COVID 19 – Precipice of change built on oodles of fear

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by Mr. Lokesh Mansukhani, Head-Group Communications, KGK Group 

In great profusion, this global dreadful pandemic has been researched, written, and talked about by a large number and interestingly it is still underway. With an intention to contribute to this plethora of information in a different light, here is an attempt to explore and discover the fear quotient associated with this eerie crisis by virtue of astute observations.

This outlandish turmoil has punched everyone, an individual, a family, a community, a society, a business, an economy, and nations at large, at varying degrees of fear and anxiety, triggering seismic shifts, both good and bad, as witnessed in the last few months. Be it cultural, psychological, behavioral, communal, economic, or a political transformation, collectively they are all nearing a massive radical change hitting the social fabric of India. What seems a temporary adaptation, will possibly in no time become a way of life.

Today, what fears have in fact shackled the entire world is an essential question to be addressed in favor of a radiant future. The most atrocious amongst the lot, is none other than the fright to lose our loved ones and our own cessation as well. Every individual is trying to overcome this trauma by adopting all necessary measures in favor of their loved ones’ health and safety. “I am only worried about the wellbeing and survival of my parents. I am doing my utmost that is required to be done to confirm their safety and in parallel also trying to accept what cannot be changed.” expresses a Canada based psychotherapist who is away from his folks. Isn’t it interesting to note that these times have somehow made us more compassionate? Youngsters have started valuing their elders, kids began to treasure their parents and almost every relation has seen an emotional transition leading influx of affection and care. “Currently my priority is the health and wellness of my family. I am ensuring that they do regular exercise to keep themselves fit. Anything that is being bought has to be sanitized before entering the house. Am confirming social distancing and all the prescribed activities.” comments a HR professional from Gurgaon. This clearly indicates that positivity dispersed by this fear can easily defeat the unrest behind it. Definitely we always loved our loved ones but didn’t emoted ever. This fear helped us broke the barrier and gave wings to expressions, propagating behavioral shift like never before.

What follows next is the fear of purging or pay cuts or furloughs that has unnerved all grades of working individuals. As the entire economic cycle has got injured, employers have no choice but to take harsh decisions perhaps to facilitate the survival of all. Although many brands have also set an example by not distorting their commitment to the employees, even an inch. Asian paints is raising staff salaries or going ahead with annual appraisals to boost the morale amid the pandemic. But predominantly this particular fear has disturbed the employment landscape of the country. Zomato is set to layoff about 13% of its employees and impose a 6 month pay cut of up to 50%.  Kotak Mahindra Bank has decided on a 10% pay cut for employees earning above 25 lakhs per annum. The country’s largest domestic airlines Indigo, had announced pay cut ranging between 5 and 25 per cent, in addition to its leave-without-pay programme for May, June and July, for senior employees. Premium carrier Vistara has sent 30 per cent of its 4,000 staff on leave without pay for some days in the April-through-June months to minimise costs. Uber will lay off 3,700 employees, the company announced in a filing with the Securities and Exchange Commission. The list is endless but when we dig the roots the hardest-hit is undoubtedly the labor class. The mental and physical agony that this particular group underwent and has still not gotten over it is non-comparable. “This stressful situation might veer this class towards crime in order to ensure their survival, thereby increasing the nation’s crime rate.” says a lawyer from Jaipur. “The labor might not be interested to return back. This is signal of a behavioral change to not to work away from home which can result in shortage of labor and thus increasing the labor cost.” adds a young entrepreneur from Jaipur having a labor intensive business. The government is also seeking help from trade unions to dissuade migrant workers, rendered jobless by a nationwide lockdown, from returning to their home towns as businesses complained that the move will worsen the labour shortage and imperil the government efforts to revive the nation’s economy. On the other hand corporate employees have their own version for fear of making a living. “My personal goals will be delayed for few years and things will be on pause for a long, but on the contrary I also foresee great amount of opportunities coming our way” says a senior employee of an international chain of hotels.

