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BW Businessworld

The New Normal Post Covid-19: The Impact On Businesses

India announced an economic stimulus package worth INR 1.7 trillion (USD 22.5 billion) to help millions of low-income households.

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What does it take to shake us up, like really wake us up, from our convenience and habit induced stupor? It has taken a global pandemic to jolt us out from our trance. A health crisis, which threatens our very existence, has forced us to re-think, re-innovate, to prepare for the unexpected.

We are caught in a global health crisis ,countries and political leaders are struggling to cope with the devastating pandemic. Governments have closed borders and forced quarantines. The societal and individual impacts have been harsh. 

In the last few days, our worlds have changed, irrevocably. Words such as lockdown, curfew, quarantine have been hammered into our daily vocabulary. Lives have come to a standstill.

While we grapple with the health emergency CoVID-19poses, there is another catastrophe, which the world is facing, an economic crisis, which will have a far-reaching impact.

According to International Labour Organization (ILO) chief General Guy Rider, "195 million jobs could be lost and the world of work is suffering from an absolutely extraordinary fall." According to the International Monetary Fund (IMF), the world might be in the throes of a recession as bad as or worse than 2009, during 2020 and for some part of 2021. 

The global coronavirus pandemic, which originated in the small and inconspicuous district of Wuhan in China has taken frighteningly colossal proportions, it is threatening our way of life and our livelihoods. The situation is dismal, businesses are badly hit, we have to find a new normal and unlearn the normal as we knew it. 

Clearly, the virus does not discriminate - individuals, families, small and big businesses, in rural and urban areas will be impacted by it. Across the world, governments are going all out, taking unprecedented risks to bail out their citizens from an impending economic crisis. In the United States, President Donald Trump has announced a USD 1200 stimulus package for every US citizen, the question remains, is it enough? Will any package be enough to salvage the current situation?

The post CoVID-19 reality is looming large and it is not a pretty picture, the pandemic will change the way businesses operate and redefine the way, companies engage with employees. It is a wake-up call for the public and private sector to re-evaluate policy frameworks, business strategies and operations to protect jobs and employees. 

Organizations will be compelled to embrace digitalization and virtualization, also companies may be forced to cut salaries, to retain jobs. On the employee Front, the Office goer is struggling to adapt and adjust to the new,work from home (WFH) paradigm. Even the ones who have adjusted, are insecure about their jobs. Mid-sized entrepreneurs and SME's are unsure about their survival -paying salaries and managing rentals without generating income is an enormous challenge for smaller players.

A US-based software professional clocking in 10’hrs  a day from home feels that the future will be a test for one and all, only the fittest will survive. While  another  health Care Manager with a US based insurance company facing the lockdown voices the need to run comprehensive cost reduction programs to prepare for recovery from the economic crisis. A senior marketing professional with a top hospitality chain in the UAE, currently on forced leave and slashed pay, feels that re-invention is the key to the future, companies need to understand ‘together is better’. The organizations that stand by their people in these tough times will be the winners.

Closer home, India announced an economic stimulus package worth INR 1.7 trillion (USD 22.5 billion) to help millions of low-income households. The package includes food security measures for poor households and direct cash transfers, said India's Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman. The government also announced a medical insurance cover of INR 5 million per person for healthcare workers. 

However, according to experts, India will probably require more support to recover from the effects of the virus. The middle class might just be the worst affected, as they have to pay their house helps, and other employees and might lose their own jobs.  It could be any body - the average office goer, a young executive at a call centre, a senior lifestyle journalist, a neighbourhood entrepreneur - who may lose the job or be forced to shut shop. 

A luxury furniture curator, who quit a senior management job to pursue his passion, feels that while SME's try and account for emergencies and pitfalls, no one was prepared for CoVID-19. He feels, while the crisis has hit business hard, the time can be used to enhance engagement through social media and to create  ideas, which could enable businesses to not just stay afloat but grow once this is over. 

Evidently, the impact of CoVID-19 will be felt for years to come and will change the way we do business. Undoubtedly, businesses need to adapt and corporates need to rise to the occasion and drive the change. 

Raghuram Rajan, former governor of the Reserve Bank of India, wrote on a LinkedIn blog, that India reforms only in crisis, may be this is a the wakeup call. So is there an opportunity? A learning, from this enormous economic crisis and substantial drain on the world's economy and human lives. May be, there are .

Companies will need to step up or they will be pushed out, innovation is key, technology is no longer an option; it is a way of life.

Virtualization of core areas and digitalization will witness a dramatic rise, including increased adoption of cloud-based systems.

Office spaces will change, WFH may become a permanent option. Flexi workforce, a mix of permanent, contractual and work from home or apart time employees, may become the norm. Productivity, agility, performance will matter; not the number of clocked-in hours.

Cyber security, healthcare, manufacturing will gain prominence. There will be increased focus on mental and physical health. 

Employee engagement will move from being superficial to deeper and more meaningful. Companies will need to be more empathetic and leaders will need to be more accessible and approachable.

Inclusion and empathy will lead the change, while adaptability, agility, hygiene will be a non-negotiable.

Long term plans will have their place, but it will be important to have a clear, short-term plan as well as a robust contingency plan. Crisis management, business continuity plans and emergency planning will take on a completely new meaning.

Businesses will need to be sustainable and not just successful.

There will be no need for discussions about lack of time with family or the work-life balance, the importance of these have been brought home, literally.

Together, we shall overcome and then soon, this too shall pass.

Disclaimer: The views expressed in the article above are those of the authors' and do not necessarily represent or reflect the views of this publishing house. Unless otherwise noted, the author is writing in his/her personal capacity. They are not intended and should not be thought to represent official ideas, attitudes, or policies of any agency or institution.

Tags assigned to this article:
COVID-19 lockdown Health Crisis economy

Ruchiraa Sharma

With fifteen years of experience across the entire gamut of media & content creation, Ruchiraa was an anchor & producer with NDTV, India’s leading media network, she has anchored and produced content in a wide variety of formats including technology, education, lifestyle, luxury, amongst others. As a senior events producer, along with the team, she organized several large scale events for the network. Post-2013, she diversified from television to content creation, she has authored a luxury travelogue and co-produced a Bollywood movie and went on to set up her own production house & communications agency which offers brand solutions, audio-video production, turn-key event management, public relations & digital marketing. She also writes for various magazines & online platforms and has moderated numerous panel discussions for Mercedes, Magniflex, Italy, TOI, Times Internet, Infogain, HCL etc. Ruchiraa Sharma is a deeply committed and involved in curating cause-driven women-centric events

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