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Learning from the COVID experience

Learning from the COVID experience

The recent pandemic has completely transformed several aspects of our daily lives. Despite the impact being global, it has exposed many chinks in our armor while offering important lessons to everyone.

The impact of COVID can be viewed from the point of view of the society or from that of an individual.

In this article, we explore this topic from both these perspectives.

Impact from COVID

The impact of COVID was multi-fold. At the personal level, we experienced severe restrictions on our free movement was on a scale never witnessed before. Things we took for granted in the pre-COVID era have become a luxury during the lockdown. Certain daily rituals like going to work, meeting our colleagues and sipping a cup of coffee while discussing a range of topics of mutual interest came to a halt.

Organizations had to re-invent their ways of working in several ways. Those opposed to working from home in the past, grabbed it with glee, when it became inevitable. From rising targets year over year, organizations focused on resisting the bar from falling any lower. Compulsions of the lockdown created opportunities for them to test new ways of connecting and engaging.

Countries faced a meltdown in their economies. Recession, which was not a favorable word in economics, was taken for granted – the question was by how much. More than fighting with the consequences of the lock-down, many countries were faced with the challenges of implementing the lock-down itself, with their countrymen resisting the lock-down as an infringement on their freedom.

How can governments leverage from this experience?

At the start, the whole pandemic was viewed as a localized phenomenon and there were even some who went out of the way to attribute it to lifestyle issues of the affected countries. Being very infectious it could not be kept local; very few realized the gravity of the situation until the impact had already become very significant.

The main issue here is the silo behavior of every country and government; as long as the impact of the pandemic was not perceptible within their own country, many governments did little to safeguard their people. When we look at some of the countries that handled it well, the first thing was recognizing the pandemic and to treat it as one.

This was not the first time that a lockdown of this nature has impacted the world, nor it is the last. In fact, this current virus is not the first to have hit us with this severity. Since the start of this millennium, there have been at least three such viruses impacting large parts of the globe.

The overall behavior, be it individual, corporate or governments, have been more or less the same. People should behave in adherence to Maslow’s law - aiming to fulfill their immediate and basic needs first.

Leveraging from the experience – Government

As the virus continues to spread, countries come together in search of a vaccine and are recognizing the importance of sharing their knowledge with each other. If any, this is one of the most important lessons that we could take out of this experience. We must learn to respect every outbreak as a possibility for a pandemic and fight the calamity together.

Every major organization, as part of their strategic planning, creates a “Business-continuity-plan”. Should countries not have something similar as well? In today’s globalized world, something happening in one part impacts the other parts almost instantaneously.

We cannot rule out other pandemic that may come back in a different form soon. Or, any war that involves one of the super-powers is sure to create a similar impact of a lock-down across the world putting the very existence of the world at risk.

The Covid experience is unique in that it can help in preparing us for any eventuality moving forward.

Leveraging from the experience – Organization

The COVID lockdown helped organizations to come up with creative ways to counter the lockdown and in order to remain stable in their businesses. For example, many tasks that were formerly considered impossible to be done remotely were executed successfully from home.

Many solutions that were put forth can be absorbed into future corporate strategies and reorganize the processes and the organization-structure itself, in order to leverage the new solutions that build the resilience of the organization. For example, we could think about how working remotely may aid in de-centralizing the organization and enable smaller setups to be created in Tier-2 and Tier-3 cities.

This also presents a very good opportunity to turn towards a digital world. Though Digital Transformation has been in the air and has been spoken of for many years now, true transformation has either not been attempted, or, if attempted, has seldom been successful. With the experience of the lockdown and its inevitable repercussions, it is a time for corporate to evaluate and formulate a very strong push towards digital transformation.

Through these transformations, one challenge that will be more severely felt is, to maintain the culture of an organization. Through all these changes envisaged, cultural impacts ought to be consciously considered and addressed.

Leveraging from the experience – Individual

To begin with, the pandemic has taught us what freedom is, and was. It is something that we had taken for granted. We only realized it when the lockdown deprived us of that freedom; no more could we step out to meet friends, to shop, or just walk or ride for the fun of it.

With many households struggling to manage household chores all by themselves, everyone in the family had to share the work amongst them. It would also be a good opportunity to foster a better relationship at home, by working on these tasks. This could have provided valuable insight into the running of a household to those who have been glued to their work. But, did all of us benefit from this experience? If so, how deep and complete was our experience?  The answer to these questions will obviously vary from person to person.

The lockdown presented opportunities for re-skilling and building competences. The online mode of learning, which until the lockdown had not been very popular, became the only option that works.

The post-lockdown scenario presents a golden opportunity for those who are prepared for it; now that remote-working is a distinct possibility, remote locations are perceived to offer less challenges than they once did.

In conclusion

The Covid pandemic has presented many challenges, and we have created solutions that otherwise, would not have had the necessity to be envisaged. Each individual can identify these modifications through soul-searching, adopt them into the new system and build a more stable, resilient world around us.