As 2020 began, we all had planned audacious goals. It was a new year, a new decade. The world was going to be our oyster.
And then came March.
Within a couple of days, we all were locked at home. Initially, we were all just trying to understand what happened. Seeing what happened in countries that were considered to have better medical infrastructure, we all locked ourselves up, being well aware of our medical infrastructure, and other challenges we would face due to our population and from us being a developing country. While there was enough and more information of what painful challenges other nations were going through, it still hadn't hit home.
From chores to trying new recipes to setting up home offices and learning to spend more time with family - we experimented with everything. But after a few days, we started missing normal life - office, meeting colleagues, eating out, travelling, and all that. As the first wave calmed down a bit, our patience started running out, and conversations around the new normal, future of work, staycations, a blended approach towards WFH/WFO started.
It’s fair to say that we were not planning for the second wave!
Our guards were down - masks off and social distancing was compromised - selfies were back, team lunches once again, in person meetings were on too. And most of this had started because nothing had happened in our first network or in our family.
But then everything crumbled around us.
Everything we dreaded came true. Just when we thought we had come to terms with the year that we lost, 2021 happened.
Now almost everyone reading this in India knows someone in their immediate network who has been affected by the second wave - the details and stories are harsh. Our population makes social distancing challenging, and a lot of people do not have enough space at home to isolate themselves either.
Basically, it has been difficult, and for a lot of us, these last months have been nightmarish.
Leading the community forward
But something else has happened too. People came together and showed immense leadership at the community level during these difficult times. It has been enervating to watch and help them do what they are doing.
There definitely is a sense of humanity, an understanding of community back in our society.
We missed this in our corporate world, where a lot is driven by ambition, and which at times moved us away from us the importance and the fragility of human lives, health and happiness. The pandemic levelled us in a lot of ways - it brought back compassion (and a lot of action) in each one of us.
We had neighbours, managers, colleagues, friends, relatives checking on each other more often. So many offered help and acted - volunteering for their skills, resources, verifying leads for hospitals, even calling up strangers to help strangers.
Our conversations beyond work became natural and authentic, there were so many vulnerabilities out in the open that we now had to share. There was understanding that someone might need time to grieve a loss of a friend or a family member.
CEOs and business leaders known for their focus and drive were hard at work finding a hospital bed or an air ambulance for their employees. And not just CEOs, individuals were now becoming leaders too. Everyone was helping in any way they could. In these last few weeks, we have seen leaders everywhere, in each one of us.
At work, people came together, helping those who couldn’t pay full attention at this time, and some assumed additional responsibilities so team members could devote time and energy to their families.
But there was one question being constantly asked: What can employers do here? What is their responsibility? Is there a tested guide to lead our people through such times.
Though there may not be a written guide, we at Accel got together and did a few things for our team that could help you think through this, within the capabilities and constraints we all have in our organisations.
Leading as employers
This is what is getting us through these times:
Again, this is not supposed to be a guide for what you should do. This is what we came up with. You can use this as a starting point for what you want to do for your org and for your people.
The other thing we thought about was about what we could do as individuals.
Leading for the future
We planned for 2020, and it turned out very differently.
Then we planned for 2021, and it turned out quite differently too.
Let's not wait and watch anymore. Let's not wait for the third wave, and take action on behalf of our families and our workplaces.
This is what we can do
There are some wonderful examples of how different companies came together to build solutions to track medical supplies, raise funds, and so on. Pick a model, and act.
Lastly, remember the happy hormone oxytocin that you get doses of through real human bonding and acts of human generosity. You do good, you feel good.
These are times we need each other, more than ever. Let’s come together, and do what we can. So we are back to the world we once had.