Lockdown Lessons: “It has forced a re-think on both personal & professional pursuits”

The year 2020 has taught us several harsh lessons. Barely had we entered a new year with renewed hopes and expectations, when the global COVID-19 pandemic jolted all of us out of our comfortable ‘Normal’ zone and flung us into an uncertain world. Terms like lockdown, social distancing, quarantine, work from home, new normal, unprecedented times and the dreaded ‘R’ word – Recession – have become a part and parcel of our daily lives.

Also Read - Lockdown Lessons: “All market data points indicate that things will turn out positive”

India is just emerging out of an over two-month lockdown – a period that has changed our lives, behaviours and the way we conduct business forever. The lessons that we have learnt during the lockdown period and our experiences during the year so far, will help us navigate a world that we had never imagined. Adgully’s latest endeavour – Lockdown Lessons – is an attempt to present the key learnings that India’s business honchos have learnt and imbibed, and which can help the industry navigate the new normal better.

Pankaj Gulati, Chief People & Marketing Officer, Fincare Small Finance Bank, advises people to be conservative in their spends in these times and stick to the long term goals. He also believes that COVID-19 has probably permanently changed the rules of working.

What are the key lockdown lessons as a professional during the lockdown period?

The virus has certainly altered – and perhaps permanently – the rules of working. The distinction between work from office and work from home has mostly disappeared. It has altered how we engage within the teams. With advancements in device capabilities, broadband speed and tools such as Microsoft Teams, Kaizala, Blue Jeans, etc., connecting virtually has become as meaningful as physical. Using lockdown as an opportunity to enhance one’s skill/ learning is another lesson learnt. Third, it has also made every organisation put greater emphasis on people’s safety and well-being. Fourth, it has reinforced our belief in the credo that “A crisis is too good an opportunity to waste”. Therefore, instead of worrying about the impact, tweaking the business model or steering the business in a different direction is what professionals would consider doing at this point in time.

Please tell us some of the key takeaways in terms of life lessons from the lockdown period?

The lockdown has been a lesson for the entire human race to pause and reflect on the journey of life. It has forced a re-think on both personal and professional pursuits. Firstly, it has taught a sense of gratitude. If you are in good health and not impacted by the virus, you are blessed with better living conditions than millions of people out there, who have no choice. Secondly, if you are part of a business/ organisation that has been able to do without impacting jobs, salary, you are extremely fortunate. These are things not to be taken for granted any longer. In this phase, it is also the resilience of individuals and teams – both got tested. And ultimately, we have to remember that tough times don’t last, tough teams do!

How do you manage and achieve work-life balance while working from home?

In this phase, work has been more demanding, given the habit shift. Surely, work-home has been a difficult balancing act. At times, I set an alarm for activities outside of work. That way, I would take a break from work and by changing the room or seating, I have been able to break off from the train of thought.

It has been more than two months since the lockdown was enforced. How are you gearing up for back to office mode?

Since banking is an essential service, many parts of our business were operational during the lockdown. In this phase, we ensured that all the necessary precautions, such as, staff rotation, social distancing, sanitization, masks, etc., were in place. The harder lockdown was imposed for our teams in Administrative offices. Given that these teams primarily work on projects, remote working was relatively easier. The bank made adequate arrangements, such as, devices, VPN access, etc., to ensure that normal operations did not get disrupted. Moreover, given the bank’s digital capabilities, new customer acquisition was smooth and could easily be done remotely.

With the easing of the lockdown, we have put the necessary guidelines in place for social distancing, masks, temperature check, physical meetings, etc. In this phase, safety and wellbeing of people remains the key priorities and we continue to monitor it closely.

Any lessons that you picked up in financial management from the lockdown period?

While I believe in the credo “different strokes for different folks”, the lockdown has surely forced all of us to go conservative on our spends. The financial decisions are driven by life stage, risk appetite and timing of requirement. Firstly, stick to the long term goals, such as, corpus creation for education, marriage, retirement, etc. Secondly, ask yourself, is it an appropriate time to make a big purchase, such as, car, house, etc. Given that the outcomes are somewhat uncertain, perhaps one can wait for a 3-6 month period and then decide. For now, discretionary expenditure, shopping, eating out, visiting a mall/ movie theatre is lower on the priority list. Given the uncertainty around income flows, these expenditures can be put off for the time being. Time to stay calm and believe in your Wealth Manager!

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