees’ skills and roles to the post-pandemic ways of working will be crucial to building operating-model resilience. Investing in them is a must. It is therefore a no brainer!
Managing Emotional Health
Uncertainty breeds anxiety, and in the current uncertain times with rising numbers of COVID-19 cases and questions about whether to open businesses, there has been a toll on mental health. While everyone has paid a lot of attention to physical health with the fear of covid, often neglected is the emotional health. Employees across organisations in India are working under immense stress amid concerns related to the second wave of COVID-19 and nearly 54 per cent are often in the stress zone.
Apart from investing in the skills of the employees, stress is another aspect that needs consideration during these times for businesses to function well.Empathy, care and understanding are needed now more than ever. When a client’s office reopened recently, employees were pleasantly surprised to see a nice COVID-19 survival kit sitting on their cubicles as a welcome back gift. It was indeed a small gesture but the ones who came were so touched at the display of care.
The pandemic-induced changes are here to stay for a while at least and we can already see accelerated investments in digital among others. One great example is QR codes have replaced physical Menu’s in restaurants. Many transactions in several traditional service areas have gone digital with lesser human intervention and everything is being done on tablets and laptops.I must admit though that I miss those physical menus during the dining experience.
What is the future going to be like?
The unexpected seems more tangible and plausible than we previously expected, and this has been proven this past year. Human beings cannot be endlessly locked up inside their homes.
The show must go on! We must start planning for a post COVID era and in some sense learn to live with COVID-19. Businesses need to learn to operate in an environment of ambiguity, disruption, and change. That is clearly the new normal.While we must take precautions, we also must remember every crisis has a rebound. While it is prudent for businesses to hold on to cash, it is also important to start investing on certain areas where there are long term benefits. Also never forget to invest on your own people!