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Another constructive yet subjective consequence of this fear has been ‘work from home’ popularly renamed as ‘new normal’. This was already a trend in many of the multinationals but now this has been adapted by the employees of every other business house, big or small. Why? Because they want to ensure the survival of their jobs by all means. If we analyze this format of remote working on a larger note it seems to be a win-win situation for both, employer as well as an employee. Reduction of operational cost will benefit the employer while employee can save on commuting and lifestyle costs with an added benefit of working with family around. Many brands have already started working along these lines. Realization of long-term advantages of this model, companies like TCS is looking to move 75% of its global workforce to remote work by 2020, whereas Tech Mahindra plans to achieve 25% work from home in longer run. Amazon India has allowed work from home until October 2 for employees in role that can be effectively carried out remotely. Tech gaints Facebook and Google has also asked their employees to work remotely until end of this year. Twitter is the first tech company to make work from home permanent for its employees, barring the jobs that require physical presence like server maintenance.“I was threatened by the fear of losing the job but as I am passionate about my profession I will ensure that I sustain and therefore I am trying remain more involved in the business in spite of working from home” assures a senior HR personnel from an international hotel chain. Another instance of withstanding the pressure of this common fear is the silent acceptance of declared pay cuts by majority of workforce without any agitation, as this was considered to be much better choice over losing a job. SoftBank backed Oyo announced pay cuts and ‘leave with limited benefits’ options for its staff in India. In an email to employees, Oyo CEO Rohit Kapoor stated the company is asking all its employees to accept a reduction in their fixed compensation by 25% effective for the April-July 2020 payroll period. “My biggest fear is people losing jobs is affecting there sustainability to the core. I am coping up as I always had an alternative source of income, which would not be severely impacted by the downturn but that’s not the usual case.” shares a senior consultant from Mumbai.  All these occurrences are surely creating history by audaciously redefining the ‘normal’ in India’s employment sector. Therefore new normal further elevates the concern of being normal.

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Another global fear that accounts for fret is a lurched economy making every single industry scramble for air. From business houses to industrialists to the government, all are restless about murky future. Economists and financial experts are of the opinion that not only the nation but the aspiration, ambitions and objectives of its people have been regressed by almost two years. Be it subsistence of the current enterprises or launching of the new ones, both are in obscurity. Key to survive amidst humongous losses and despair is sustainability driven by a well-laid-out plan. Test of time will also clear the air to a considerable degree.

Ahead of all forgoing fears is the severest of them all, the insecurity associated with the treatment of COVID 19, the very reason for every other fear. Not only had that but an unpredictable behavior of the virus, further added insults to misery. Since day one of the advent of this virus unlimited theories have been propagating without any assurance. From the symptoms to the treatment methods every bit of the subject is fluctuating. A new development or an observation is seen before the previous one is even addressed. We all knew that life is uncertain but here this indeterminacy has taken a biggest toll on everyone’s life. Vaccines are under production but there results are not been ascertained. Tenure for the virus to vanish is still a big question. Possibly what is sure amidst this infirmity is the heartfelt effort put in by generous and brave frontline workers. It’s truly a saluting spirit when one performs, endangering one’s own life to save the lives of many.

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Researchers have suggested that fear forces us to focus on areas of our lives which our instincts tell us needs our attention. Fear forces us into extreme concentration and helps us to shed distractions. Fear at times is not an option. The life you live depends on the choices you make and the calculated risks you take. They are the very ingredients in the recipe called happiness. Overcoming fears means that great otherwise unforeseen opportunities might come our way. So let’s subscribe to positive mind set and soon usher into a new life full of hopes and opportunities. This will only be made possible when you will get accustomed to this situation by surmounting all your fears relating to the pandemic.

There is no illusion great than fear, therefore the key to success is to focus our conscious mind on things we desire and not on things we fear.

 

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