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Lockdown Lessons: It’s really about embracing the new behaviours - Rohit Srivastava

Rohit Srivastava, Chief Strategy Officer, Contract India
Rohit Srivastava, Chief Strategy Officer, Contract India

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.

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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.

In conversation with Adgully, Rohit Srivastava, Chief Strategy Officer, Contract India, says how the COVID-19 and lockdown period has really been about embracing the new behaviours. The amazing ability of people to adapt and find ways of working around the constraints and challenges they face has been a huge revelation, according to him.

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

Several, really! For one, the amazing ability of people to adapt and find ways of working around the constraints and challenges they face has been a huge revelation. The fact that a lot of processes and protocols (such as travel, face to face meetings, physical presence in office) that were always accepted as absolute essentials for business are NOT indispensable and in fact, a huge cost in terms of both time and money, both of which could be opportunities for significant savings. Another important realisation has been about the importance of very time bound engagement with well defined agendas and a clear start and end time (all of which has become an essential SOP, as people try and align their calendars for virtual meetings) – and more importantly, the significant improvement that this can produce in terms of both, efficiency as well as effectiveness. The earlier processes seem criminally inefficient in contrast – with significant chunks of time wasted in just getting people together for a meeting or rescheduling planned meetings thanks to impromptu new ones getting in the way!

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

The realisation of the work required to be done at home – which can be as taxing, as strenuous, as critical as any professional or office related work! And hence, the shocking revelation that people managing this arduous task don’t even get the weekend breaks that all other working people get as a routine and a right! Also, the charm of just being together – and the realisation that having a wonderful time does not necessarily mean “going out” or “doing things”; and that just catching up, sharing memories, exchanging notes can be most enjoyable. For some people, this has also led to many revelations about their own family – their ambitions, plans, anxieties; and the resultant awareness of how little they knew about such matters, even within their small families. Of course, the rediscovery of old pursuits like cards, carrom, Scrabble, Pictionary and other such board games.

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

The easy part was that you were always at home! So, taking a 10-minute break for a cup of coffee with your spouse was possible, even in the middle of the day. And of course, the fact that you reclaimed more than a couple of hours of your life every day, which was otherwise destined to be spent on roads navigating through traffic. The tough part was that you were always at office! So, there was no end time (which you would normally get just because you had “left for the day”) and work calls and meetings were getting scheduled regardless of time. So, without conscious planning and discipline, the work could easily overtake your life, making the balance a very distant pipedream. But with some planning and discipline, a more equitable balance was a more realistic possibility.

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

Well, on the administrative front, it is really about establishing safety protocols and enabling systems; for the safety of our people is of paramount importance. One personal note, it’s really about embracing the new behaviours (social distancing, masks, carry your own mug and so on) – which is not so difficult as this has become part of the new normal way of life anyway. Also, for me, carrying some of the good lessons of the lockdown into the post lockdown period appears to be an important thing that we must not lose sight of; and hence, avoid going back to earlier “poor” behaviours.

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

Be more conservative. Save for a rainy day. Plan your investments as well as you plan your lifestyle and expenses. Every time you feel like buying something – ask yourself, is it really that important? Could that money be better spent on something else? Or, more importantly, could it be of better use for someone else, not as privileged? Essentially, learning to attach a higher value to your wealth; and use it well for more worthy causes.


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