Lockdown Lessons: “Personal ownership for work has increased significantly”

Abhishek Gupta, Chief Marketing Officer, Edelweiss Tokio
Abhishek Gupta, Chief Marketing Officer, Edelweiss Tokio

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.

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.

Abhishek Gupta, Chief Marketing Officer, Edelweiss Tokio Life Insurance, talks about how he has evolved in his work habits during the lockdown period, and also remained continuously with his team working remotely.

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

Until 2-3 months ago, I was a non-believer in Work From Home. This lockdown has, however, completely changed my opinion. I have seen higher productivity, engagement, and decision-making across teams, which has been a positive takeaway. Personal ownership for work has increased significantly and ‘team’ has taken a new meaning. Teams are far more connected now, proactively reaching out to each other, and contributing to make a positive working environment despite the fact they are geographically distant.

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

At home, the brightest silver lining of this lockdown has been the time I have spent with my family. When you live in a competitive city like Mumbai, it is easy to lose touch with the small joys of life like experimenting in the kitchen, playing a spirited game of monopoly with kids, or watching a movie together. I have been able to indulge in all this and more.

At work, we, as a team, have come closer and take every opportunity to connect on a video call and just talk about non-work developments. We have celebrated far more birthdays, and personal/ team achievements during this lockdown than we did at the office.

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

While it was initially challenging to balance the two, I have now found the right balance. On some days, you have to plan your work around your personal commitment and vice versa. Mental wellbeing has become much more important right now considering we are all physically isolated from each other. So, I ensure that I reserve at least 4-5 hours for my family every day. I also stay connected with my brother and parents.

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

We are not in a hurry to open our offices and are being extremely cautious about the situation on-ground. We are carefully inspecting the situation across states, where our branches are present, and taking decisions accordingly. At least for the next few weeks, I don’t see our HQ opening fully.

But I am looking forward to returning to the workplace and seeing all my colleagues in person, rather than on my computer screen. I am excited to meet and reconnect face to face with my team. In some ways, I still believe in old school marketing and staying connected with the business. In life insurance industry especially, personal interaction makes a lot of difference. I also believe that businesses across sectors will have a higher reliance on marketing in the short term because COVID-19 has completely changed the communication landscape. I expect working closely with HR as facilitation of employee safety, and mental health will become a key focus area in the comeback period. It will be a challenging, but exciting time to navigate this new post-COVID-19 journey.

On a lighter note, I am also looking forward to grabbing a cold beer with my friends.

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

We all love to indulge and a lot of discretionary spending that we do gives us temporary joy. One of the key lessons I have learnt during this lockdown is that we don’t need too many things to be happy. I am re-evaluating my finances and re-prioritising my expenses towards things that can give me long-term value.

Another factor that has become prominent is that we spend a lot of time and energy on growing our wealth, but not on protecting it. COVID-19 has given us all a new perspective on the importance and irreplaceability of insurance and savings. We must financially plan for events like critical illness, disability, and death. We need to critically assess medium- and long-term goals and review our financial portfolios at least annually. This pandemic has also led to newer considerations like do we need to plan for contingencies like a pandemic or earthquake or floods.

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